Here I was, just going about my Wednesday morning, when I notice that an ESPN panel has released a ranking of NBA coaches, as part of a series on NBA management. “Oh cool,” I say to myself, “let’s see if they say anything nice about Rick Carlisle next to his number 2 ranking.”
I open the link, scroll down to the spot underneath the obvious “1. Greg Popovich,” and see....
Doubleyoo tee eff? Where is Rick Carlisle, the obvious, unassailable, without-a-doubt second best coach in the NBA? Hold onto your butts everyone, because these jokers ranked him fifth. FIFTH.
Boy wonders Brad Stevens and Erik Spoelstra, along with the aforementioned Kerr, are each considered by this ESPN panel to be better than Carlisle in “his guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.”
Well I call BS on this nonsense. Steve Kerr at two baffles me. He’s a really good coach, maybe even great, but he’s also had one of the greatest assortments of NBA talent ever at his disposal his entire coaching career. What’s more, is there’s no “long term” success to speak of for Kerr—he’s been doing this for all of three years. Rick Carlisle has brought success to three separate franchises over the course of sixteen years.
If you’re going to tell me that Steve Kerr is going to be one of the great NBA coaches by the time his career is finished, fine. But there is no justifiable excuse for ranking him ahead of Rick Carlisle in 2017.
Similar story for Brad Stevens. He seems like a brilliant coach, but he’s not much older than some of our own Mavs Moneyball editors and has only been in the NBA for four years. His teams have never made it out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Again, he’s good, and he may end up being great. But it is beyond insulting to have him ahead of Carlisle.
That just leaves us with Spoelstra, who I think is a defensible third. Spoelstra is a great coach whose dark wizardry with this year’s Heat is a rival to any of the insane seasons Rick Carlisle has turned out. But Rick’s been around longer, done it in more places and in more varied situations. Rank Spo ahead of him, and I’ll still be mad at you, but it’s at least not outrageous like the other two choices.
Rick Carlisle has a career .547 career winning percentage. He has adapted his coaching style to win in three distinct eras with every sort of roster you could imagine. He was the guiding force behind one of the most surprising underdog NBA champion teams of all time. He is the only coach worthy of being called a rival to Pop, in my opinion. He is the obvious second choice.
In short, I’m saying these ESPN rankers couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle in their attempts to evaluate coaching quality. There is only one word for ESPN’s placement of Rick Carlisle on their ranking: