If you came to Blazer’s Edge today looking for impartial and objective analysis you’re not going to get it. The next several hundred words will be dedicated to extolling the virtues of the most underrated coach in the NBA.
Here are four reasons why Terry Stotts should be a Trail Blazer for life:
Players love him
Call me overly sentimental (you’d be the first), but I’d argue that the players and coaches getting along makes a difference. It’s not essential to winning — George Karl has the sixth most wins in NBA history — but a little boost of chemistry could make a tiny bit of difference in a league that’s often decided by literally inches.
And make no mistake, the Blazers genuinely care about their coach. From Zach Lowe’s recent article on the team:
A compilation of instagram/twitter well wishes from the players:
Note that Evan Turner and Jusuf Nurkic are included in that list; two players who have been benched or had their roles frequently altered. It says a lot that the superstars and role players alike are vocal in their support of Stotts.
Maximizes team success
One of my favorite stats:
Nic Batum’s assist percentage, by year, in Portland: 7.8, 8.0, 8.1, 7.9, 20.3, 20.9, 20.5.
Notice the massive jump between years four and five? That’s when Stotts arrived. It’s the biggest jump ever in a single season for a player averaging 30+ minutes per game with the same team.
(I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds good and I have little doubt it’s exceptionally rare so I’m going with it.)
It’s no surprise that the Blazers have surpassed over/under preseason prognostications in two of the three post-LaMarcus Aldridge seasons and turned a quiet rebuild into consecutive playoff appearances. Stotts knows how to maximize the collective talent of a roster and win as many games as possible.
This has been apparent during his entire run in Portland. Even dating back to the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons the team has overperformed relative to expectations. The 2013 team was in the playoff hunt at mid-season with freaking JJ Hickson starting at center and the 2014 team had one of the most jaw-droppingly unexpected starts to a season in recent memory.
That’s not to say Stotts is innocent of errors. He failed to integrate Will Barton into a roster that desperately needed bench help, for example, in 2014. But the reality is that no coach is perfect; check out what’s going on in Boston and Utah right now with two of the most highly touted coaches in the league. In the big picture Stotts has proven repeatedly that he is capable of milking as many wins as possible with any given roster. That’s all you can ask for.
(No, I’m not going to re-legislate last year’s playoffs. He did make adjustments. Unfortunately they didn’t work out, fans are free to disagree with him, but no amount of hindsight tweaking was going to “fix” that series.)
Stotts is memeable
The NBA season is long. Memeability is important to help keep us all entertained on the Twitter machine.
I’ll take that over Ty Lue looking confused any day.
He’s a good person
Stotts made a personal impression on me the first time I ever had an NBA press pass. About 30 minutes before tip-off most of the media was sitting silently staring at laptops in a cramped, windowless conference room when a game attendant (read: bally boy/girl) burst in and frantically asked if anyone had a bow tie. We all looked around quizzically and shook our heads no as the attendant scurried away.
Turned out it was Stotts searching for the bowtie to wear in honor of long-time National Basketball Coaches Association director Michael Goldberg who had passed away earlier that day. He made a point of explaining the symbolism of the bowtie before taking any questions at post-game media availability.
Stotts certainly had other game-related tasks to be doing minutes before tip-off, nonetheless he prioritized finding a way to honor a lost friend and then remembered several hours later to mention that friend to the media. In my mind, that attention to compassion and humanity spoke volumes about his character.
Coach Stotts was fantastic. His smile, the feature of him that actually started this whole adventure, was on display. He was warm, gracious, genuine and very nice to my kids. He was also extremely adept and professional. There was a camera there and he immediately went into interview mode, asking me questions, listening intently and making things as easy as possible for me. He ribbed me a bit about one of my not so flattering choices and expressed how much fun he and his wife has had with them. Before I knew it we were on our way. It all felt so natural and was exceptionally fun.
A multitude of stories about Stotts’ genuine affability date back to his pre-head coaching days. There’s no requirement that coaches be nice people, but from my fan perspective, I’d rather be cheering for Stotts than some asshole nobody can stand. Combine that with continued on-court success, and it’s apparent that Coach Stotts should be a Trail Blazer for life.