Jason Quick, Portland Trail Blazers beat writer for the Oregonian, is reporting that the seemingly endless search for the next Blazers coach has come down to two candidates, and on the surface it's hard to think of two more disparate potential hires than current interim head coach Kaleb Canales, and former Hawks and Bucks head man and current Dallas assistant Terry Stotts. Those are the potential picks, though, with Quick pointing out the fact that both are represented by the same agent in Warren LeGerie, who also represents new Blazers GM Neil Olshey.
Of course, in spite of the age difference (Stotts has 20 years on Canales), there really isn't much of a distinction. Both, at this point, are serving to remind us that personnel decisions and actual players matter the most in this game. Because outside of the rarest cases (like, say, Chicago going from Vinny Del Negro to Tom Thibodeau in a year), huge upticks in wins usually don't result from a coaching change. Despite how much praise we heap or criticism we hurl at these guys, endlessly, in these pages. It comes down to who they're coaching, always.
Though we can (and did, on other websites) find fault with Stotts' record (115-168, in four years with Atlanta and Milwaukee), and never understood why he couldn't cull more of an impact from Andrew Bogut on either end of the court in his time with the Bucks, the guy really never had the horses. He had the names — from Stephen Jackson in his first big chance to be a go-to guy to Michael Redd, Glenn Robinson in his ostensible prime and Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the same — Stotts never had it all on a plate due to a series of missteps by his various GMs.
This isn't to warn you about Olshey, or to say we're particularly enthused about a Stotts hire. It's merely to remind you that things get in the way. Trading Pau Gasol for Abdur-Rahim. Drafting Boris Diaw to be a point guard with center skills, instead of the other way around. Throwing huge wads of cash at Bobby Simmons. Throwing huge wads of cash at Stephen Jackson. Hiring the guy that just destroyed you on the Pau Gasol deal, former Grizzlies GM Billy Knight, to clean up the fallout from that transaction. Glenn, freaking, Robinson.
Stotts had his issues with player development and minutes allotment, but he also had some kooky rosters to work with in both is previous stops. And in the time before and since those runs he's worked as an assistant under George Karl, and then Rick Carlisle, two of the most respected head men in the business (though he and Karl have since fallen out). Respected basketball mind, y'all.
Canales has one of those, as well, but we've also seen some of the brightest minds in this business fail at working as a head coach mainly because either their temperament or skill set just wasn't suited for the top job. It doesn't mean they can't run circles around Red Auerbach (who, you'll recall, bounced around twice before catching on with the Boston Celtics) when it comes to Xs and Os, it just means that sometimes a reputation as an assistant (and nothing more) is earned.
And sometimes reputations can be wrong, and a coaching legend can just be a few smart trades away. Whomever they choose, either handing the clipboard to the lifer or the younger guy that you just know is going to be a lifer (that's not a shot, Canales is full of game), the Portland Trail Blazers are going to find out.
And Warren LeGerie is going to owe somebody a nice dinner.