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Continued: A whole new ballgame for NBA-bound college coaches

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 26, 2014 - 11:59 PM

“The athlete has changed tremendously,” he said. “I was coaching Ewing, Oakley, Jackson. They were four-year college players who were emotionally very stable, who played for guys like John Thompson and Louie Carnesecca. They were very mature, they’d been through the rigors of it. Now you’ve got guys who have been in college eight months. Winning is not a priority right away. It’s that second contract now and the whole total mind-set is totally different. It’s not much more difficult to coach at the NBA level than when I did it in 1987.”

Time not on their side

The long list of college coaches who failed — Pitino’s two seasons with New York in the 1980s, when he led the Knicks to 52 victories and the playoffs’ second round his final year there, often are forgotten — have done so because they by and large agreed to coach losing teams on relatively short-term contracts.

Saunders calls the Wolves’ situation different, saying his team isn’t hiring a coach from “a position of weakness” because it won 40 games this last season rather than 15 or 18.

Boston lured Stevens from Butler last summer with a six-year, $22 million contract that gives him financial security and, most importantly, time to adjust through his first pro seasons that brought a 25-57 record and plenty of lessons in his first one.

“That’ll help,” Adelman said. “That’ll help.”

Brown told reporters last summer that college coaches are the lone voice on their team. But they are most often doomed to fail in the NBA not because they lack expertise but because a franchise’s ownership, management and the coach often lack a shared vision and don’t speak with that one voice.

Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge said as much the day he introduced Stevens last July.

“Rick Pitino, John Calipari are fantastic basketball coaches,” Ainge said. “They didn’t fail because they can’t coach. The failure was from an organizational standpoint, not giving them patience, being supportive, [making correct] personnel decisions. Those guys could easily succeed in the NBA. We have to do this all together.”

Stevens conceivably has six years — and $22 million — to learn the differences between the two games’ length and number of games, their shot clocks and one’s immature teenagers and the other’s grown, rich and sometimes still immature men.

“It took me a while to learn the differences in the game,” Casey said. “It seems like 30 years ago, but you do learn the nuances and the personality of the NBA. You need time to get it together. If you’re building something, patience is very important. To have continuity, if you’re a college coach and you have time, you’ll figure it out.”

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