Several NBA teams, as is the case every year, will have new head coaches heading into next season. Some, like Luke Walton (Lakers) and David Fizdale (Grizzlies) are getting their first official head-coaching opportunities, while others, such as Jeff Hornacek (Knicks) and Nate McMillan (Pacers) are getting second and third opportunities, respectively.
“For me, I love the fact that teams have turned to a couple of guys that we call retreads, guys that (get another chance),” NBA Radio analyst and 17-year NBA vet Eddie Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Because quite frankly, with GMs being in their 30s and being analytically motivated, they tend to go away from old-school coaches, even assistant coaches. To me, if you’re over 6-4, you can’t get a job anywhere in the NBA as a coach, which is unbelievable to me. That just seems to be the case. That eliminates half the assistants that’s out there that might have played forward in their time in the NBA. I wish I had known that when I played. I wish Patrick Ewing had known that when he decided to become a coach.”
McMillan coached the SuperSonics from 2000-05 and the Trail Blazers from 2005-12 but spent the last three seasons as an assistant under Frank Vogel.
“For me, Larry Bird giving Nate McMillan another chance, I thought, was a surprise,” Johnson said. “But he earned it. The guy had success as a head coach in Seattle and in Portland. Obviously did some things wrong, rubbed some people the wrong way probably at times, and they were hesitant to hire him because of his honesty and his brashness as a coach. But I think he’s learned over there by sitting next to Frank Vogel and getting better.”
Hornacek, meanwhile, was the head coach for the Suns for almost three years before getting fired in February.
“Jeff is not a confrontational guy,” Johnson said. “I kind of worry if (he’ll be) able to handle the New York media, but he knows the game. He really does. He knows the game of basketball, he’s a nice guy, he’ll give Carmelo his leeway, but he’ll also tell him what he can’t do.”
Johnson likes that McMillan, 51, and Hornacek, 53, are getting head-coaching opportunities.
“I think those two guys right there for me are guys that I’m interested in because I’m old school,” said Johnson, 57. “I just want those guys to at least be a part of this analytical (era). You got these young GMs that probably never watched them play because quite frankly, there’s a lot of GMs that are analytically driven that didn’t even play themselves.”
Johnson, to be clear, likes analytics and sees value in it. He just thinks many franchises have taken it too far.
“I was always a stat guy,” he said. “I paid attention to it. But not to the extent obviously it is now. It gives me a headache in a sense, but I do understand it. That’s part of my job. I understand the in-depth view that you get, and from a personal standpoint, I would have enjoyed that. But I’m more eye test and analytics, and I lean more towards eye-test. The one thing you always can’t measure is your heart. They can’t measure your drive. You look at the Cavaliers analytically. We thought they could come into this series and they could have a chance, but what’s been questioned here is their heart and their aggressive nature to even get to that point. So for me, that’s where it kind of stops and that’s where I have a hard time at times. It just doesn’t measure (everything). So for me, it’s iffy at times, but it’s something that we’re going to have to live with.”