Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Sports

July 3, 2014

McNamee: Coaches wielding too much power

EFFINGHAM — Coaching is still the most popular avenue athletes take at the end of their playing careers.

They trade in their uniforms for Dockers and clipboards, and move to the sidelines to coach up the next generation. Putting on the headset, calling the plays and giving the signs is still the most common path to a stable retirement – even better than the latest trends involving television analysis and suing a league.

But the grace period between retiring and hiring is now far too short, especially for head coaches and especially in the NBA.

Derek Fisher, a former Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder player, is the latest athlete to go into the halftime locker room as a player and come out a head coach.

He and Steve Kerr, a former Chicago Bulls player and television analyst, were hired this summer and will be among the highest paid coaches in the league.

Kerr went from player to analyst to coach at a similar pace to his predecessor, Mark Jackson, who was fired by Golden State for reasons beyond my understanding.

Fisher was playing in the conference finals, like, yesterday and today he's coaching the New York Knicks.

Neither of these three men had coached a game in their lives before becoming head honchos for professional teams. Neither had Jason Kidd who, like Fisher, became a head coach instantly after playing his last game.

I'm not bothered by the career arcs of Jackson, Kerr or Fisher; at least, not yet.

I'm more than a little bitter about Kidd, who reportedly demanded his way out of the Brooklyn Nets head coaching job last week in favor of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are sending two future second-round draft picks to the Nets in exchange for Kidd. They fired their coach, Larry Drew, this week.

Drew heard all the Kidd-to-Milwaukee talk on the news, but hadn't heard from Bucks ownership. The next time he met with team officials, they fired him.

What did Larry Drew ever do to deserve that and who's to say Kidd is the better coach?

This unfortunate “trade a coach” trend started with Doc Rivers, who jet set from Boston to Los Angeles in 2013 because, among lesser reasons, the Clippers were going to make him head coach and the President of Basketball Operations. ESPN reported this week that Kidd's move will likely yield a similar tag.

It's silly no matter what, but Rivers is at least a much more respected gentleman of the league and earned his coaching chops through years of trial and error.

Kidd hasn't done anything to deserve what he's getting.

I refuse to accept the “great playing career” bit or the “well the Nets won 44 games this season” argument because a Hall of Fame career doesn't guarantee someone a coaching job and the Nets won five more games with a different coach the year before. By that observation, Kidd made the team worse.

If I owned the Nets, I probably would've told Kidd things that I can't write in this column. Either way, he put ownership in a lose-lose situation. As much as I would have liked to put him in timeout and force him to honor the rest of his contract, there's ridiculous risk involved with forcing someone to coach a team he doesn't want to coach.

Kidd shouldn't have this power because he hasn't earned it and, even though I like Rivers, it's a shame that coaches know they have the option.

Players have the “opt out,” free agency and no-trade clauses as options in their contracts. Many with disgruntled attitudes have forced their way out of a franchise before, but you don't see it with coaches.

Don Nelson and Jerry Sloan leave the league and this is what we're left with?

It's hard to argue against players and coaches having similar rights, but what some of these new, young coaches need to understand is that players and coaches are held by different standards.

A discontent player forcing a trade isn't necessarily costing someone their job. Roster movement is so fluid in professional leagues that you don't think twice about it. But Kidd forced his way into a franchise that already had a head coach. There ought to be something on Drew's end that can prevent this from happening.

Maybe this kind of shady, back-door deals have always happened in the NBA and we just never knew about it, but it's an embarrassment for it to unfold so publicly.

The league is enabling coaches like Kidd by allowing this to happen. Former commissioner David Stern blocked the Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers trade, but the league doesn't do anything to prohibit teams from “trading coaches.”

Milwaukee is sending two second-round picks to the Nets for Kidd, but that's all hogwash. The Bucks might as well pay to fill the Nets' locker room vending machines for the next two years instead.

This inexperienced coaching trend is popping up in other leagues, too. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny got the job without any coaching experience. Same goes for Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Colorado skipper Walt Weiss.

Manny Ramirez was hired by the Chicago Cubs Triple-A affiliate to be a player-coach, which is something you see slightly more often in international soccer.

But these other coaches aren't making ransom demands like Kidd. Even the Rivers to Los Angeles transaction progressed smoother.

It doesn't make a lot of sense how these untested former players are getting such high-paying head coaching jobs, but Kidd is taking it to another level.

Lost in all of this mess is the sad story of Drew, who lost a job.

Some bratty kid wanted to play house in Drew's arena and Milwaukee's enabling owners allowed it.

The Bucks are as much at fault as anybody. What happens when Kidd gets bored? He's heading to a less successful team in a smaller market that is a more stressful project, so what exactly is he looking for in an employer? Was the health insurance not good in Brooklyn?

Drew wasn't going to get fired in Milwaukee before all of this happened because the expectations were low. Kidd, meanwhile, ought to be burdened with unreasonably high expectations because he got his way.

He better show that he's worth something because he decided he wanted to make a big, dramatic exit.

I'll be the guy rooting against him.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effinghamdailynews.com.

 

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