Is Smart the Right Call?

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.

Marcus Thompson

  • Eeqmcsq

    You bring up a good point about Smart being able to look like a “good guy” because Nellie took on the role of being the “bad guy” as the head coach. We just won’t know what will happen. So yeah, we’ll soon see.

  • Todd

    A risk worth taking. Can’t wait to see this new squad.

  • WetLunGz

    Marcus think you meant “….about whether they wanted *don nelson* to leave” ??

  • WetLunGz

    Hopefully smart can take what he learned from nellie, throw in some defense, and continue to play exciting basketball, but this time while winning. I like a lot fo what nellie brought to the warriors. Yes our defense was bad but we seemd to have atleasst one guard (last yr 2) somewhere in the top in 5 in steals. He also took advantage of his young, fast team and tried to force a lot of fast breaks, and above all he did his damndest to find the best mismatch on the floor, and sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t…so again, hopefully smart has taken some notes from neliie, but he’ll keep that other bs (alienating players, playing maggete at pf, or center, forcing star players to leave, sometimes after career best seasons.) I’m just glad its not van gundy….

  • GregC

    I’m hoping Smart will keep the same DNA as the Nelson system, tweak it a bit, instill some defensive accountability and retire the Nelson Head Games.

  • Of course he’s not.
    This is a disastrous Non-sale.

    Cohan II

  • slamdunk

    Not sure if Smart is the long term choice for coach, maybe not, but Nelson definitely had to go. Hopefully Smart will focus on rebounding and defensive intensity for a change instead of racing up and down the court trying to outscore every opponent. What few players Riley has brought in look to be more defensive oriented than what Nelson would want, and now it may come to be that the Warriors will have trouble scoring without Nelson’s running offense, but seeing this team actually try and stop opponents from jamming the ball down their throats will be a welcome sight. It might not result in more wins, as this team is still woefully short handed, but the change in philosophy should be interesting.

  • robert rowell

    saying that smart was “the voice of D on the Warriors’ staff” isn’t saying much. check the stats there, the W’s have been at the bottom of the league in nearly every meaningful statistical category and their abismal record attests to that.

    think about all the hot, coveted coaches in the Association. now think, wow, smart isn’t one of them. no one as tried to woo him away from the ‘town. with that in consideration, i find it highly questionable that the new cohans are willing to give him a multi-year deal, especially since there isn’t a real GM in place. i mean, isn’t that the way it works? owners hire a GM to make the b-ball decisions (like hiring a coach) and the GM is responsible for the play of the team. seems here, like always, the W’s and cohan II have got it backwards, thinking they know more about the sport because they have money or season tickets then people who have a proven track record.

    smart as a stop gap until the FO is in place? fine. throwing him a multi-year deal (as reported by espn)? no way.

    i don’t know if he’ll be worse than nellie, but he certainly won’t be better and isn’t that the point? oh whoops, we’re still talking about the W’s.

  • Alberto

    Smart as a coach is not a smart decision. I did not see him as a good coach last year. I believe Smart as a coach is a poor decision.

    There are better options.

  • dan

    If Smart gets a multi year deal, he should thank Nellie for making that happen. Nellie helped groom him and Smart himself said Nellie told him he wanted to help Smart be a head coach in the NBA again.

    Nellie got his people jobs. His son aing doing too bad in Dallas. Riley looks like he will be around now. Avery got rich as HC with Nellies help and now Smart.

    The W’s still don’t have a star player so don’t expect much til they get one.

  • ParkerLewis

    Post #8

    “Smart as a coach is not a smart decision. I did not see him as a good coach last year. I believe Smart as a coach is a poor decision.

    There are better options.”

    Ah yeah, which games were those by the way that you saw him as coach? Care to impart some knowledge rather than declarations?

    And lasty, you state there are better options: pray tell what those would be?

    Alberto, you are a prime example of an “idiot”…

    Back it up, amigo…

  • MWLX

    How to know when a poster is a basketball idiot: When he declares that Don Nelson didn’t care about rebounding or defense. As a player, Nelson’s strongest skills were rebounding and defense, and the idiots think he didn’t care or understand. Dummies.

    Thanks primarily to injuries, Nelson often didn’t have the players here to rebound or play defense. He did great with the players he had. Just one example, how about the victory in Dallas last season when he had only 6 players available? That’s coaching, man.

  • commish

    I think Smart is the correct choice given the circumstances. But Marcus said a mouthful when he said Smart has the support of the players; that is pretty much all he needs as a start.

    I just got back in town and was on Jet Blue when the live news came over the Direct TV feed. I was thrilled but, as a real Nelson hater for several years now, have one thing to say about Nelson’s lasting legacy–and that is we got “stuck” with the sixth pick instead of the fifth pick so Nelson could get his meaningless record (to me and the vast majority of Warrior fans). Chasing that record, and not getting a real legit center at #5 or higher–Cousins–will continue to haunt us for years to come IMHO. Thanks for the parting gift Nellie, one of many.

  • WetLunGz

    Commish ur gonna blame nellie for our 6th round draft pick? You thkink we woulda just given up and lost the rest of the seasson if don wasn’t going for the record? I think thatgs pretty immature to blame the coach for that. Hindsite is always 20/20 and there will always be another draft so I’m not gonna blame nellie for our draft spot, specially since even if we did lose the rest of season, it wud not have guaranteed wed get a higher pick a la the lottery….but if u want to hold it against nellie go ahead, but it seems ur being a lil dramatic bout it…

  • dan

    Cousins will be in rehab mid-season. Cousins is a ticking disaster.

  • TownLove

    Whoever is the Coach Im just ready to see some Warriors Basketball. Hopefully they are still a fast paced high octane offense.

  • Sume

    ticking time bomb – a ticking disaster is awkward

  • Wilson

    What I remember about the few games that Smart coached the team was that his substitution patterns were pretty much the same. Small ball. Too many minutes for the starters. Nellie part deux. Now was that because he wanted to stay in Nellie’s good graces? Will he be different once out from under Nelson’s thumb?

    While Smart is supposedly a defense-minded guy, and became the defensive coordinator halfway through the season, I sure didn’t see any indication that he got much production from his players on that end of the court.

    So overall, I’m not thrilled with Smart’s promotion, but willing to give him a chance.

    I don’t know if a no-brainer head coach is available out there, but my guess is that if there is one, Lacob will sign him as soon as league approval comes through, new owners always liking to make a big splash. Otherwise we’ll see how the team does under Smart; if they get off to a spectacular start, he may survive the season and beyond.

  • playoffbound

    “What I remember about the few games that Smart coached the team was that his substitution patterns were pretty much the same. Small ball. Too many minutes for the starters. Nellie part deux. Now was that because he wanted to stay in Nellie’s good graces? Will he be different once out from under Nelson’s thumb?”

    Perhaps it was because the whole team was injured and he only had one of two substitute… hmmm

  • FreeCell

    # Chris Cohan Says:
    September 23rd, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Of course he’s not.
    This is a disastrous Non-sale.

    Cohan II


    The fool poster “Chris Cohan” is still polluting blog comment sections, after assuring us he would go away and root for another team.


    poster “Chris Cohan” == phony, poser, tool

  • tom

    As others have commented, because of injuries, Nellie didn’t have much to work with the last few seasons. I would have liked to see what he could do with the current roster having the motivation of wanting to retire on a high note.

  • deano

    Is Smart the Right Call? What other call was there? It is in fact convenient that Nellie is fired so close to the start of the season, because that gives everyone cover for Smart’s elevation to Head Coach. In that sense, this is a clean start without the burden of lofty expectation, which is a good situation for Smart.

  • Twinkie defense

    Everyone has an excuse now for failure this season, and then we have a potential lockout… I guess the usual “wait ’til next year” Warrior mantra is now “wait two years.” Blah.

    Should have either kept Nellie for a swan song season, with a healthy roster, some new pieces, and motivation to go out with a bang – and then with a healthy up and coming roster and the time to do it right, the Warriors would have been in prime position to attract a good coach next summer.

    Too bad… there’s always next yea… er, 2012.

  • Norman

    Down deep all of the commentors know Smart is a middling coach at best. For a championship you need a coach with ‘stuff’, a presence. Lacomb needs to forget about the five point per game down and dirty players that Riley has picked up. Its Hall of Famers that win championships. Go get them or the W’s have another 15 years in the NBA dungeon.

  • warafan

    No Smart is not a good choice. Bring in some guys with lots of experience. Some ex players (PG) background etc… Smart has not proven a good coach (look how the W’s play defense for the last couple years…

  • petaluman


    There seems to be some confusion over whether Smart already has a “multi-year arrangement”, or is in the process of negotiating one (or both). Do you have any more knowledge to share on this matter?

  • FreeCell

    # Chris Cohan Says:
    September 23rd, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Of course he’s not.
    This is a disastrous Non-sale.

    Cohan II


    The fool poster “Chris Cohan” is still polluting blog comment sections, after assuring people he would go away and root for another team.

    poster “Chris Cohan” == phony, poser, tool

  • A’s in 2010

    Hey, I love Nellie but man… A season without all the stupid, BS mind games? what a relief! There’s got to be other ways to get the best out of a player besides destroying their confidence and publicly humiliating them, right? Cheer up Warrior doom and gloomers, there IS life after Don Nelson. Look at Dallas, they keep on truckin’, 50 win season after 50 win season. Playing small-ball is fun, but not ALL the time. It’s good to combat teams that are more talented than us that way but when you face an inferior team, play them straight up. We lost a ton of games against BAD teams that way, that frustrated me so much. Why are we creating a disadvantage on the boards playing without a center against bad teams? Hopefully Smart can bring a balance there.

  • Doctor

    History has proven that Nellie disciples typically have their own vision. I want to know what Smart’s is. Popovich and A. Johnson have done quite well for themselves…

  • An Idea

    Kenny “The Jet” Smith. NY really considered him, and he has a little personality and national cache from the tv gig. Smart has been here 6 years, and I wouldn’t even recognize him at the mall.

  • john freeman

    Hard to argue with your conclusion – “we’ll see” – :))

    but anyway …
    I am a glass half full kind of guy, so I am all for this.
    – He’s the guy we’ve got,
    – the players are for him,
    – the new owners don’t even own the team yet, so it would be a little surreal to start negotiating with some high-powered dude.

    Two things:

    1. not so clear to me that he is a Nelson guy. He was hired 3 or 4 coaches ago, correct? To me, another plus. He’s sat on the same bench in the same room looking at the same blackboard listening to 4 different head coaches try hard to sell 4 different things, so he has a wide variety of styles to choose from.

    2. analogies are tricky, but this is sort of the Coach Sing situation: Head coach blows up, give the next goy a chance. Too soon to tell on Sing also (still in the “we’ll see” stage with him :), but fer sure it’s been interesting so far.

    very excited for the new season in any event!

  • Give Smart an opportunity – he’s earned one. If he doesn’t improve the defensive effort, then can him. I like his professionalism – and the players like him.

    Get Smart better players and he’ll be a better coach!!!

  • mark

    As far as Smart being a bad defensive coach, remember that he had to play defense with the guys Nellie selected to play offense…

  • GSWTruth

    Nellie was always a “win-now” specialist. He wasn’t the guy you brought in to win a championship. The best rosters he ever had was in Dallas and RunTMC. But his specialty was to win now with a subpar roster until the dust settle on a rebuilding team. If you look at his record, he rarely had loosing season. The last few years in Oakland were an anomoly, look at the first two. It’s not that he didn’t believe in defense as much as I don’t think he ever expecting to win championships with the teams he had. I mean, the buy played for Boston and won championships. He’s knows what is takes to win. He also knows he is never given players like Bird, Jordan, Magic, Shaq. The best player he’s ever coached was probably Mullin, Dirk and Nash. I look forward to Smart. His biggest upside is that he’s young enough he hasn’t created his identity as a coach. you knew what you were getting from Nellie, you hired if you wanted to win now (not the playoffs) but just win.

    But if you think about it Boston gave a big break to an unkown in Doc Rivers, 4 years removed from being lint in the world of professional coaching he is considered on of the best. Hopefully Smart sees this as an opportunity to be his own coach and not follow in Nellies steps. WE BELIEVE!

  • haastheman

    Smart is the wrong choice for one big reason. He was in charge of orchestrating the defense. What defense. Our defense was terrible the last few years. Our players were constantly lost on defense, and looked clueless. Look forward to more of the same.

  • Brandon

    Keith has paid his dues and deserves to be the Warriors head coach.He has the ability to be an outstanding coach
    if given the opportunity.The team is a young one and Smart will get the Warriors to the playoff if you give him time.