Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting Defensive: Grizzlies Set To Hire Kevin O'Neill

According to the Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies will be hiring Kevin O'Neill to be the new lead assistant to head coach Marc Iavaroni. O'Neill was previously an NBA assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle, as well as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors for the 2003 season. He also has a lot of head coaching experience in the college ranks, having run the programs at the University of Tennessee, Marquette University and Northwestern University, as well as the interim coach for the University of Arizona last season. His reputation is that of a defensive expert, which is a good thing, since the Grizzlies were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season by every statistic in common usage.

28th in Opponents' PPG
29th in Opponents' FG%
27th in Opponents' FGA
30th in Opponents' FGM
27th in Opponents' APG
27th in Opponents' RPG

In other words, this team doesn't defend well enough to beat much of anyone consistently. If people want to see the Grizzlies run and win, then it will start with defense. Defense creates turnovers, which leads to easy baskets. Defense leads to contested shots and perimeter attempts, which lead to blocks and long rebounds, which lead to fast break opportunities. Defense leads to running, if that is what a team truly wants to do. I realize that the Suns and Warriors don't play much defense and are able to execute a running style and win games. But they aren't able to win against teams that have a committment to run and defend when necessary, like the Spurs or Pistons. Spurs/Pistons = 5 recent titles; Suns/Warriors = 0 recent titles. Guess which one I'm leaning towards...

Back to O'Neill. I remember him well as the coach of both the Vols and Golden Eagles, and saw the job he did with the Wildcats this season, too. His reputation as a screaming tyrant is deserved, but I accept that from an assistant more readily than from the top dog for some reason. Players need a "players coach" as the head man, which means that they need a disciplinarian or two amongst the assistants to help keep order. O'Neill should be that guy, who will help the team develop sound defensive practices, while ripping the youngsters (and maybe a veteran or two) a new one when it is deemed necessary. Welcome aboard K.O.!

BallHype: hype it up!


Shawn said...

What I really want to know is what does this mean for our personnel?

Who do we have that is coachable for really good D and who really just will never be that good at it? What positions do we most need to drastically upgrade our D?

Joshua Coleman said...

I have always had the opinion that anyone can be coached to play solid team defense, even if they don't have the instincts or athleticism to play shutdown one-on-one defense. With that said, I do believe that the SG position needs a serious upgrade in defensive strength, as well as the PF position. In other words, I'd like to see someone replace Mike Miller and Hakim Warrick in the starting lineup this offseason. Nothing against either of them, but I firmly believe that both are better served coming off the bench.

That would allow Miller to back up the SG and SF positions and to use Hak as the instant offense he has proven to be capable of at the PF position.

Anonymous said...

Yeah that sounds good, Joshua. We should draft O.J. Mayo with the 5th pick if we can or Russel Westbrook if Mayo is not there. Then maybe try to sign Josh Smith as a restricted free agent or perhaps Emeka Okafor if we can't get Smith.

GrizzledGrizzFan said...

I wonder how Marc feels about his replacement being hired already. I'm sure he sees the writing on the wall.

hptmatt said...

agreed that anyone can be taught good team defense-witness the Griz teams of the three playoff years. Sure, Shane was/is a really good man defender, but he was not exactly surrounded by stoppers to help him out, and he was constantly assigned to the other team's best swingman (or even PF). Posey is a good defender, Ren wasn't so bad in the post, but that team was among the tops in pts allowed for reasons besides the fact that we only allowed about four possessions per quarter ;).

Anonymous said...

This hire is what's known as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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