As the Philadelphia 76ers try to close the Toronto Raptors out for the third time and avoid becoming the first NBA team in history to blow a 3-0 series lead, Doc Rivers and coaching has been a topic of discussion. What role does a coach play in a blown series lead? TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew discussed this on Wednesday night. Shaquille O’Neal puts the onus on the players, while Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith believe coaches play an active role in a team’s play.
“When I lost or got swept, it ain’t have nothing to do with the coach,” Shaq said. “Me. It’s all me, because I’m the one driving the bus.”
"Coaching matters man!"
The Inside crew debates the importance of a head coach to their team. pic.twitter.com/cvD2yECJ7b
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 28, 2022
Debates on that show really aren’t debates. It’s just three people shouting over each other before host Ernie Johnson takes them to commercial break. But it makes for good television and social media content.
The point about the importance of coaching is a good topic and worthy of discussion.
NBA players are the best basketball players in the world. You have to be exceptional at basketball to make it in this league. Within that population you need the elite of the elite to be able to compete for championships.
But the best players by themselves aren’t enough.
To have a chance at achieving ultimate success you need total buy in from everyone on the roster, an offensive and defensive philosophy, and commitment to execution. That begins with the head coach.
The head coach must work in partnership with his best players and get their buy-in and once that happens you can effectively manage the roster.
Now, ultimately when the ball tips, it’s up to the players to execute the game plan as given. If they don’t do that well or effectively that isn’t on the coach. So Shaq is correct up to a point.
However, the coach must also put the team in the best possible position to succeed. If something is clearly not working, adjustments needs to be made. But there are even degrees to adjustments. Is a specific tactic clearly not working or is it not being executed properly?
Good coaching in the NBA requires basketball intelligence, a sharp eye, flexibility, empathy, active listening, and the ability to communicate effectively, just to name a few. It is not an easy job and not an easy one to do well.
But the teams that have good coaching often have an advantage over those that don’t.
Looking at this 76ers and Raptors series, what has changed from the 76ers being up 3-0 to now being up 3-2? Did Rivers suddenly forget how to coach over the last two games? Is the game plan not being executed?
Joel Embiid is playing through an injury and James Harden hasn’t been great, but they’ve won three games with that being true.
The reality is as with most things in life it’s not either or. There are dozens of reasons why teams win or lose a playoff series, and coaching is likely one of them. But it’s not the only one.