After Friday’s game, Nellie voluntarily offered up to us his decision to make Keith Smart a “defensive coordinator” of sorts. He will turn over all defensive responsibilities to Smart and his assistant in defensive czardom, Sidney Moncrief.
Is this a stunt or a legitimate strategy to help the defense. Here is the transcript. You decide.
“I’ve decided to identify one of my weaknesses at this point in my life, which is I’m not tough enough anymore. I’m a little soft as I get older and I feel like I haven’t done a very good job defensively this year. And so I’m making Keith Smart the defensive coordinator and Sydney Moncrief his assistant. They will be handling all of the defensive training, the game plans defensively and, during the game, the switching of situations. They’re in charge of the defense now. I’m going to try what football has done for years and that’s pass off some responsibility and I think it’s going to be a real positive move.”
We have to identify some of our problems. Our problem is not offense. We normally generate enough offense. It’s defense and I feel I’ve let the team down in a lot of ways because I haven’t been stern enough. What I’ve been trying to do is cover everybody’s weaknesses, understanding their reasons for not being able to do certain things defensively and trying to cover for them as opposed to demanding that they get better defensively. So I’ve got a couple of really good young guys. As you know, Keith Smart is a Bobby Knight disciple. He knows a lot about defense. Moncrief is a two-time defense player of the year. Hopefully they can do that job I failed at, and that’s to be more demanding defensively. I’m still the head coach, but we’ll make decisions together. But they are in charge of the defensive program from this point on.
How will this impact substitutions?
We’ll talk about that. If there’s something that really bothers them defensively and they want to make a move, I’ll do that. Normally, we talk about substitutions anyway, so I don’t that’ll be a problem, making moves on the bench.
What will be different?
More authority. What I wanted to do is put an emphasis on our weakness as a team and my weakness as a coach. We must improve on the defensive end and this is a start. We’ve identified the problem. Everybody knows about it. I’ve known about it. But we have to do something about it. This is step one in trying to do something about a problem.
Did tonight’s game illustrate the need for this change?
We missed some assignments. Actually, we did a pretty good job for a long time. I mean, Joe Johnson’s a great player. He’s going to take over and do a lot of positive things offensively. He’s one of the best players in the league. So I don’t know what exactly that question means, but I thought we did a pretty good job for a long time.
Is this the first time the NBA’s had a defensive coordinator?
I think it is. I hadn’t heard of one. Anyway, this is a first. It’s very successful in football, so we’re going to try it out for our team and I hope that it works, and I think it will.
How long has this been a weakness of yours?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become softer, which is a good thing for me. I was way too stern when I was young, too demanding, really, often times. You have tyo have a good balance of that. At this point, we just need some more tyoughness and young coaches making more demands than I have. So, anyway, this is a problem that I’m identifying in myself and trying to do something about it.
Why is it too much?I think its going to help me concentrate more on some other issues and some other things. Right now, to do the whole thing is pretty demanding. I spend a lot of time watching other teams’ defense and I need to watch my own team play some. It’s not enough hours in the day to really do every thing so this will help me identify some more time and be a positive for the ball club.
Is this a precursor to handing the team over to Smart?
That’s not my decision. I have two more years. I wouldn’t worry about that at this point. That’s got nothing to do with anything. This is identifying a problem that we need to work on and I’ve got two guys that have great energy, great philosophy, great abilities in that area and I’m going to turn it over to them.
Jackson had some interesting comments:
“I think it’s good because Keith probably can see different things that probably the coach can’t see. For what it’s worth, he’s a younger coach. You know, he probably can relate to guys more. So, hopefully it might work.”
“I think we’re a soft team. We could be more physical on defense. Since we play a lot of small ball, we have to rebound better. But we have to trust each other on defense. We don’t trust each other like we did in previous years. And that’s a big problem.”