It unfolded yesterday in a manner of minutes:
And just like that, Bill Bayno — perhaps PDW’s favorite Timberwolves employee — was gone to Canada, and a new bench to work from.
Obvious but Sincere
First things first: Congratulations go out to Bill Bayno on the career promotion to first assistant coach of an NBA franchise. If things go well for him in Toronto, as they already have in Portland and Minnesota, we will begin to see Bayno’s name floated in discussions of NBA head coaching hires. He’s clearly moving up in the ranks and this is another step.
Bayno Out, David Adelman In, Concerns of Nepotism
Replacing Bill Bayno on Rick Adelman’s staff will be David Adelman. If you’re as perceptive as I am, you’ll notice that David has the same last name as Rick. That makes sense because David Adelman is Rick Adelman’s son.
I’m actually not bothered very much by nepotism; not in this instance, anyway. First of all, it was shocking that David Kahn was able to lure Rick Adelman out of possible retirement to coach his 32-wins-over-the-past-two-seasons roster. There’s no way that happens if the FAMILY PACKAGE isn’t part of the offer. So if you have a problem with David Adelman then you also have a problem with Rick Adelman. You weren’t getting one without the other(s).
Second, hiring decisions are made for all sorts of reasons. When father hires son you can at least be sure that there is an unmatchable familiarity. That counts for something. Before working for his father in the NBA, David Adelman was a successful head coach in the Oregon high school ranks. For the past two years he worked with the Wolves as a player development coach. Setting aside the Bayno departure, there’s no reason to be upset about the David Adelman hire.
Bummed to see him go.
But that’s where the disappointment comes in because I can’t just set aside the Bayno departure. If it wasn’t already obvious, we are huge Bill Bayno fans. Around here, we sometimes treat Bill Bayno more like Bill Brasky. During the last election season we put up “Bayno-Sikma 2012″ as our tagline. It doesn’t make any sense. We kept it up anyway. We’ve tried to lionize Bayno partly because it’s a funny blog joke (to us, anyway!) but also because he’s got such an interesting back story that includes epic tales of dropping 50 at Rucker Park whilst sweating out a hangover.
As an NBA assistant coach Bayno comes across equal parts obsessive-compulsive, positively energetic, and expert in his trade. Like a nicer Bill Musselman. LaMarcus Aldridge was not a happy camper when the Blazers allowed Bayno to leave for Minnesota. The two formed a productive relationship leading to fulfilled player potential. Perhaps we’ll read similar quotes from bummed-out Timberwolves should any reporter explore this story further. To better understand Bayno’s involvement with the Timberwolves (and In Case You Missed It) I highlight recommend checking out his interview with Britt Robson at MinnPost.
Assistant Coaches: How much do they matter?
It’s not always easy to assess the importance of coaching in basketball. After all, as the adage goes, the NBA is a “player’s league.” It’s even more difficult to assess the importance of assistant coaches. In personal experience at high school and small-college levels, I’ve seen varying degrees of involvement and effectiveness of assistants. Some have specialized knowledge about post play or perimeter defense. Some help the head coach with player rotations during games. Some scout opponents. Some simply drive the team bus and referee scrimmages. Most do a combination of those things, I suppose. My dad was the lone assistant on Rochester John Marshall’s 1969 State Championship team (pictured on the left) and I can tell that he considers it a life highlight. He wouldn’t feel that way if he wasn’t deeply invested in the process leading to the result.
I’m finishing up Seven Seconds or Less, the Jack McCallum book about the 2006 Phoenix Suns. McCallum’s perspective is largely aligned with the coaching staff as he traveled and conversed with them throughout the entire season. The inescapable conclusion is that Mike D’Antoni was heavily aided by his staff. Alvin Gentry, Mark Iavaroni and his Mike’s own brother Dan D’Antoni each provided an area of expertise, a philosophical angle, a set list of NBA teams and players to scout, and a set group of Phoenix Suns to individually coach. It was very much a committee style that led the juggernaut Suns teams of the mid-aughts. The book is pure validation of my general reluctance to question the competence of professional coaches. They work hard and they know what they’re doing.
Looking at the current Timberwolves roster situation, it’s easy to see where assistant coaching will be important. They’ve loaded up at the wing position with seemingly similar talent levels. It will not be easy for Rick Adelman to choose a starter between Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer. Similarly, the bench minutes competition will be fierce between J.J. Barea, the loser of the Bud-Brew starter match, Alexey Shved, and Shabazz Muhammad. If the team is lucky enough to avoid serious injuries, there will inevitably be disappointed players stuck on the bench for most nights. Rick Adelman does not have the time to coddle young Shabazz if he is that guy, and it will be up to people like David Adelman to keep the rookie’s head up and working to improve. Someone with the energy, optimism and expertise of Bill Bayno seems perfectly suited for that role and his loss will likely be felt, even if we can’t prove it.
Best wishes to Bill Bayno in his new venture and good luck to David Adelman here.