Two weeks ago, before the trickle of the end of free agency turned into a full-on drought, we ran a story about free agent forward Brian Scalabrine's attempts to find a job with a new team and his opinion that anyone who mocks him is an idiot. Yet, while Scalabrine is rightly respected by ex-teammates and coaches for his understanding of the game, his reputation as an on-court (er, maybe, "on-bench") mascot exists in part because he himself cultivated that image over the course of several years with the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. He could profess frustration at not being re-signed by Chicago or getting other offers, but in reality his 11-season career probably went on longer than most people would have expected. Officially, Scalabrine is still looking for a roster spot and hasn't retired. However, according to a report from Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com (via PBT), Scal could soon hang up his sneakers to become an NBA assistant coach:
According to sources familiar with the situation, the fan favorite is in line to join Tom Thibodeau's coaching staff for the upcoming season, CSNChicago.com has learned. Since former Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson departed for a position with the Charlotte Bobcats in the offseason, the organization has had an opening and while the likes of former Magic assistant Steve Clifford was considered--the member of Stan Van Gundy's staff in Orlando recently accepted a job with the Lakers, where he'll be reunited with All-Star center Dwight Howard--it appears that Scalabrine is now a front-runner for the spot. Though the popular reserve forward, who expressed his desire to continue playing in an in-depth piece by Sam Smith of Bulls.com earlier this summer, averaged a modest 1.1 points per game in just over 200 minutes in his two-year stint in Chicago, his knowledge of the game is highly regarded, his relationship with Thibodeau goes back to their days together in Boston and at only 34 years old, fresh off an 11-year NBA career and still active enough to bang bodies with current players, his transition to the coaching ranks has the potential to be a seamless one.
The idea of Scalabrine as an NBA coach likely involves some level of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, he is known to most NBA fans as a guy who mostly played in garbage time, became a crowd favorite in large part because he reminded viewers of themselves, and earned the ridiculous nickname "White Mamba." But for others, he's a trusted veteran who understands offensive and defensive systems and players' roles within them. As long as players respect him — and there's no indication that they wouldn't — Scalabrine would seem to be a good fit as an assistant for Thibodeau. When Scalabrine spoke out against those who mock him, he effectively broadcasted his desire to be taken seriously by everyone in basketball, not just by those with firsthand experience of his knowledge of the game. Although he wanted that to come through another job as a player, becoming a coach would actually serve as a better means of altering Scal's reputation from that of the goofy benchwarmer to the serious basketball mind. Coaches can be beloved, but they're typically not treated like harmless mascots.