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Mid-Season Grades: The Coach

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We're halfway through the year so it's time to borrow a hoary old chestnut from the annals of sports writing and give out mid-season report cards.  I'm breaking these up into multiple posts, the better to give you opportunity to comment yourself without getting lost.  You can give your grades (and explanations) in the comment section of this post and when everybody is done we'll have a cumulative GPA for each player.

My grades are always based on the player living up to their own expectations.  A higher grade doesn't necessarily mean a better or more valuable player.

MIDSEASON GRADES:  The Coach

Fans have been up and down about Nate all year.  It's hard to piece out exactly what he's doing incorrectly though.  Everyone admits the team is playing with more energy than it was last year.  The team is on pace to win a lot more games than it did last year.  Most fans have a pretty positive view of the players, which must mean the coach is putting them in good situations most of the time.  The overall team stats are still abysmal, but they're not quite as bad as last season in most cases.  And you can't very well expect a coach to make a purse from a sow's ear, at least not overnight.

Seemingly the criticism of Nate amounts to not playing the most popular players enough minutes.  Part of this is probably a different agenda.  It's obvious that some of the veterans on the team are place-fillers.  Much like your fourth and fifth starting pitchers in baseball they're out there to give you plenty of innings and to not kill you long enough for your aces to get in and do their stuff.  But most fans don't want to see place-fillers, even if playing them makes some sense.  What's more, the guys fans see as aces (if we indeed have any) are very young.  (See also: Lamarcus and Sergio)  Part of the enthusiasm comes because these guys have genuine talent.  But part of it is because they haven't been out there long enough (or even with us long enough) to expose the flaws that are going to make fans view them more realistically.  (As an example, witness what happened to Martell this year.)   It's probably to Nate's credit that he hasn't exposed them like that early on, especially since each year must start with the mantra of "winning first, everything else second", at least until the playoffs become an unrealistic possibility.

So basically things are going slightly better than before, but still not good enough for anybody to be satisfied.  Nate is walking a minefield trying to get young guys playing time without torpedoing any chance to win and without exposing those young guys, destroying their confidence, or simply teaching them the wrong things about what it takes to play.  I don't think he could have squeezed many more wins out of this team.  (We've won most of the games that have been close.)  He's maybe reaching the point where he could squeeze a little more happiness out of it by loosening the reins and letting the young guys show what they've got.  Grade:  B+  (You can't get an "A" with a losing record.)

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)