I had talked to a few players earlier this summer about whether they wanted to leave. They all said they’d rather Don Nelson to be back, but if the team went a different direction, their vote was for Keith Smart.
Certainly, Smart has the support in the locker room. And he makes the most sense because of the timing. He has already already prepped for training camp (he and Stephen Silas did on their own) and he already has a rapport with the players. He has been groomed by Nelson, in Nelson’s system. Also, he’s young enough and inexperienced enough to allow the Warriors to put him on a trial basis.
But is he the guy for the future?
Smart has at least earned a shot tyo prove it. He’s been the model assistant for six years now. He’s been doing more than most any assistant coach in the league – running practices, orchestrating the defense, putting out Nellie fires — in addition to his regular game duties.
Plus, Smart is hardly too expensive to replace. Owner Joe Lacob said he had a “multi-year arrangement.” That sounds like he’s under contract for a few years, and if he doesn’t work as the head coach, he would have the ability to go back to being an assistant.
Smart, no doubt, is a Nelson disciple. He believes in creating mismatches. He believes in getting up and down the floor. He doesn’t mind bad shots so much. But he is known for being big on defense (he was the voice of D on the Warriors’ staff). With the acquisitions of swingman Dorrell Wright, guard Charlie Bell, forward Louis Amundson (even shot-blocking rookie Ekpe Udoh), Smart will have more to work with on the defensive end, especially if center Andris Biedrins is healthy.
He already has the relationships with the players. Point guard Stephen Curry is a big fan. No doubt Biedrins and forward Brandan Wright are celebrating at the thought of having Smart as their coach instead of Nelson.
But does Smart have the game-management skills? Does he have his Xs and Os tight enough? Can he keep a rapport with the guys while he’s the bad guy, and not the guy coming behind mean old Nellie? Can he avoid riding Monta Ellis into the ground 45 minutes a night?
We’ll find out starting Monday.