Let’s not forget that Coach D was here before the fun started. To be specific, his record was 21-40 after he took over in the 2003-04 season. We all know what happened afterwards, Nash came and we were witnesses of a great style of basketball, fun, entertaining, successful.
How much of this can be credited to Coach D?
I’ve always thought that good coaches win games like this:
1. Good defensive strategy
2. Good offensive strategy
3. Bench rotation
4. Timing using timeouts and good use of fouls.
Non-existent, wait... not so fast. We always heard on the broadcasts that the Suns defense was better than advertised, underrated and if you think about it, they were right. Most of the fast breaks were fueled by good defense, we would see
The run n gun encourages good defense because by playing it, you score faster on the other end. The only problem with Mike’s run n gun was that he relied too much on his player’s athleticism on the defensive end. He didn’t take enough time in practices to teach players how to rotate on defense, how to come off screens, how to double team better, how to be a better one on one defender. There was never a strategy per se.
You can tell by just looking at other teams and comparing them to the Suns. Celtics and Spurs are disciplined, they rotate, and they communicate well on the floor. It’s a collective effort only achievable with hours of practice. Enough said.
Good Offensive Strategy:
Coach Mike is a genius, he would draw plays and the Suns would execute perfectly. Pick and roll, high screens, player positioning. He was blessed to have players capable of performing at a high offensive level, able to make big shots, able to run plays at a high speed. He created the number one offense in a very difficult league, players no known for their scoring abilities became three point threats and dunking machines.
The run n gun is a very difficult system, not all players can perform well in it. Good conditioning and athleticism are very important, great shooting and passing skills are required. If one of the players does not fit the profile, the system will fail. Developing a bench is not part of the philosophy. That’s why you would see coaches like Mike and Don Nelson stick to their short rotation. This is one of the biggest flaws of the system, players lucky or unlucky enough to play, end up tired after the regular season and bench players are out of rhythm whenever they are asked to perform not to mention unhappy.
Coach is not good doing these. He was reluctant to call timeouts because it affected the team’s rhythm. He used to hate fouling also, using the same excuse. Timeouts are used wisely by coaches to stop the other team’s rhythm and smart fouling can buy you some points.
So, can D’Antoni make it work in NY with their current roster?
The coach or the players? A combination of the two?