The latest installment in the ongoing saga of the Ball family’s globetrotting basketball/marketing circus unfolded Sunday. Big Baller Brand patriarch LaVar Ball took the head coaching reins of BC Vytautas — the Lithuanian pro club for whom Lonzo Ball’s two younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, have been playing all month — for their meeting with Jonavos Jonava in the fifth and final game of the inaugural Big Baller Brand Challenge.
This was to be expected; LaVar had already gone from the stands to the bench as an assistant coach during the exhibition series, with head coach Virginijus Seskus viewing the elevation as essentially meaningless. (“It’s only a friendly match. It will end and everyone will forget about it.”) Given LaVar’s recent track record of inserting himself in coaching matters, it was reasonable to cringe a bit in preparation for everything going badly. Things evidently went OK, though, with the Ball brothers combining for 71 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists in a 151-120 victory fueled by the ingenious tactical approach LaVar detailed in his pregame speech: “Operation Beatdown.”
LaVar Ball's pregame speech before his head coaching debut.
"Operation Beatdown! Run fast, have fun and let's whoop dat ass!"
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 28, 2018
Run fast, have fun, whoop ass. As engaging a 3-point play as anything the NBA can provide on a nightly basis!
After the game, Ball suggested his first professional head coaching experience wasn’t anything special, because what happened is what always happens when he coaches: “I don’t lose.” The secret to all that winning? Loosening up a little bit, letting the game flow, remembering how to have fun — namely, by chucking up shots as often as humanly possible — and, of course, having the players.
• “Coaching is not hard. I mean, anybody can be a coach. Hey, anybody can be a coach. You know what? I’m going to put a sign out there so you really go crazy. Look at Steve Kerr — he’s the Milli Vanilli of coaching. He’s the Milli Vanilli of coaching. You can go stand in the same spot, like [former Warriors assistant and interim coach/current Los Angeles Lakers head coach/LaVar bete noire] Luke Walton did, and win twenty-something games when you got the right horses just running.”
For those readers who aren’t as washed as I am, Milli Vanilli was an R&B duo that became one of the world’s most popular acts in the late 1980s, only to become embroiled in scandal after it was revealed that they were lip syncing to someone else’s vocals, rather than performing themselves. The intimation: Steve Kerr’s not actually doing anything with the Golden State Warriors. He’s just there, looking the part.
• “Sometimes, less coaching is the best coaching, but some of these guys like to act like they’re really coaching some guys that know how to play. How do you coach [Kevin Durant], Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson? You know how you coach them? You don’t. Turn your back and let them do what they do. As soon as they win the championship, everybody say, ‘Oh, he’s a great coach.’ That team was put together by Mark Jackson. And now, he jump up and try to take all the credit. That’s why I call him the Milli Vanilli of coaching.”
It’s worth noting that, since taking over the Warriors after Jackson’s firing in 2014, Kerr has frequently praised Jackson for the work he did in instilling a defense-first culture in Golden State, and for shepherding the development of Curry and Thompson by repeatedly calling them the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history long before it would become evident that, well, they were. It’s also worth noting that, in Jackson’s final season on the bench, the Warriors finished 12th in the NBA in points scored per possession and dead last in passes per game. Under Kerr, they’ve ranked first or second in offensive efficiency, and in the top 10 in passes per game, every season, as Kerr and his staff have helped leverage Curry’s shooting, ball-handling and leadership into the basis for a more fluid, free-wheeling and egalitarian offense that has incinerated the NBA. (Not that any of that matters, of course; Kerr has implored us all to stop paying attention to LaVar and compared him to the Kardashians, and this is LaVar returning fire.)
• LaVar cites another example of just how easy coaching is: Kerr’s former coach and mentor, Phil Jackson.
“You know what Phil said? Phil said, ‘Hey, I’mma sit back and look relaxed the whole time, and call it the Zen Master.’ So anytime he’d get in trouble, he just believed in two players: Scottie [Pippen] and [Michael] Jordan. You can’t say [Jordan] didn’t win until he got the coach. He win when you get Scottie Pippen doing what he do, Dennis Rodman, all those guys doing what they do. And what coach Phil did: Back up. Michael Jordan’s the superstar, and you can’t coach him. Pat Riley? Back up. Let Magic [Johnson] do what he do. He’s a champion. How do you coach these guys? You don’t. They something special. You let them do what they do.”
To some, that take might not even seem especially spicy; there’s long been a barstool debate about how much credit coaches like Jackson and Riley deserve for shepherding superstar-heavy teams to the promised land. So please allow LaVar to add that hot sauce for you:
“Melo is in that same book. Gelo is in that same book. They’re something special. So I just back up, tell them to go get the victory and come on back home. And the majority of the time, it happens like that. They always get wins.”
Yep, you heard that right: LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball are in the “same book” as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out why did I say Coach Walton has lost the team. Did somebody tell me that? No. I have two eyes. I’m looking at the game. No high-fives. And the way I do this? I know everybody going to come down on me. That’s fine. See, they didn’t know I knew that before. So now you not even worried about the Lakers no more. You’re just worried about me talking about Luke. Now, what’s going to happen when I say you lost the team? Everybody going to jump on board, because they lost the team, or everybody going to band together. They ain’t start winning until I made that comment. But if I let you keep losing games after games without saying nothing, it’s going to go in the same boat, talking about ‘they’ll get better, they young.’ No. Forget that. So they was like, ‘Hey, they coming at us,’ and they all band together now. So now you gonna start winning. That’s what [they] needed: a jump charge. But I’ll do that.”
In the midst of a slew of other takes — about the differences between NCAA coaching and NBA coaching; about the potential hypocrisy of NBA coaches getting up in arms over his critiques of Walton but not over the firings of Earl Watson, David Fizdale and Jason Kidd; about what’s best to provide in a game of basketball (“You got to play enough defense, but they want to see some excitement”) — LaVar responded to suggestions that he’s negatively impacting his son Lonzo’s rookie season with the Lakers, and that it’s past time for Lonzo to curb his dad’s enthusiasm, with a truly thought-provoking take:
“What I do and what I say has nothing to do with Lonzo. He can’t stop me from talking, he can’t comment, whatever. Lonzo does what he does. And that’s why people be like, ‘Lonzo got to tone his dad down.’ He can’t. I’m his dad. I can’t even picture him coming home and saying, ‘Well, Dad, I think you need to stop talking about everybody, and I think you need to leave me alone.’ That’s what I tell him. You got your life and I got mine. Do what you do. I do what I do. But you can’t never tell nobody what to do, what’s going on in they own head. You can tell what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow. You can tell a lot of things. You can tell, like, before an earthquake happens or something like that. But you never know what’s going on in somebody’s head. They can snap at any minute, and you’d be like, ‘I never thought that guy would do that.’ Because it’s your mind.”
Man. Imagine the flames LaVar will be spitting if he ever coaches a team to a win in a non-exhibition game against, like, grown-ups.
More NBA coverage:
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Brady ends interview over criticism of his daughter
• The winner of the ‘Madden’ Super Bowl is …
• Eric Adelson: Former mascot’s bittersweet Super Bowl week
• Magic calls for firings in MSU sex assault scandal