Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups recently joined ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod to discuss his new venture as the head coach. As evidenced in the 45-minute conversation, early returns suggest that the process is going swimmingly thus far, the highlight of which coming in Billups describing the situation as his “dream job.”
Billups and Wojnarowski talked about the normal circumstance surrounding head coaches; more often, first-time head coaches are tasked with inheriting struggling, rebuilding franchises. In Billups’ case, he’s walking into a situation with a team that produced the No. 2 offensive rating in NBA history and the league’s longest-running streak of postseason appearances, something that wasn’t lost on him:
“A lot of times, you get your first opportunity, it’s a team that, it’s going to a challenge to be successful, or a lot of times that job wouldn’t be open, right? And so, some of the things that, for me, I just think there are two types of teams in the league, Woj. Teams that have a real star or superstar, and teams that are looking for one. So, the perfect, ideal situation for me, would be to obviously be with one of those teams that have one. I spoke to a lot of different teams throughout the process, the interview process, I’m just so lucky and thankful. This is a dream job for me, and here’s why I say that.
Yeah, it’s coaching in the NBA, there’s only 30 of them. What I mean is, as a guy who was a former player, played the game the way that I played the game, you know how I feel about point guards. To be able to come into the league with your first job with a Damian Lillard, who I think is the best point guard in the league, to be able to coach a guy like that my first time around, I mean I hit the Powerball. I hit the PowerBall to have an opportunity like that.”
Billups went on to mention Lillard’s longtime secondary and tertiary stars in CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic as well. But, as has been the case for the Blazers over the last few seasons, Portland’s most notable problem has come on the defensive end. Billups, a former NBA Finals MVP and two-time All-Defensive teamer, made mention of how accountability will play a role in fixing some of those problems.
“To me, that just means like, for instance, I had a problem a lot of times playing with coaches that, say we come out of halftime, and we’re getting beat. Ball penetration is killing us, or transition defense is killing us, whatever it is ... of coming in knowing that, ‘Chauncey you’re getting your butt kicked. You got to be better.’ Knowing that it’s me, but saying, ‘We’ve got to do a better job of stopping the ball.’ This and that, this and that. The best coaches, to me, they put an address on it.”
Billups is speaking to the idea of addressing players personally, and putting an “address” specifically on the player at fault, instead of sugarcoating it.
“That’s what, when I say being able to hold guys accountable, I think a lot of guys, a lot of coaches in this league is so scared to ruffle the feathers of star players, knowing that these guys have so much power, and they do. But to me, I don’t see that as ruffling feathers, I see that as coaching. I see that as just being honest. If we say that we want to play one way, or we want to do it this way, and then we get out there and everybody starts changing up and doing different things, then we have to be able to hold each other accountable.
I hold myself accountable as well. I’ve gotta hold the best players accountable, just like I hold the two-way players accountable. It’s just no difference. Contrary to what most people believe, even the greatest players are willing to accept some coaching. But you’ve got to have the courage to actually coach them.”
The two went on to untangle multiple different topics, such as the time in which Billups and current Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue lived together — a process that ignited Billups’ desire to become a head coach — his decision to pick coaching over front office management, and much else. The link to that can be found above.