I've been trying hard to keep an open mind through all of the transition that has hit the Blazers organization like a rip (city?) tide over the last few weeks. At the end of the day the staff the Blazers have is the staff they'll have. You mourn your losses and hope for the best for the new guys. Despite that open-mindedness, one of my lingering concerns is that the new guys aren't quite so new.
An old sports truism tells us that a team will usually replace departed staff members with their polar opposites. Sometimes it works...switching hard-liner Mike Schuler for players' coach Rick Adelman, for instance. Sometimes it doesn't, as when trading in Mike Dunleavy for Mo Cheeks. The cry going around the Blazers organization right now rings, "Too young, too inexperienced, ducks not in a row." The Blazers certainly appear to be addressing that complaint with their assistant coaching staff, bringing in ultra-veterans Jim Lynam and Bernie Bickerstaff.
It's easy to see the advantages in such moves. If game management is in question, who better to assess the situation and get the coach's attention than guys who have sat on the bench for thousands of games, who can interpret at a glance, whose very tenure demands respect? The players could also use a new voice--any voice--and they should be able to respect these coaches' knowledge as well. In that sense I'm all for the older generation. Heck, if the Blazers wooed Hubie Brown into the organization I'd laugh and give them props, interested to see what he could do.
I wonder if the balance could swing too far, though. It's a short step from "experienced" to "retread". Jim Lynam has garnered respect everywhere he's been. I'll admit my lingering impression of Bickerstaff is mediocrity but I'll also admit that I was far more casual about observing the league when he was active than I am now and I'm willing to give him a chance. Even if both play straight down the middle, maybe this team needs a little bit of "just don't screw it up". But not screwing it up isn't enough. The Blazers have assembled a massive haul of fireworks. The critique: they haven't yet struck the match to set them off. Part of that has been 'work after 'work blowing up in Greg Oden's hands. But no amount of staff changes will set that aright. Somebody somewhere must think that a new approach is needed. That new approach has to include a spark. Lynam and Bickerstaff seem far more like "Stand back and don't hurt yourself" folks than fuse triggers.
I'm hoping that in addition to the steady, reliable, competence you can expect out of these guys Portland also holds on to the idea of a young go-getter lighting them aflame. Maybe that's Kaleb Canales, who's already on staff. But Canales is a part of the status quo which, by implication, is being panned. If he's not their great young hope, could they find one...a brilliant genius who needs seasoning...a Luke Skywalker trying to benefit from all of these Yodas? If that guy (or gal) doesn't show up on staff I'm going to worry that Portland played it safe and could end up sorry.
I've received several questions about Danny Ferry who, while still young, could also fit into some of the categories mentioned in this post. I'm going to save those for tomorrow's mailbag. In the meantime, your thoughts? Are you similarly concerned or do you think they're good to go?