It may seem hard to believe anyone can say this, but I like the Charlotte Bobcats. I think this team has a lot of promise and a whole lot of very young talent. I can see this team along with whoever they get in the coming draft at least being competitive next season.
Keep in mind, I just said competitive in a general sense. It would take the mother of all turnarounds for these guys to become post season bound, but you never know. The Rams were supposed to suck when they won the Super Bowl back in 1999.
The difference maker for the Rams then will be the same for the Bobcats next season—coaching. Paul Silas may have been good at one time, but last year he was awful beyond words. You can blame injuries and a lack of experience, but I think he wanted to win as bad as Kobe Bryant wants to run the Amazing Race with Shaq.
So who’s next?
A veteran head coach would be something the fans would love to see. Last season they had no reason to go see Bobcats home games other than to check out the opposition’s superstars and the Lady Cats (because those ladies have great personalities). A veteran would give the fans reason to believe that the team will improve; it will give them a reason to buy tickets.
So who can we get? How about Stan Van Gundy?
Yes, the man is currently employed with the Orlando Magic, but it would not be a shock if that status changed in the near future. The question is whether he is the right man or not.
Van Gundy has a track record that is impressive. He did well in Miami for the short time he was there and since taking over the Magic job to start the 2007-08 season he has taken the team to the playoffs every season (including a trip to the NBA Finals in his second season).
Making the post season is not particularly difficult in the NBA so that alone is not enough. Van Gundy has had success in the post season, but in the last two he saw his team ousted in the first round even though he has arguably one of the best players in the NBA on his roster.
It’s been said that his vocal coaching style has clashed with Howard, but since the Bobcats are devoid of superstars that shouldn’t be a problem.
What about Jerry Sloan?
Rumor has it that he is interested in coaching again. The former Utah Jazz coach is the model of consistency. Before he got tired of dealing with Deron Williams he had spent over 20 years with the Jazz (1988-2011). He is the third in the NBA in career wins (1221-803) and took two teams to the finals where he lost both the Bobcats current owner.
Sloan has the temperament and the track record to give Jordan and the Bobcats what they need. With his background, fans will believe he can lead the worst team in the NBA to victory. His reputation should be enough to garner the immediate respect of the young players on the roster right now. If anyone can lead them to the promise land (NBA Finals) it’s something that has coached in the NBA longer than many of them have been alive.
Or is Nate McMillan the man?
McMillan was let go by the Portland Trail Blazers this season, likely as part of the overall rebuilding project that Portland has opted to undergo in the last year. Why during the season rather than after? It doesn’t matter since Portland’s loss could be Charlotte’s gain.
The Trail Blazers have not been known for having marquee talent in the last decade, but the team has done well overall anyway. After McMillan took over in Portland at the start of the 05-06 season, the Trail Blazers improved from 21 wins to 32, 41, and finally 54 (and a division title) in 08-09.
Offensively, McMillan’s teams were not impressive, but defensively they were among the upper half in the NBA. Whether the lack of offensive production was due to a lack of talent or him, I don’t know. I’d say it was a combination of both.
All three guys have their plusses and minuses. Ideally, I would take Sloan. He will get the team where they need to be faster, he has shown that he deserves respect, and that he can get the job done. On the downside, at the age of 70 I don’t think we’d have him for more than three seasons at the most. Plus since he has the track record he’ll command a higher salary that His Airness might not be ready to cover.
I’m not really sold on either Van Gundy or McMillan. McMillan has shown he can do a lot with little, but Van Gundy has the better track record (which can partially be attributed to having better talent). Of the two I would take McMillan. His success with no-name players is encouraging as well as his ability to get guys to work together, egos or no egos.