Ready for his close-up (cont.)
Posted: Thursday March 29, 2007 11:01AM; Updated: Thursday March 29, 2007 5:34PM
There may be questions of what has taken Iavaroni so long to earn a head-coaching offer. If he is so strong a candidate, then why have the past two summers come and gone without an offer coming his way?
But this as a ridiculous perspective. Since when has on-the-job experience ever been a weakness? When Larry Bird stepped down as coach in 2000 after three winning years with the Pacers, he admitted that he still had a lot to learn about running an NBA team. If he was ever going to return as a head coach -- which he swore would never happen -- he said he'd want to spend an extended period as an assistant learning from one of the best NBA coaches. In this era of celebrity hires, Iavaroni is someone who is working to meet Bird's high standard of apprenticeship.
(To finish the context, Bird is applying the same course of study to his new career as a team executive by spending the last four years as understudy to Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh.)
"He'll be a great head coach,'' says D'Antoni. "The biggest thing he has going for him is his passion for the game and his work ethic. I guarantee you no one will outwork him.''
Another promising sign from Iavaroni is that he isn't willing to make promises he can't keep. When I ask whether his team would seek to play Rileyesque defense as well as D'Antoni-paced offense, he says, "I'm not sure you can do it. The players have a finite amount of energy. I would figure it out when I'd see the team I have, whether we were going to be more into defense or more into offense and running.
"But we played 110 games last year [including the Suns' preseason and playoff schedules] and I don't think you can expect guys to be balls-out every minute at both ends. You have to accept certain limitations, otherwise you get players who are not effective and pissed off. While you want to consistently push players, you've got to know what's reasonable. You want to get it right to that edge of asking too much.''
Iavaroni would prefer to coach a running team. "I really believe teams are at their weakest [defensively] at the beginning of the shot clock,'' he says. "Teams are not set defensively, it's exciting to watch and it's democratic, though you can still get the ball to your best players. But to do that you've got to have skilled players and shooters and people who are good at running. If you have a bunch of slow guys, obviously it's not going to work. I'd want to be with a GM who likes to run, who wants to run, and who's always going to be on the lookout for players who run well and play at that pace.''