It seems (at least after every loss) the criticisms come out and the biggest target is Nate's coaching (unless of course it's Outlaw...) Living in Seattle I assumed this was mostly message board banter as these types of environments typically have a lot of off the cuff type remarks and pretty extreme opinions. But I'm down here in the Portland area visiting some family and catching up with friends and I hear more criticism in person then I do on the boards, everything from his game decisions to player development. It seems many people would be fine with seeing him replaced (although they have no subsitute in mind.) I've always thought Nate was a great coach and thought I'd do some research to see what I could find.
First and foremost is the team's record. Nate took over a terrible team that had just come off a 27 win season and was surrounded with turmoil. It was clear that drastic changes had to be made and his first team won only 21 games. Thankfully after the season they made the smartest organization decision in a long time and drafted Brandon Roy. The following year they win 32 games, Roy takes home ROY honors and the team makes it's 2nd best decision in recent memory by ridding themselves of Zach Randolph and making this officially Brandon's team. The following year without their #1 pick playing they go 41-41 and until the last couple weeks of the season look to be serious playoff contenders. This year they are off to a terrific start and it's hard to imagine them winning less than 45-47 wins, 51-52 being my official prediction. I know KP also has to get a lot of credit for this being that he put the roster together but it's impossible to pick who gets exact credit for what part of the whole package.
So, Exhibit A:
Next, individual development. Can you find a player who has regressed under Nate's coaching? B-Roy has gone from being a decent prospect, to ROY, to All-star, to unquestioned leader of a rising team. LaMarcus had clear holes in his game but has developed something of a post-up game and more confidence. He is showing some growing pains right now adjusting to Oden and other changes but he'll power through them and be an all-star in the next two years. Pryzbilla looked lost a few years ago but now looks to be the best back-up center in the league. Works hard, is dependable, knows his exact role and is excelling in it. Outlaw is still frustrating because he hasn't put everything together but I think you have to say he's better than he was. He looks to pass more, is more active on defense, works harder to get boards and has shown the ability to be clutch. Sergio has gone from showing flashes of brilliance to consistant, solid and exciting play. Still not starting NBA material but he's constantly improving. We could do this for every player on the roster. Today a friend tried to argue for several players that their improvement is because they are young. There may be truthful elements to that but when the entire roster shows improvement you have to credit solid coaching.
Individual players are consistanly improving.
Lastly is how the team as a whole plays. For the last few years, this team has had the youngest active rotation in the NBA. Nate started out playing them the smartest way, slow, methodical, half-court and well.... boring, basketball. As the team has matured, this year we see them running at times when it benefits them and slowing the pace when things get out of control. All measures of team play have been slowly rising, offensive and defensive efficiency, assists ratio, etc. It was clear Nate had a plan for this team's development and it would take several years to develop. I'd say we're about a year away from the final part of that initial plan and the results are looking pretty excellent so far.
Dramatically improving team play over last 3 years.
The bottom line is that while you can individually nit-pick decisions by Nate I think it's hard to argue with the end product right now. I'd say if anything this team has over-performed for the last couple years. Until this team disappoints, Nate has my support :)
And with that, it's 3am and bedtime.