David Blatt and other coaching abominations

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Press Conference

Everybody, David Blatt is submitting a historically awful coaching season.

I’ll break it down:

  1. He was gifted the best player in the league who is either in his prime or very close. That player is also A. very unselfish, B. an extremely gifted defender and C. extremely coachable.
  2. Included under the Cavs preseason Christmas tree was the ultimate stretch four, who is a rebounding machine and a talented passer. Kevin Love is not that bad of a defender either.
  3. A talented point guard who can get into the lane whenever he wants.

Now the Cavs are certainly flawed:

  • Their bench is terrible.
  • Anderson Varajao is already (predictably) out for the season.
  • Dion Waiters was (predictably) a head-case, chemistry killer.

All of that said, the Thunder are 18-19. As you remember, they started the season without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and they play in the West, which is a million times better than the East. Their bench and overall depth are also terrible. The Cavs are 19-18 and their top three guys have been (mostly) healthy all year. What? How?

David Blatt is getting destroyed by Scott Brooks!

I admit that I fell into the same trap as everybody else. “I like that Blatt won all those games in Europe. I like that he’s bringing a different pedigree to the NBA.” Now that resume from Russia and Israel looks a lot less impressive. Like a gunfighter from Sweden.

I think I would have fired Blatt already. The whole, “well the 2011 Heat got off to a slow start” argument has worn off right? Everyone expected this team to be an offensive juggernaut. Maybe that was an unfair but this team should not be the fifth best team in the East.

This got me thinking of other historically awful coaching performances:

Sean Payton, 2014 Saints

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All they had to do was go 8-8 and they win the worst division in modern NFL history. And they couldn’t do it, with Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Jimmy Graham and three talented receivers. Sure, their defense was not good, but solid was all they needed. At the end of the season, they lost got crushed by the Panthers and beat handily by the Falcons at home. In the words of Will Ferrell, what the Hell happened! Is the Super Dome haunted?

Mark Richt, 2008 Georgia Bulldogs

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This team had Matthew Stafford, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi (I know but on a college team with AJ Green?), Justin Houston (admittedly a freshman) and Geno Atkins. That team lost three games. Three.

Bob Stoops, 2008 Oklahoma Sooners

Bob Stoops

This team had Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams and Gerald McCoy. They made it to the National Title Game, I’ll give them credit for that, but they got beat pretty bad by Florida, 24-14 (a more lopsided game than the score would indicate). But this spot is more of a life-time underachievement award for Stoops. I believe people ripped on the Big 12 in part because loaded Oklahoma teams kept coughing up big bowl games. The 2006 team, with Adrian Peterson as a junior, had a lot of those same players (notably as freshmen) and lost three games — notably the famous Fiesta Bowl to Boise State.

Dusty Baker, 2001 San Francisco Giants

Dusty Baker

Another life-time underachievement position because Baker also disappointed with very good Cubs and Reds teams. In 2002, people praised Baker for getting the Giants to the World Series. In retrospect, they should not have lost to the Angels. Oh my God, Barry Bonds hit .370 that season with 46 home runs, 100 runs and RBI each, had a staggering 198 walks for a .582 on base percentage and 1.381 ops. But that team wasn’t all Bonds all the time. They had Jeff Kent who hit .313, Benito Santiago (who had a decent offensive season), and Reggie Sanders (who wasn’t great but was a very solid player). They’re pitching staff had a top three of Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt and Livian Hernandez. Go back and look at the Angels roster.

But they lost to the Angels in seven games. What is inexplicable is the year before when they did not make the playoffs (2001 when Bonds hit 73 home runs).

Bobby Cox, any year in the ’90s that wasn’t 1995

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Now that It’s official a certain fact needs to be shouted from the rooftops. THE BRAVES TOP THREE PITCHERS WERE ALL HALL OF FAMERS. Um, that hasn’t really happened before. If this the rest of the Braves team was a bunch of castoffs and journeymen or if they could only keep Maddux, Smoltz and Glavin together for a couple years, I would give Bobby Cox a break. People give Cox a break because they won one World Championship, but give any other strong manager of the era that team and he would win at least two. In particular, the losses to the 1993 Phillies and 1997 Marlins seem particularly egregious in retrospect.

Bill Self, 2014 Kansas Jayhawks

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Bill Self had the best two players in college basketball — Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid — and they lost in the second round of the tournament to Stanford. In case you’re checking, Stanford had zero NBA players that year. The game was also in St. Louis, which I’m sorry to say is a partisan Kansas crowd. I don’t care that Embiid was hurt. Self still had the best five players in the game. Every year that goes by the 2008 National title win looks flukier and flukier. (Also, screw Kansas.)

John Calipari, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Kentucky Wildcats

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There’s been a significant amount of revisionist history foisted on the public these days about John Calipari. Pundits have been praising Calipari for his X’s and O’s work, in game coaching and that his teams play hard. They even give him credit for convincing players to sacrifice minutes. I believe this talk is inspired by the fact that the 2014 Wildcats might go undefeated and thus become the greatest college basketball team of all time. The coach of that team has to be an all-time great right? All of those people need to chill out because Kentucky should have won five titles in a row. Were Coach K, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino or Brad Stevens had been given this much talent, he would have won at least twice by now. I believe Calipari is the best recruiter of all time but he also has a prodigious history of leaving flaming bags of poop at two different programs in the form of NCAA sanctions as he walked out the door to a better job.

Mike Brown/Mike D’Antoni, 2012 Lakers

Mike-Brown

If you think I’m being unfair to one coach or the other, Brown could easily make this list for his job manning the Cavs during the first LeBron era and D’Antoni did a horrible job with the Knicks. However, this season went so poorly that the emotional stress convinced Dwight Howard to flee the sinking Lake Show ship like it was on fire. The raging dumpster fire that is the 2014 Lakers owes its inception to these two guys.

Scott Brooks, Thunder 2011 to Present

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It’s not Scott Brooks fault that the Thunder traded James Harden. It’s a move that looks more perplexing every day, especially when Harden should win the MVP for the Rockets. Still, he’s had three of the top 25 players in the league, including two in the top 10 the past five years and has no hardware to show for it. The Spurs have made the finals twice in this span and the Thunder happen to be the worst match up for the Duncanettes.

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Is the Tampa 2 dead?

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Two weeks ago, the Falcons just waxed the Bucs on Thursday night football, 56-14. The thinking was, when Lovie Smith took the job in the Bay, that he would immediately improve a Buccaneer defense that has very good players in place — Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Alterraun Verner (one of my favorite NFL names). He’s had numerous injuries to deal with, specifically McCoy, but it has not happened thus far.

At this point, I believe Smith is the last disciple of the cover 2 defense. Smith was the Rams D coordinator for the Sheep’s second Super Bowl in 2002. It’s my favorite style of NFL defense. It was en vogue for a while. Tony Dungy had the most success with it in Tampa but continued to use the defense with lesser players in Indianapolis, eventually winning a Super Bowl. Smith brought the defense to Chicago and the Bears ran it to perfection, particularly in 2006. I forgot they actually faced off in that Super Bowl.

Lately, the defense has not looked good. On top of Smith’s latest struggles was the debacle in Dallas last year when Monte Kiffin, Dungy’s D coordinator in Tampa, took over the Cowboys defense. Debacle in Dallas is an entertaining phrase; it will be weird if the Cowboys are ever dominant again.

The cover 2 defense stretches back to Dungy’s days as a player, when it was a dominant force for Chuck Knoll’s Steelers of the ’70s. I don’t think the defense is dead. I think fundamentally it’s principals are still sound. It’s great for stopping the run with four down lineman and three linebackers. It is meant to encourage the type of throws that are the most difficult to make — down the sideline in a window between a corner and safety. But, I think NFL personnel has changed since the mid 2000s and finding the guys who fit the system is more difficult

The ideal Tampa 2 defense with today’s players

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1. A quick defensive tackle. Warren Sapp was a hall of famer in the Tampa 2. Because you have two tackles, neither has to be a behemoth like a Star Lotulelei or Haloti Ngata (I wish I wouldn’t have picked two examples with difficult to spell names). A guy who is big and quick is perfect, Ndamukang Suh. I also think Sheldon Richardson would work.

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2. A defensive end who just destroys quarterbacks. Julius Peppers filled this role most effectively for the Bears. Simeon Rice is the prototype, wreaking havoc for the 2002 Bucs Super Bowl team. Ideally you would want this guy to be a little bit bigger, to make teams pay for running at him. Mario Williams fits the bill, although his career has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

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3. An unequivocally great middle linebacker. This is the hardest position to fill. Because many teams, including in college, go with a 3-4, it devalues middle line backing play. You need a guy that is equally good against the run and the pass (extremely rare) and just needs to be supernaturally fast for his size. There’s a reason Derrick Brooks and Brian Urlacher are both hall of famers. I think Luke Kuechly might be the only guy in the NFL who fits this need.

LavonteDavidBucsFumbleRecovery640

4. Fast, swarming outside linebackers. The Bucs actually have this partially covered because Lavonte David is one of the best in the game. I also think Sean Weatherspoon with Atlanta (and Mizzou stalwart) would be a good fit. The thing with the Tampa 2 is that you really need three good linebackers, but when you have that group it makes running the ball very difficult.

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5. A ballhawking corner who can also play the run. Again, talk about rare. Peanut Tillman was perfect in this job. The guy doesn’t have to be a great cover guy but he has to be able to tackle. Vontae Davis is good at bump and run. Really any corner on this list would work but you’re going to have to spend a high draft pick, or be a development wizard like Pete Carroll.

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6. A play making safety. This can come in different forms. John Lynch was a monster against the run (I do not condone the tackling in the last video; I think he led with the crown of his helmet at least 70 percent of the time). Bears safety Mike Brown did it more with interceptions. I like Eric Weddle in this role in my Tampa 2.

Hall-of-Fame or Not

It’s time to play America’s favorite guessing game, say it with me folks, “Hall-of-Fame or Not.” I’ll give you an athlete from each of the major American sports (yes, I’m counting hockey) and then an arbitrary assessment of their hall-of-fame validity.

I’ll start with the inspiration for this post.

Baseball — Adrian Beltre

adrian_beltre

Pros:
The best defensive third baseman of his generation. Almost unbelievable he only has four gold gloves.
-He has solid career offensive numbers: .284 average, 392 homers, 2,548 hits, .336 on base, 1,368 RBI, .479 slugging, and 75.3 total WAR.
-His seasons in Boston and Texas have been insane, posting WAR over 7 twice and 5 twice and hitting over .300 and 30 home runs in each of those years.
-Has has a shot at 3,000 hits if he plays until he’s 40.
Laughs at cameramen when they fall down and hates being touched on the head.
This is one of the greatest hits I’ve ever seen.

Cons:
-His early years with the Dodgers and Mariners are very pedestrian, hitting over .300 just once. Is that due to ideal park situations later?
-Doesn’t have a ring, although that doesn’t matter as much in baseball and he played in the World Series twice.
-Is Beltre one of the best third base defenders of all time or just extremely good? Arguable.

Verdict:
-He gets to 3,000 hits, he should be first ballot. If he decided to retire at the end of this season, no.

Football — Brian Urlacher

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Pros:
-One of the best players at his position in a very consistent career. He made eight pro bowls and was a four-time all-pro. Had two 100 tackle seasons and over 90 tackles four times.
-Was the leader of one of the best defenses of his era. A defense dominant enough in 2006 to make a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as it’s quarterback.
-One of the best linebackers ever at defending passes.

Cons:
-Not the best linebacker of his era. That distinction would go to Ray Lewis.
-Played on good defenses with other borderline hall-of-famer types like Peanut Tillman, Mike Brown (a stretch with him), Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers.
-Plays a position that is historically significant but becoming devalued over time. Middle linebacker is a position designed to stop the run. As the league becomes more and more pass happy, linebackers become less valuable. Just like running backs, teams should be wary of drafting non-pass-rushing linebackers with first round picks.
-Doesn’t have a ring.

Verdict:
-He should get in if for nothing more than pro number two.

Basketball — Shawn Marion

Shawn_Marion

Pros:
-He has a ring with the very entertaining 2011 Mavericks team.
-He was a key cog with the very entertaining 7 Seconds or Less Suns.
-One of the best defensive players ever. A Swiss Army knife who could defend Kobe and Dirk.
-Career stats are interesting: 15.8 points, 9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Has a career PER of 19.
-The Matrix, great nickname.

Cons:
-Was never a scorer, although he did have two seasons with 20-point averages.
-Was known for being mercurial.
-Piled up great stats for those Suns teams playing with a great point guard.
-If you’re ranking the top players from the past 10 years, how long does it take to get to Marion?
-Has one of the ugliest jumpers in Association history.

Verdict:
-He should definitely get in from stats alone.

Hockey — Chris Pronger

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Pros:
-The second best defenseman of his era after Niklas Lidstrom.
-Led the league in plus/minus twice with insane seasons in 1997-98 of +47 and +52 in 1999-2000. He played 30 minutes a game during his prime with the Blues.
-Had more than 30 assists 10 times.
-Has a ring with Anaheim. Took a terrible Oilers team to the finals in 2005-06.
Once was hit in the chest with the puck, had his heart stop and was back four days later.
-He didn’t fight often but he was devastating when he did.

Cons:
-Like Urlacher, he was one of the last of a dying breed. You don’t see the monster-sized defensemen much anymore. Zdeno Chara is really the last of the Mohicans there.
-Stats are good but uninspiring when looking at wings and centers.
-Career really didn’t get going until the 1997-98 season.

Verdict:
-He’s in, probably not much of an argument.