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Monday, December 31, 2007

Scottie Pippen is No Diplomat, but He Knows Basketball

Scottie Pippen would like to coach the Chicago Bulls, the team that he helped lead to six NBA titles, and he does not understand "the key to the good 'ol boy system" that he believes is preventing him from getting a coaching job: "What's my disadvantage? No NBA coaching experience? Skiles' record with the Bulls wasn't that great. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do what you've done your whole life. I've played basketball, run teams and won. They didn't put me at point guard because I could dribble good. They put me there because I could run a team. I wasn't the best dribbler, the best shooter. I wasn't a point guard. But I knew how to run a team."

Pippen told the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith, "What experience do you need? You have assistants who have been there. If I made a mistake, I wouldn't be the first coach to make a mistake. I'd love the opportunity to be part of the organization now that Skiles is gone. I've won championships with this organization and been in the competition when everything was on the line. I was a coach on the floor. Why isn't that experience?"

Pippen also offered some blunt assessments of the skills and limitations of some of the current Bulls' players:

***Tyrus Thomas "dribbles better with his left hand than his right. He must have broken his arm when he was a kid. He shouldn't be dribbling. He should be a fetcher. Like Ben Wallace, (Joakim) Noah, go get the ball."

***Ben Wallace "doesn't know the game like Dennis Rodman did. Dennis knew how and why he got rebounds. So you keep on him (Wallace) or he doesn't play."

***Ben Gordon "(is) out there shooting for a contract...If there's two, three guys running at him, he still wants to make a shot. Those shots are out of position, your teammates don't expect them, you are not in position to rebound and get back. Taking bad shots is a sign of a lack of respect for your teammates. You think I'm going to run back if I know B.J. Armstrong is jacking it up? My shot is just as good as his. That's what players think."

***Kirk Hinrich "(is) guarding Kobe, Tracy McGrady, the best players. He's not that talented. Let him run the offense. But you can't have midgets running your backcourt. Little guards always put you in a vulnerable position. You've got to send help. It puts too much pressure on the defense."

***Luol Deng "(is) solid. But he doesn't have enough speed. He plays more upright, so it's tough for him to go out and guard smaller guys. I think Deng is on the verge of being a star. But all that money talk added pressure. Now he's trying to show 28, 29 teams what he's about instead of going out and playing."

***Andres Nocioni "(is) turning into Rasheed Wallace with the kinds of things he does on floor. It makes the officials turn on the whole team. And you stop getting calls."

Obviously, diplomacy is not Scottie Pippen's strong suit. I stood right next to him during the 2007 All-Star Weekend when he told a group of reporters, "If you ask people who understand the game, the GMs and the coaches, they’d rather have a Scottie than a Michael." As I explained, "there is in fact some truth to what he said--not so much that GMs would prefer Scottie to Michael but that they would prefer the way that Scottie played. Jordan was a more naturally gifted scorer but as a rebounder, playmaker and defender Pippen did not have to take a back seat to any midsized player--even MJ--and he consistently played, as Larry Brown would say, 'the right way,' supporting his teammates and trying to get them involved. He never felt the temptation that MJ often did to try to simply shoot his team out of trouble single-handedly."

Someone who hires Scottie Pippen to be a head coach may cringe once in a while at Pippen's blunt, brutally honest way of expressing himself--but isn't that a small price to pay in exchange for the wealth of knowledge and experience that Pippen has?

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:15 PM

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4 Comments:

At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous jn said...

Such comments make me think that Scottie Pippen would make an excellent TV analyst, not a coach.

Pippen was a great player, but that does not make him a great coach. Aside from the fact that Reinsdorf in particular would rather eat bricks than hire him as a head coach considering their past "friendship", Pippen was never the vocal leader type. He led by doing, which is fine in a star player but not in a coach, who can only lead by talking. As far as I know, he was not a locker room voice like Bill Cartwright, and his personal, social and negotiating skills are worse than suspect.

It's not just Reinsdorf; nobody wants a loose cannon in the press room or at the negotiating table. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a far greater player who was not a people person either but did not have Pippen's high profile incidents and it has taken him like twenty years to be brought back into the fold as a Laker assistant (and he remains a "special" assistant, an outsider).

 
At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 1:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

I agree that Pip will have a difficult time getting hired as a head coach. However, based on conversations that I have had over the years with several of his teammates, his leadership capabilities within the locker room are greater than you seem to think. The "skill" that he lacks mainly consists of convincing the media to portray him positively no matter what, something that guys like MJ and Shaq mastered and that guys like Kareem, Pip and Kobe have not.

 
At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 2:01:00 PM, Anonymous jn said...

It may be that his lockerroom role was more important than it transpired, but Pippen cannot just blame it on the media. Can he really command the moral authority to ask a player to start from the bench, for instance, or to try and play through injury? It is true that Pippen did both things many times during his career, but for better or worse he is associated with very negative incidents that branded him as a player. He was an outsider, which is well within his right, but I am not sure that's a trait I'd like in a coach.

His comments do not suggest that he has acquired new perspectives or management skills, but rather that he still finds it easy to point at other people's faults and mistakes.

Any analyst can do that - even most fans do that. But it's coaches who are asked to manage conflicting persoinalities, set up a succesful strategy and take control of a team game in and game out.

Maybe Pippen does have such skills, but I don't think he has displayed them yet. I would try him in the NBDL or a small college before putting the fate of a NBA franchise in his hands.

 
At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 4:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

Just to be clear, I don't think that Pip has blamed the media; I blamed the media for overreacting to his perceived faults while whitewashing any missteps made by MJ and Shaq.

I think that Pip would be a good coach but I agree with you that no NBA teams are likely to give him a chance unless he acquires some coaching experience elsewhere or as an NBA assistant. Pip could probably help his cause by being more diplomatic but that does not seem to be in his personality. Whether or not it was nice or politically correct, everything that Pip said about the various Bulls' players happens to be true. I love when he said that Thomas should be a "fetcher" and stop trying to do things that he cannot do; some Bulls fans have deluded themselves to believe that Thomas is an All-Star in the making.

 

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