Sixth Man (cont.)
The 6-foot-6 swingman, who played two years at North Carolina under Dean Smith, is in his 18th NBA season. Stackhouse, 38, joined the Brooklyn Nets as a hybrid player-coach and hopes to become a head coach in the NBA sooner than later.
He didn't imagine he would ever want to coach. "I didn't think I would have the patience for it. From my stop in Milwaukee [2009-10] when I was with Scott [Skiles], he gave me the chance to work with and talk with some guys, so I started to get the bug a little bit then. Then I started coaching my sons' team about three years ago, and working with 14-year-olds and seeing them getting better, and being able to show them some things and it actually coming to fruition on the court, it got my juices to flowing a little bit more.
"And the reception I got my last few stops -- even when I was down in Miami and doing some stuff on the post with Dwyane [Wade], and then in Atlanta, the rapport I had with Joe [Johnson] and Josh [Smith], I was thinking it might be a good little thing for me. The pro game is what I know.
"I don't know how good I'd be in college as a coach. I think I could figure out how to work it to my advantage, being able to share some of the things that I've done and have a positive effect on a parent and let them know I'd take care of their kid. But I'd rather deal with adults.''
He was hard to coach as a younger player. "I probably was. I think all young guys are hard to coach -- but when you're a scorer and the coach has always been trying to find a way to get you the ball, I don't know how hard that is to deal with.
"The one that tried to take the ball away from me, that was the only clash I had. It was [Rick] Carlisle, and he had a rhyme and reason with it -- he wanted to use my ability to draw attention, to accept the double teams more and then pass and get the ball moving and swung to the other side. It was good: I learned to bait more during that year, I would bait guys and I would get the double team and I would get rid of it. I think I learned to hold onto it a little longer, to string the double teams out a little more. It helps the teammate, but it doesn't necessarily help the scorer; the scorer wants to get rid of it so he can find a way to get it back before the shot clock.
"There were guys like Rick and Avery [Johnson] and Nellie [Don Nelson] from an offensive standpoint, and obviously Dean Smith -- guys that I still take a lot from. Playing for Scott [Skiles] I learned some wrinkles: He's a guy that hates full rotating [on defense]. He wants to stunt everything. And I learned coaching my kids sometimes that's the best thing for us to do is stunt, where they don't have to get into rotation and figure that out. They just stunt and then get back to their own man. So I got a lot of playbooks from a lot of coaches I played for. I can pick and choose a bunch from a lot of them. Then from some of them I took nothing -- absolutely nothing.''
Coaching his son's team was a revelation. "I paid more attention to some of the details, and I developed more compassion for coaches. Because, like, I couldn't understand how I could tell them something, and one game it worked, for two games it worked, then in the third game they still try to do something different. They want to take the path of least resistance every time. So I came to the conclusion that's why you need coaches. Players are always going to try to take the easier way, and that's why they need coaches -- to be able to tell them we have to do it this way every time.
"It's universal. As much as I know about the game, even I need a reminder every once in while on the basketball court. If I was over there watching on the sideline, I would know exactly what is supposed to happen. But being on the court, being in the heat of things, you need that reinforcement.''
He knows how to confront players. "I think that would be my strong suit: Being able to relate to every player, from the star guy to the guy who still thinks he's the star but could be willing to accept a lesser role for the good of the team. Because I've done all that, so I think I could be able to relate to all my players and say I've been in your shoes.''
He could yell at players without losing the team. "They've got to respect you for you to be able to do that. It's hard for these guys to respect coaches who haven't really been in the trenches with them. A few guys can get that respect, but it also comes with having some security too, of being able to have the people behind you [in the front office] so you can be who you are. That would be my whole conversation coming in: Am I able to be who I am? I don't need the blank check that you let me go and kick somebody's ass, but I need you to be able to at least let me threaten them.''
Stackhouse has earned a reputation as one of the NBA's toughest players. "I just think it's from being honest in how you play. Whatever team I'm on, I like the guys on my team and that's who I'm for. I don't necessarily like the other team. Mateen Cleaves, he told a funny story one time: 'Stack had me hating everybody in the league.' Because that's how I approach it. It's about us. Even with coaches, I wasn't really cordial to opposing coaches. I would come and do my business and not a whole lot of speaking. But I would say I'm a lot more of a politician now," he added, laughing.
He detailed the run-ins that enhanced his reputation for no-nonsense. "Maybe it was the incident with [Jeff] Hornacek early on in my career. My rookie year we got into it, I got into a fistfight with him and I was suspended two games. That was crazy. And then the plane incident with [Christian] Laettner. The Kirk Snyder incident after the game. Then I had to bottle Jerome Williams up one day at practice in Detroit. So the thing about the NBA, it's a small community. Word gets around fast. I always contend that I never, never picked a fight. I never ran away from anything, but I never picked it. Most times I felt like I'm not going to back down from a threat, but I definitely felt like there was cause if it went to that point."
He may yet decide to play beyond this season, but he hopes to avoid serving as a full-time assistant coach in order to become a head coach in the NBA. "I want to do broadcasting a little bit, too. The ideal blueprint for me would be Doc [Rivers] and Mark [Jackson], to kind of back away from the game and get some distance from being a player. This has been a good thing [to be playing for the Nets] because everybody knew I was coming in as a player-coach. So once that's out there, people start recognizing and looking at you in the vein of a coach without having to be away from the game. Broadcasting and doing some analyzing work will also do that. That would be the ideal thing: Doc [and Jackson] got a chance to show through TV their smarts for the game, and then the opportunity came for them.''
"They could've had my back."
-- Andray Blatche on his former team, the Wizards, who amnestied him last summer.
After spending his initial seven NBA seasons as an underachieving power forward with Washington, Blatche complained this week that the Wizards failed to cover for him when fans inevitably turned against him last season. They were booing him because he was, by his own admission, heavily out of shape; because he had committed numerous embarrassing mistakes, including his arrest for soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be a police officer; and because his production had regressed across the board. Blatche's relationship with the team and its fans grew untenable to the point that the Wizards preferred to pay him to play elsewhere. They put the remaining three years of his contract out to amnesty, even though it meant paying him $23.4 million to take a new job as a backup for the Nets this season.
"It's easy to be in somebody's corner when things is good,'' Blatche complained to radio hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan in Washington. "That's the easiest thing in the world, that's for anybody. I'm talking about when things are bad, when things are going wrong. That's when you can tell if somebody is on your side or not -- when things are going bad. That contract was great because things were going good."
The same could be said of a player who chose to attack his former team during its 0-12 start. He waited to kick the Wizards until they were most vulnerable.
"They could've explained exactly what was going on,'' Blatche said of the booings he absorbed from fans as they watched his stats regress across the board last season. "They could've had my back. They could've done anything. I don't care what they could've done. It could've been small, than to say, you know what, 'This is our escape route. We're going to leave him out for himself. He's going to have to fend for himself now.' No, that's not what you do when it's your family. And supposedly say this is a brotherhood. That's not what you do. I don't care, whatever my brother, my uncle, my sister, whatever anybody does, I'm going to have their back 100 percent. And that's what you do with family. That's all I'm saying. If we're family, then act like it."
Family. Such an interesting way of looking at it.