What stood out most in Sunday’s Blazers vs Pistons NBA game?
The late game heroics of Damian Lillard closing the door? The fierce place of LaMarcus Aldridge? The half-filled arena in a bankrupt American city?
Or was it the familiar faces on the Detroit coaching staff?
There was former Portland Trail Blazer Coach Maurice Cheeks and former player Rasheed Wallace. Cheeks is the man who learned that helping a little girl sing the National Anthem is no guarantee of job security in the NBA.
You still have to win games.
Wallace is the author of some of professional sports most endearing slogans, starting with "Ball don't lie." Add, "Both teams played hard," and "Cut the check," and you've got communication at the highest level. Did he ever say, "It's not about the money?"
With those two on the same staff, you have to wonder how other Blazer pairings would fare today.
The Green Coaches
One good big man/little man coaching tandem is Bill Walton and Damon Stoudamire. Both have a 420-friendly past, an unyielding interest in playing the game the right way, and enough experience to fill new players to the brim.
Both have had injuries that end many careers. But they came back. Walton came back from bad feet, Stoudamire from a torn patellar tendon. Neither called it day. Walton gave us title time with the Larry Bird Celtics, while Mighty Mouse played a few more years before coaching.
He's now with the Arizona Wildcats.
The Euro Coaches
Arvydas Sabonis and Drazen Petrović are examples of the worldwide reach of basketball. They were European players before Euro was cool, before Dirk and Tony Parker, before the Gasol brothers.
Their team would face coaches who played through pain, through disappointment, and through the language barrier. A Sabonis/Petrovic coached team would know how to shoot the long ball and how to pass inside.
Most important, they'd know how to be good teammates. If life in the former Soviet Union's sphere of influence teaches anything, it teaches how to focus. Even the cushy life of the sports star doesn't keep you from mandatory military service.
When the choices are basketball or the gulag, you learn to concentrate in practice.
The Discipline Coaches
Would the duo of P. J. Carlesimo and Latrell Sprewell strike more fear into players than two battle tested Europeans like Sabonis and Petrovic? Sprewell strikes fear into everyone, a man who does what he needs to do.
While he didn't play for the Blazers, his attack on Coach Carlesimo gives him enough badassery to land anywhere he chooses. Imagine a player not named Metta World Peace giving Sprewell a hard time. It wouldn't happen because at the beginning of each year they players would hear the choking story all over again.
Complaints about playing time? No. Complaints about anything? If Coach Carlesimo doesn't open his mouth wide enough to scream a hole through you, Coach Sprewell would take you behind the bench for some private MMA work.
Clyde Drexler and LaMarcus Aldridge would have been great teammates. Great coaches? With LA's spectacular play, he'd push his bigs to greater heights. This is a man who's let the game unfold before him. Too soft? Too meek? Not anymore.
With Clyde leading the way, you could expect a little Phi Slamma Jamma, some trademark slashing and leaping. With LaMarcus beside him, Clyde would do a better job coaching than he did when he returned to Houston. He just needs a bigger gig.
If your favorite team had great players in the past, and they all should, pair them to see what kind of coaches they'd be. Then imagine them taking your team to the promise land.
Would it get any better than that?