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Is Keith Smart Still the Best Choice?

It’s been widely understood, and more than intimated by head coach Don Nelson, that Keith Smart will be the Warriors next head coach. But Nelson’s possible departure and the recent shake-up in the coaching ranks has brought up an interesting question.
Should the Warriors stick to their plans of annointing Smart as the successor? Or should they go out and get one of the names that are available?
Honestly, it’s a tough call. The names are enticing. Avery Johnson, who was introduced as coach of the year just two years ago. Mike D’Antonio, who is reportedly but unofficially out in Phoenix, has mastered the system similar to the one the Warriors play. Sam Mitchell, who may get fired in Toronto, was last season’s coach of the year and one of the young talents in the league. Flip Saunders may be on his way out, too.
These are all winning coaches. Avery and D’Antoni (if he becomes available) Playoff coaches. Avery has been to the Finals. D’Antoni has been to the West Finals. They couldn’t get their team to a championship, which is why they are (likely) out, but they have gotten their team to the playoffs regularly, which is the next step for the Warriors.
If you are Chris Mullin, do you go out and get a proven coach who can take this team to the next level? Or do you stick with the groomed assistant who knows the system, the organization and COULD be one of the next young coaching talents?
As tempting as it is to go nab one of those vets, it may be more beneficial to go with the guy who is familiar to the franchise. A new guy would have to a spend a year or two getting accustomed to the team, to the franchise, to the media, to the fans. There’s a whole feeling out period that needs to go on, which could cost the Warriors a season of progress. True, it may be a necessary price to get to the ultimate goal, but that may not be the best thing coming off missing the postseason. True, it may take Smart as much or more time to get used to being the head man. But he may just be able to smoothly step in, as did Avery.
Another reason I’d say go with Smart is the cost. Smart is cheaper than Avery or D’Antoni (should he become available), and could turn out to be just as good. Remember, Avery and D’Antoni were young, unknown commodities when they first took over. They stepped into to great situations and thrived. If Smart can do the same, and it’s set up for him to do so, they Warriors will get the same results for much cheaper. That money is better served going towards the luxury tax they’ll have to pay to bring in some help.
As tempting as it is to get the proven commodity, I’d say stick to the plan. Stick with Smart.

Marcus Thompson

  • JustPuked

    That’s the million dollar question Marcus.

    I love the idea of Avery Johnson but let’s face it, he’s had difficulty working with a Nellie constructed team in the past, what’s to say it would be any different in Oakland? Avery inherited a playoff team and had one good run, but since then has seen diminishing returns. The grumbling in Dallas is Avery never figured out how to use Kidd correctly and asked Kidd to fit his system instead of making sure he make the necessary changes to incorporate the gifts Kidd brings to the game. I know it’s difficult to judge when a new player comes on board, but I’m just not sold on Avery.

    Antoni has a similar track record and again you have to look at the hand he was dealt by his management. Like with Avery he also was dealing with a major trade. In this situation though, all accounts have the Suns doing everything possible to incorporate Shaq, but unable get past Spurs yet again. I really like Antoni’s system but at some point I’d like to see him coach some D’ ; )

    Smart, once again is basically an unknown. I’d feel more comfortable with D’Antoni but we’ll all have to trust Mullin on this one. As much as many folks have called for Nelson’s head, he’s a known commodity. Is it safer to dance with the Devil you know?

  • Kris

    I’m all for it if Keith can instill some sort of defensive commitment to these guys. What’s the scouting report on Keith? What are his strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

  • Bwright Side

    Nellie will be back, for 1 year and 1 year only. Whoever we bring in, let him be the assistant coach this year, then work him in gradually. Then by post All-star break he can take over.

  • Wilson

    I don’t know enough about Smart to know how much credibility he would have in the dressing room and on the court and how tough he can get. With any team containing Baron Davis, you need somebody who will sit his ass when he plays dumb and doesn’t follow the game plan. Nelson, for whatever reason, never did that until the next to last game of the season, so I don’t know that a new coach would have the cojones to challenge him and make him play to his potential.

    So I’d vote for D’Antoni, but my dream coach would have d’Antoni’s offense with more emphasis on defense.

  • manhattanproj

    d’antoni proved he was a capable coach before taking the suns job. he was coaching in europe, so in essence, he’s not an unknown or unproven commodity.

    avery was a proven leader for the championship spurs, so being a coach was just the logical next step.

    but keith smart…he really hasnt proven himself at any level. can he coach a team, make adjustments on the fly, drawing x and o’s. can he win? or is he just another coach along the line of mike woodson. good assistant but cant win as head coach.

    i’m all for taking a coach that has proven himself in the coaching ranks. if flip saunders or d’antoni becomes available, i rather have them coach the w’s than having smart do it.

    that’s why i wanted to see w’s go after kelvin sampson, and groom him to be the next coach in line. but too late.

  • http://nba.com moneer

    Come on. I love the warriors but what is happening. Richardson is out and there might be no bd next season. there is probaly not even gonna be Don Nelson to shape thesse playa’s up. Out of all the choices I have to go with Avery Johnson. Kieth smart is terrific but no EXPERIENCE. Oh man the warriors are goin somewhere no one wants them to go. Damn

  • haastheman

    Who is nelson to be saying who’s gonna replace him. That’s not his job. That’s the Exec’s jobs. He did the same thing in Dallas with Avery and Avery wasn’t cuban’s guy. No disrespect to Keith Smart, but i wouldn’t hire him.

  • Holy Toledo

    Smart seems like a nice guy. Seems bright enough too. But, at least to me, I see two things that seem to go hand in hand in Smart. He seems like a yes man and he seems to lack originality. You have to be your own man and you have to be creative in not letting your messages to your players get old and stale. They have to sense, deeply, that you really know what you’re doing and saying.

    Some guys just think creatively without trying, it’s who they are. Smart doesn’t seem to posess this quality. From his plastered on smile or at least a grin, he seems to me a lot like what Mullin is without the smiles….a good, basketball guy, well liked, connected….but lacking that uniqueness that defines guys who are without doubt their own man. (I always thought this of Mullin then he came in and proved it to me by all his incredibly foolish signings he clearly both shouldn’t have made and needn’t have made. He has an eye for talent enough to take a flyer on Monta, getting a bit lucky, but who’s to say it wasn’t Nelson’s presence that spurred the Indy trade and led to Wright, indeed who’s to say if not being connected with Nelson, that Mullin wouldn’t look just as AWFUL as a GM as he looked before Don? Remember, the only reason we got BD was the trade exception NO wanted that we had ONLY because NVE demanded a trade and Mullin had to hurry up and find him one before that got bad PR wise. So, Mullin was forced to take Dale Davis off Portland, which led to BD through luck, not planning.)

    I hope for all our sakes I’m wrong and Chris just got off to a stupid, naive start but learned his lessons, truly. Likewise, since i think Smart is who we’ll get, i hope i’m wrong about Keith. But guys who are always bubbling with positivity and smiling without saying much new, in positions that need some wileyness and objectivity, IMO, like Smart, don’t make me that excited.

    I wish Greg Anthony would drop talking and take up coaching. That guy has a way about him, brains and originality.

  • E-Double

    Unless Smart can sit on the Warriors (BD, Capt. Jack) and make them listen, signing Smart to coach = signing Webber to play. Too soft.

    And forget the drinks with umbrellas – Nellie needs to open up some whiskeyfire next year. Can’t wait
    ’til the last two games to teach BD to get with the program.

    Then again, without a suspension for the Capt this year, the year won’t start with an 0-and-too many record.

    Whatever happens, GO WARRIORS!!

  • Holy Toledo

    Oh hey, meant to say expiring contract instead of what i did say, trade exception (in #8.)

    Guess i’ve got trade exception on the mind.

    We could do worse than Smart I suppose. And maybe folks questioning his hire, if it does indeed slowly lead up to his hire over the next two years (at most with Nelson,) will give Keith and the team something, some folks to aim at, to overcome, to shut up.

    Hey, Smart could be great. I remember thinking, and i’m getting old, that Marv Levy was a terrible hire by the Buffalo Bills. The guy leads his team to four SBs in a row. Didn’t win one, but at least he didn’t get in his teams way to four straight. (true, the AFC was worse then, but that’s a lot of winning. Actuallly, to say Levy was a failure or overrated is to say Beane is.)

    Ahem…I will just have to trust Smulson.

    The Warriors, even as they will attempt to balance their team with some size and D and prepare it for the future after Nelson, while trying to win now, will still be a unique team offense wise. In need of someone who has been around it or already really knows it. At least for the next few years, it’s what they’re built for, not withstanding large trades. So, Keith is who those guys have chosen to groom for this. He has to know the concepts, the personality even of coaching this style.

    I guess when he tries what is one of my concerns, and his command of the team is the other.

    Who knows, maybe he’ll be better at choosing when to purposefully foul the other teams poor FT shooter once in the penalty, with 6 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. gotta love the don

    Does anyone reading this remember from his CLE days how Smarts coaching went over and of course the circumstances he faced in a very limited opportunity on an interim deal to close out a poor season there without good chance to prove anything (although it’s posible to do more than he did in that situation, i can’t say i deeply know the situation, and most times there really is none…in that situation?)

    I’d really like to hear those who do get confidence from Smart. What do you see in him? What qualities do you see in Ketih?

  • DWA

    MY FRIEND EVERY ATHELETE HAS SOMETHING DOWN IN HIM OR HER TO TAKE THEIR TALENT TO THE NEXT LEVEL. KEITH SMART HAS THAT.

    THE MAN HAD TO WORK HARD FOR EVERYTHING HE HAS ACCOMPLISHED FOR HIMSELF. I CAN TELL YOU HE IS A WINNER. EVERY GOOD COACH HAD TO BE A GOOD STUDENT BEFORE MOVING INTO THE HEAD POSITION. GIVE KEITH A CHANCE.

    I ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT COACHING GOOD PESONALITIES COULD GET YOU FURTHER THAN COACHING GREAT TALENT. BECAUSE, GREAT TALENT DON’T THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE (THEY THINK THEY ARE ALREADY THERE).