Mazurek: Rebuilding teams need elite coaches
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, October 12, 2016
What’s the worst word that could possibly be associated with the team you root for?
You probably guessed it: rebuilding.
And that’s largely because rebuilding, for many organizations, really just means, “hey, we’re going to suck pretty bad for a while, but then we’ll hopefully be back to mediocrity at some point.”
If you’re a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Cleveland Browns, the Chicago Bears or countless other teams, you know this to be true.
But what if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? What if I told you there was a way to make rebuilding work? That teams who fell into irrelevance didn’t have to stay there for eternity?
Well fear not, for I bring glad tidings.
For you see, rebuilding — in theory — works like this: A team finds itself in a position where it has no means of competing for a championship. Maybe the team has a star that’s sucking up too much salary-cap space or maybe the team’s core group of players are nearing retirement. Whatever the case may be, that team will trade away any high-salaried players left and enter rebuilding mode. With no good players left, the team finishes near the bottom of it league — as it’s supposed to — and thereby accumulates draft picks.
With a lot of good, young players who are cheaper than veterans, the team begins to win and has the cap space to sign key veterans and voila — the team is relevant again.
At least, that’s how it works in theory.
Unfortunately for many teams, the process doesn’t go as planned. The 76ers have had multiple top-10 draft picks in the past five years, but they’re still the NBA’s bottom-feeder. The Browns have the tools they need at most every key position except quarterback, and they, too, can’t get past the AFC North’s other squads.
But there are many cases when the rebuilding process goes according to plan. General manager Theo Epstein broke the “Curse of the Bambino” by leading the Boston Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and he is in the process of breaking the “Curse of the Billy Goat” with the Cubs as we speak. Just four years ago, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the you the Golden State Warriors are an NBA team, but now, they are poised to have one of the best seasons ever with a historically great team.
Now, if you’re wondering why your team doesn’t have the success of the Red Sox, Cubs or Warriors, that’s because they’re missing one key ingredient: a strong coach.
What’s often lost in the race for draft picks and free-agent signings is the fact that solid coaching can be just as valuable as a star player. This is true for any team, but it is especially so for rebuilding teams since they often have younger players in need of the extra guidance.
The 2004 Red Sox had Terry Francona, whose career postseason win percentage is .633. The Cubs right now have Joe Maddon, who has the perfect personality to lead a young, talented Cubs squad. Steve Kerr played on the Bulls’ championship teams of the late 1990s, and he’s currently working wonders with the Warriors and revolutionizing the NBA in the process.
Now, let’s go back and look at some of the teams who can’t seem to find their way out of a paper bag. Since 2013, Brett Brown has been the coach of the 76ers, and if you don’t know who that is, you’re definitely not alone. What better way to encourage a bunch of very talented, but immature, 20 year olds to play at the highest level possible than a man with no track record or history of winning as a head coach.
And the Browns are even worse: Since 2010, the Browns have gone through five different head coaches. That’s five coaches in seven seasons. A rebuilding team needs stability, and the Browns just don’t have it. That’s precisely what keeps them, and many other rebuilding teams, down.
So if you’re frustrated with your front office for putting an inferior product on the field, get a coach and let the rest fall into place.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.