Tuck: No Experience Necessary

Jason Kidd just retired, as a player anyway.  His retirement didn’t last, as he is no employed again, and didn’t have to leave New York.  The ex-Knick is now a Net.  Not as a player, but as a coach.  The 40-year old is taking over as head coach in Brooklyn.

Too fast you say!  No experience!  Disaster waiting to happen!  Or is it?  There is plenty of precedent.

Believe it or not, four of the 30 teams last season had coaches who were hired without coaching experience: Doc Rivers (Boston), Mark Jackson (Golden State), Kevin McHale (Houston), and Vinny Del Negro (LA Clippers).

All of them made the playoffs this past season.  Del Negro was fired, but only after he won more games as a Clippers coach than anybody in the history of the franchise for a season.  Rivers, of course, got his start in Orlando, and was named coach of the year during his tenure, and went on to coach the Celtics to a title in his second job.  Jackson, Rivers, and McHale were broadcasting before scratching the coaching itch.

So while it isn’t normal, or possibly even advisable to take such a risk, it has worked well.

In fact, the coaches with the most wins in NBA history, Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332), both were hired without coaching experience!

History hasn’t been kind to everyone, but of course not every hire is going to work, regardless of the experience.  Magic Johnson lasted just 16 disastrous games coaching the Lakers, and Kiki Vandeweghe went 12-52 in his only season in New Jersey.

Dan Issel and Isiah Thomas were also moderately successful as head coaches in the NBA despite never working first as an assistant or being a college coach.

There are two common themes.  All of these guys played basketball and were good to great players.  And the reality is, no matter the coach, and no matter his experience, he needs talent to be a success.  Without the best coaches talents go to waste.  The ones that did well had great opportunities, the ones the didn’t less so.  The Nets were a playoff team last year, and I suspect Jason Kidd will have them in the playoffs again.