Geno Auriemma talked beautifully about Kobe at his memorial service and pointed out he was surprised that “Probably the most uncoachable player in the NBA during his career wants to know about coaching” Kobe was preparing to coach daughter’s basketball team, and took as serious as preparing for the NBA Finals.
We also learned that Kobe was close with Westbrook, who worked out with him in the summer. Kobe admired his hunger, that at 29 years old, already an MVP Westbrook was still hungry to improve. “At that age, most guys in the league think they know it all. He wanted to work on his post-game, on footwork in the post.” It seems there was also a coachability similarity between the two.
“Billy was so beaten down at the end of last season, there were people in the league who wondered, not that he would get fired, but whether he might resign. He was just not in a good place mentally, and if Westbrook had stayed there, I don’t know if he’s the coach right now, to be honest with you.”Brian Windhorst, The Hoop Collective
Billy Donovan had a lot on his plate when he took the OKC job. He was brought in to end the “your turn my turn” offense Durant and Westbrook had going on. The two superstars played predictable offense in big games, and Donovan was tasked to make changes. He didn’t manage to do much about that.
Then Durant left, and he was stuck with the entire organization doing whatever Westbrook wanted so he would resign there. The entire gameplan was centered around Westbrook’s triple-double chase and going for the MVP. We always thought Steven Adams and his rebounding took the biggest hit, but when you think about it, Billy Donovan didn’t have it easy either.
Since he got in the league, Donovan couldn’t coach his teams to play the way he thinks the game should be played. That’s the cost of having superstars in today’s NBA. But Donovan truly did get the most extreme form of it with Westbrook. He got a non-shooting point guard who can’t do much with a pick-and-roll because everyone will just go under every screen – and the spread pick-and-roll offense is Donovan’s calling card.
You’d think getting CP3 who everyone immediately predicted would get traded and a motley crew of good players, but players that weren’t selected as a part of a bigger plan would be a coaches nightmare. Yet, we learn that as it is with teammates, fit is deeply undervalued on the coach – team line as well.
“I don’t know maybe that was, after a cooling-off period he wouldn’t have felt that way, but they really grinded on each other. And so, this was an opportunity for him to roll up his sleeves and do some of his best coaching. He was presented with a team that was kind of off-balance because it just wasn’t a roster that had been planned for over the course of many years, it was sort of mismatched. And he’s really made a good go of it, and you know he is a candidate for Coach of the Year, and Sam Presti is a strong candidate for Executive of the Year, and he traded his two best players.”Brian Windhorst, The Hoop Collective
Suddenly Donovan has a floor general who masters the pick and roll and shooters around him. The result? OKC is on pace to win more games than they did in Westbrook’s MVP season. Sometimes coaches have stubborn concepts and are not willing to change. But more often, in the player empowerment era, we have to consider the possiblity it’s the player who’s limiting the team around him.