Ok we did the players now let's take the time to look at the front office and the coaching staff.
Obviously right now we are in a downturn as far as our season goes (that is putting it mildly btw) but when looking at both the front office and the coaching staff we are going to try and maintain a bigger picture point of view here.
So let me just get this out of the way right up front. For those that are on the "fire Jim O'Brien at all costs, this guy is an idiot" bandwagon you are not going to find a lot of meat here in this post. I will point out what I feel to be some faults for sure but I am purposely not going to take a one side only look at him. Same goes for Bird in the front office, while I have been very complimentary to them I will also now probably cast a shadow of doubt that up until now I had not done before.
Basically I really am not going t review the entire coaching staff nor am I going to review the front office. I am really only going to do O'Brien and Bird because as the old saying goes "the buck stops here" and both of them are in charge of their particular fiefdom's.
We might as well get the coaching staff out of the way right up front.
Jim O'Brien: Ok contrary to what some think the man is not an idiot. Just like when you say a player in the NBA has to be a good athlete well you pretty much have to say that to coach at this level you have to be a good coach.
However just like athletes some are better than others and some have gifts that other don't have.
First and foremost Jim came to a team that had no cap room, no real tradable assets, a broken down player who was deemed to be "the star" even though he wasn't and a point guard who played every now and then. The fan base was small to begin with but the overall thought in the community towards the club was hatred. Not apathy, not disgust but actual tangible hatred.
He had one good young player on the roster to work with (Granger) and the rest of the cast of castaways from Golden State and others.
In "This is Spinal Tap" they had an alternative name for the album Shark Sandwich. Well Jim was pretty much given that sandwich to eat when he came here.
It is pretty well documented that a few other coach's turned down the chance to coach our team. Between the mess off court and on court don't forget that at the time he was hired we still had the two headed monster of Walsh & Bird. I had read several times that this was really one of the main reasons that Van Gundy turned down our club, he felt that he had too many bosses and that the chain of command was muddy at best.
So Jim comes in, remember we still had O'Neal with our club and he was making it perfectly clear he did not want to be here, and tries to make the best out of the situation that he has.
Gone was the dump it to Jermaine offense that not only was ineffective but also just downright boring to watch. Now we had a little higher tempo but whenever J.O. played he still got plenty of touches. The big difference though now was that everybody was getting a touch as well.
Throughout his three seasons here but in particular the first two seasons Jim was very active in the Pacers P.R. push. He was open to the public and was always approachable whenever he was doing a public event.
Now I'm going to stop here and just state that I am not going to give a three year history of the club, I just kind of wanted to remind everybody where we were when he got here. O'Neal and Tinsley are gone and the roster has been made over a couple of times since he has been here.
Looking at the now.
There can be no denying it by either his fans or his detractors that Jim employs an unorthodox offensive system. Even the Pacers P.R. people have made this statement before. However while it is unorthodox it is not unheard of and he is not the first coach to use this.
Actually motion offense has been used with great success back in the 60's by both the Celtics and the UCLA Bruins.
You can argue the merits of it one way or the other with equal success IMO, but you can't really argue that it has never been used.
His defense also is not unique; in fact I don't even think it really is all that rare. Pushing the ball to the wings or even in the past when he tried to go to the middle is not uncommon at all.
I guess my point to this is to say that he is not some mad scientist who is coming up with these new earth shattering ideas.
There is method to his madness.
Also the idea that he does not tailor his game plan to fit the players he has available on the floor is not right either IMO. We all have talked about the five game win streaks, much like the unicorn it is mythical as time goes on, but you can not deny that both the offense and the defense were different when he had different players on the floor.
So we know he can coach a different style, so that in and of itself tells me he is capable of being a very good coach.
In fact I don't think it is unreasonable to say that we probably over achieved the past two seasons here because of his coaching, not in spite of it.
One more little myth that I think we all need to look at (I include myself in this as well) is that he does not play youth or rookies.
I think we all tend to forget Larry Brown or Rick Carlisle a little here. In fact I would guess that Roy, Brandon & Tyler have played more min. per game for Jim than almost any rookie has ever under either of the previous coach's.
That does not mean that Jim is always right in the way or time he plays them but the fact that he does play them significant min. is probably a step up from what you would get from Brown or Rick in this case.
Also the myth that he does not have set plays on offense is wrong as well. Being at the games I see and hear him yell out plays often times on offense. Now obviously not like Carlisle did, but he does have them.
So if all of this is right, what the hell is wrong right now you may ask?
Well several things really but some are more glaring than others.
Just because I said that the offense is not unique does not mean that I think it is a good offense.
One of Jim's biggest faults may be that he leaves to much trust in the players on the floor. Which in turn causes him to play players who understand what he wants ran, that is no crime by the way almost anybody would do this.
But the offense lacks a certain amount of discipline and actually encourages open shots.
Now let's get this clear right up front.
Jim O'Brien is NOT telling his player to take the first crappy shot that they can get. I believe he wants them to take good open uncontested shots. Yes he would prefer them to take an open three as opposed to an open 20 foot two point shot but he does not want them just jacking up contested 25 foot shots.
However here is where the problem starts to come into play. When the shots are not dropping the players tend to do the natural thing and get closer to the basket, well every defense in the NBA knows that we either are going to go long or are going to try and go one on one and drive the ball.
So how have they compensated? Simple, they sag off of us daring us to hit a mildly contested jumper and they will live with the results until we can change their minds.
To which we come to what I think may be standing in Jim's way of more success right now.
His own stubbornness.
Jim has a style of play he prefers above all others, IMO. He can coach the other way but for whatever reason he truly believes that this way is the path to success.
But with the players that he has been given to work with I think it may be time to rethink the overall strategy. (BTW keep in mind the phrase I just used here because it will be big in our next segment)
His preferred style has made it so that he puts players on the floor that are not only mediocre on defense in one of their cases he is downright atrocious. Thus forcing Jim to use other players to make up for this weakness.
If Jim had a different group of players would he be more successful with his preferred style? In my mind, there is no doubt about this. However I just am of the opinion that this style will never be able to win big in this league because defenses will adapt quickly to it and unless you have a Bryant type of player who can get a great shot no matter what they can impact the shot selection dramatically.
On defense I think part of the problem is the players he has chosen to put in for offensive purposes but I will say this. I don't think Jim values athletic shot blockers as a whole. Remember in Philly he did not use Dalembart and in fact he has a long standing feud with him.
This does bring me to another odd thing about Jim. Have you ever noticed how former players who did not get along with him have no problem in bad mouthing him? Have you ever seen that before from anyone? I havenít. Hell there was lots of players who did not like Brown but everybody was diplomatic about it. But I have heard several former players make statements about him that were less than kind and on the other side of the coin I have heard him say some very negative things about Chris Webber that left me scratching my head.
This brings us to Jim's use of the media.
Ok, I'll admit it. I have zero problem with a coach making comments about players on occasion to the media. I hated with the passion of a white hot sun Rick Carlislse coach speak where he would talk a lot and say absolutely nothing.
So if Jim wantsí to say something every now and then I'm cool with it. The players may not be but hey on occasion it is called for.
However one problem that I do have with Jim is that when he speaks anymore I pretty much consider him a used car salesman at this point because he says whatever he wants to say no matter what it really means.
Jeff Foster plays because his +/- are great, but no mention of why Murphy continues to play because his +/- are the worst on the team.
From day one he has said if you don't practice you don't play. From day one J.O. didn't practice but played. Now we know that Danny hasn't been practicing this season yet always plays.
He complains about Tylerís defense on PnR's but does not say a word about the overall defense played by.... well you know who.
Overall I think he was a coach who agreed to come in and help guide the franchise while they retooled without tanking out and maximizing the talent they had available. However I think that what we have going on this season is that we have a mixing of players he does not really want or that don't really fit the style he wants to play.
Does that make him a bad coach? In my opinion, no.
Does that make him the right coach for this team? In my opinion, probably not.
I think while they may talk everyday to make sure they are on the same page I think there is a giant disconnect between Bird and O'Brien in the style of play that want to see.
So with that we end our portion of the O'Brien files and will now move onto Bird.
But first a musical interlude.
Since I know Chicago J can not stand my long winded posts I will give him a little of the boss in hopes that it soothes his soul.
I think the title of the song is pretty appropriate for the season.
Ok now to Bird.
I do NOT consider the Larry Bird era to have begun until Donnie Walsh left the team. Now you can argue and I won't disagree that when Donnie took a seat up in the suite that he had given over the team but still Larry had to report.
Now it is all on him.
If O'Brien inherited the sandwich Bird got an entire pie made out of it.
This guy had to deal with criminals, malcontents and a prima donna. In short order he has remade the team twice over the past two summers.
There has been as stated long term plan in place to get the franchise back on course and they have set up the salary structure so that in a couple of years we can be significant players in either the free agent market or great trading partners.
The problem is going to be having enough people to put in the seats to make it for two years.
I have been on board for everything he has done.
But recently I think I have come across the first chink in the armor so to speak.
Over the summer he made what I thought to be outstanding free agent signings. In fact I said at the time and still believe that this was probably the best free agent signings we have ever had.
However he then went out and extended OíBrienís contract.
Which is fine but the problem is that Larry is not giving Jim the kind of players he wants or needs to run his offense.
I think Larry has in his mind what he wants to run on the floor and I think that Jim has in his mind what he wants to run on the floor and I don't think the two match up.
Take Hibbert for example. Why draft a player who is going to be a low post slower player for his entire career when you have a coach who does not play low post offense?
I feel confident that Jim is playing Roy at all because Larry has made it clear they want Roy to get some time. He is not dictating his min. probably but I bet he is saying he wants him on the floor some during games.
I understand the extension may have been essential for Jim's benefit but now we have to wonder if there may have been some steak with that sizzle we heard this past summer about some of the players not being happy about it.
Also I really hate to use this but I can't help it because Bird is the one always bringing it up.
But I think that Jim and Larry have a very different value system when it comes to Josh McRoberts. Now while I don't think Josh has done enough in terms of growth as a player it just seems to me that Bird is higher on him than Jim is. In fact whenever Larry talks about players he almost always bring up Josh's name. Now whether or not this is a local boy p.r. stunt I can't say but from an outsiders point of view I think there is a disconnect there.
I guess what I am getting at is why doesn't Larry bring in players that are going to fit into Jim's system if he is committed to retaining him? I understand that players are generally going to outlast a coach but when you have a coach who uses as system like Jim does, how do you not give him players who fit the system.
However if his idea is to make Jim a better coach by forcing him to adapt then I don't know how this is going to happen without trading a certain forward on our team.
Overall though I am still thrilled with the job and the vision of the front office.
They have gotten the community to go from hating the team to back to apathy which was no small feat I assure you.
Ok, that is enough for now.
I hope I have been fair and balanced.