The Tapscott Way
Something I was pondering while getting ready to see Method Man at the 9:30 tonight:
The really interesting thing about being a beat writer is that if you are curious and ask the right questions you can really get fascinating insights into how different coaches build different philosophical constructs about their teams, their sport and the individuals they coach.
In college, I played for three very distinct football coaches. The first was a lovable yet old-school tough type who made you run the hill for jumping offsides but would also gather the team for chats titled "Sex and the college lad" and "Alcohol and the college lad." The first was all about respect and responsibility, the second was all about learning how to have fun with moderation. "Have three or four beers after a win boys, not three or fourteen."
The second coach took over on an interim basis after the first suddenly passed away from cancer. He was a pure academic, the kind of coach who let the quarterback call his own plays, could break down an intricate pass pattern as well as the state of events in the middle east and generally believed that college football was something you did in between attending classes and reading books.
The third was a total x's and o's guy. A good guy but a not exactly outgoing. On one of his first days on the job, he asked me what my "40-time" was. Being the all-around funny guy I am, I replied: "I probably drink one faster than I run it, but I'll get open."
He didn't think that was funny.
As an NFL reporter in Kansas City I went from covering Gunther Cunningham to Dick Vermeil. Total difference. "Gun" was a defensive-minded scrapper who loved watching documentaries on WW II generals and always thought of football as a weekly war. Vermiel, as you know, could be emotional. He had no tolerance for injuries but would cry when a proven player would get one and he hated "fat" football players but would do everything in his power to get said fat football player a job after cutting him.
Anyway, I was thinking about my own experience today after my third interview session with Ed Tapscott. My early impression: either the man really knows his basketball or he really knows how to talk it.
When I asked Ernie Grunfeld for an explanation of why he selected Tapscott as Eddie Jordan's replacement, Grunfeld mentioned Tapscott's communication skills. The man has that.
Case in point: in the closing minutes of last night's game, Tapscott put second-year forward Oleksiy Pecherov into the game for some classic gargabe time. Right after doing so, Tapscott walked down to the end of the bench, leaned over into the ear of Etan Thomas and essentially told the veteran that he wasn't going to put him in for meaningless garbage minutes but reminded him to be sharp and stay ready.
"You treat a veteran a certain way," Tapscott explained when I asked him about the exchange today. "I talked to you guys yesterday about my plan to go eight plus two. Plus-two is the game plan. Against Golden State, the game plan was to go with smaller and mids at those plus two positions but trust me, the game plan against Orlando is going to be to go significantly bigger. And I told Etan that. I told Etan that we definitely need him against a Dwight Howard. So, all of a sudden, there will be the same core but a little bit different game plan packaging for what i call our plus two.
That keeps every guy involved and I'll let 'em know before the game whether they figure in a major way into the game plan or if there is a chance you might not get as many minutes but be ready because you never know whether with a turned ankle or a pulled muscle you are going to be thrown into the game. So, I want guys to know where they stand. The one thing I talked about was clarity."
-On his hopes for making Dominic McGuire into his defensive-stopper: "I'm asking him to fold himself into that role. Every team is role-defined and if you can find a niche within the team, you can find him some playing time. If he'll embrace that and go at it that way, he'll always find some time on the floor. We always need a 6-foot-8 inch athletic guy who can defend on the perimeter and can go back and get us rebounding.
The nice thing about what Dom does is Dom also has a knack for getting offensive rebounds and offensive rebounds lead to extra possessions. If he can do those things for us, he knows that he'll get a chance to play."
On going from being an assistant to being the head man: "It's very different in terms of the one-on-one relationship because you aren't always the hug guy. I'll hand out a hug or two but I'll swing a foot every once in awhile too. It's the nature of the job and I only mean that in the sense that you get better when you're pushed outside of your comfort zone. So, that's part of what the coaching staff has to do, try and push guys a little bit beyond where they are comfortable."
On Andray Blatche: "The thing about Andray is that he's been inconsistent and youth is always going to be like that. I think often times that 'Dre has had some experiences of a 22-year old guy. Not that it's making that an excuse, it's just a reality. And so, that's the process we are in: trying to keep focus and concentration on the marathon of a season and that is a learning process. I'm sure if you talk to Antawn Jamison about that, he'll tell you it took years for him to get to the point where he is now as a professional where I can almost put in ink what he's going to be able to give me on any given night. That's the process any young player goes through."
The interesting thing about last night was that I saw a team that played with supreme confidence and non-stop energy. Now, maybe that was an artificial sugar high caused by a major change or, perhaps this team is ready for a new voice and a fresh perspective. It's going to take several weeks and a bunch of games, but we'll find out.
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