“NBA Open Court Coaches Edition” Is Peak Sports Programming

Hosted by Matt Weiner and with a panel of Tom Thibodeau, Dwane Casey, Mike D’Antoni, Doc Rivers and Terry Stotts, the “NBA Open Court Coaches Edition” that aired yesterday on NBA TV was legitimately one of the best sports programs I’ve ever seen. That’s not hyperbole.
(NBA Open Court Coaches Edition can be viewed on NBA.com )

Mainly, it was some of the smartest NBA minds on the record, plus some excellent footage and some compelling subplots involved. Here are the ten things that I learned / found interesting:

  1. Seeing Doc Rivers and Terry Stotts not only appearing together, but sitting next to one another, was an “oh shit” moment. There was a series of weird instances between Doc and Terry last season (this YouTube video covers everything with creepy music to boot!) and seeing them sit next to one another had my mind racing. Did the folks at NBA TV know? I kept watching both of their facial expressions when the other was speaking like it was the Zapruder film. Either way, props to both of them for being pros.Right behind Doc and Terry on the “interesting only for NBA nerds” scale was Thibs and D’Antoni. From a 2012 Frank Isola penned Daily News article:D’Antoni and the Suns parted ways after Phoenix lost a first round series to the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. D’Antoni was upset that then-general manager Steve Kerr was pushing him to hire a defensive assistant. A year earlier, Kerr suggested Tom Thibodeau for the job but D’Antoni resisted. Thibodeau eventually joined Doc Rivers’ staff and the Boston Celtics went on to win the NBA Championship and reach the Finals twice in three years.”

    Think Mike wants that one back?

  2. The way that Doc and Thibs look at one another is like two former high school sweethearts who see eachother at a wedding ten years later. Peak mutual admiration society with these two.
  3. The different perspectives on how to run plays at the end of games was fascinating. Stotts noted that he always wants to get the ball to the best player, noting that in Dallas when he was an assistant under Rick Carlisle, they always would get the ball to Dirk. D’Antoni mentioned having multiple plays out of the same alignment to keep the opposing coach guessing. Doc harped on having multiple options and Thibs talked about knowing what the other team likes to do defensively. In a way, that philosophy as an end of game situation is a microcosm of who those coaches are on a broader scale.
  4. Thibs tells the story about the Celtics getting beat up on the road in the 2009 season in Los Angeles and Doc collecting $100 dollars from each player, putting the money in a hidden ceiling tile, and telling the team they were going to come back and collect that money when they won the NBA Finals. You may remember Ty Lue doing something similar this year.
  5. During a discussion about coaching young teams vs. older teams, Doc noted that Terry Stotts was in an unusual situation in Portland coaching a young team because Damian Lillard was clearly the best player. D’Antoni stated that with a young team if you don’t have a leader, a number of guys are competing and all want to be the best guy. With this, comes worries about touches. I thought about some of the teams around the NBA who rebuild with young players (Philly and Orlando come to mind) and how there wasn’t a defined best player or leader. I always thought the way that Minnesota brought in veterans to round out their rebuilding team was smart, and hearing these coaches discuss the process with young teams only reinforced that.
  6. When asked about the toughest players they’ve ever coached, Casey and Stotts both mentioned Gary Payton. Then, D’Antoni sheepishly admitted Kobe was his biggest challenge and the way he said it just killed me.
  7. The coaches broke down how important it is to work with every player individually and get the players to trust them. Generally, there’s such a focus on what a team is doing strategically that the relationship and developmental aspects of an excellent coaching staff has a tendency to be overlooked. Indiana will be an interesting case for that scenario this season, as we’ll see how much Frank Vogel had to do with the development of their young players.
  8. Casey and D’Antoni both talked about how venting either at halftime or after the game isn’t really beneficial to anyone, with Casey saying that you can’t accurately evaluate until you watch the film and have time to really see what happened. Reinforcement of how the NBA is changing and you can’t just yell at grown men.
  9. One of my favorite nuggets was D’Antoni mentioning that if you have a young team, you need to tell them “why they lost” after the game so that they have something to say to the media. I’ve never even considered that…another reason why this candidness is so appreciated.
  10. Dwane Casey mentioned a specific set that the Cavaliers ran against them in the Eastern Conference Finals and how they spent two days practicing against that play and still couldn’t stop it. The lesson as always: this stuff is a lot easier if LeBron is on your team.

Anyway, this is just a small sample of the show. I felt compelled to write about it because it went against the grain of the sports hot take culture that we see and hear 24/7. I legitimately learned a ton, which is all sports fans can ask for with non-game programming.

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