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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.

Happy Thanksgiving.




By Ivan Carter  |  November 26, 2008; 7:33 PM ET
 
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Comments

u too good column!

Posted by: forbid | November 26, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Cool, but how is ETap going to deal with master drama queen, Gilby?

How would he have handled the grand entrance without telling the coach he was going to play?

How is he going to handle Gilby's blown defensive assignments?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 26, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Happy Thanksgiving Ivan and everyone else!! Cool we get to end the day with a Wizards game!!

Posted by: Darnell1 | November 26, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Joe Gibbs brought respectability back to the Redskins. But he just couldn't control Portis. Zorn came in and has shown everybody will be treated the same. No sacred cows. EJ also brought respectability back to the Wizards. But everyone knew he wasn't gonna win any battles with Gilbert. Maybe Tapscott will be the Zorn to these Wizards.

Posted by: tundey | November 26, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

ETap needs to nip insubordination in the bud.

EJ was known as a player's coach, but what we've come to discover is he clearly has a tiered system in how he responds to and treats the players. This is understandable to a degree, but Gilby's antics were way out of line.

When you have a young team though, that relies on production from their youth, especially their bigs, then this tiered system is not going to cut the mustard.

Letting Gilby run amuck without rebuke really cost EJ's credibility with the team, but it was a tough situation with Gilby because nobody knows if EG told EJ to stand down and not take Gilby to the woodshed b/c Gilby would/could have thrown another hissy fit and left town.

EJ really though, pulled the trigger on EG when he said this team was built around Gilby, AJ, and BTH, thus laying blame on upper management and ownership...spreading the wealth.

That was the nail on his coffin.

I'm glad EJ left with his head high though. As an NBA coach, it's better to be fired than quit. You get to keep the money.

-------------------------------------------

"This team is built for Gilbert Arenas to lead us, this team is built for our all-star forwards to do certain offensive things for us and for Brendan Haywood to have a career year manning the middle for us," Jordan said. "We don't have those things. You're asking people to do things that they are not capable of doing. They are not capable of carrying the load for us like a Dwyane Wade, like a Gilbert Arenas. You've got young guys who aren't going to make veteran plays night in, night out. They're going to be good here and there, so to be in the game is a credit to everyone in our organization right now. It's eight games into the season and you've got to be positive but you've also got to be realistic about things. That's where we are."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/18/AR2008111803490.html

On a larger scale, Jordan wants to win now. Like any coach who signed a two-year extension with a team option for the third year last summer, the continuity line gets old.

"But I understand Mr. Pollin's standpoint," Jordan said. "We want to stay within a certain budget for the Washington Wizards. We're not going to be like four or five or six other teams that can do anything it takes to win. Those are decisions we made within the organization. It doesn't bother me. There are times when you say, 'How come we can't get this guy?' But then you say, 'These are the parameters the organization has set.' "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/16/AR2007021602210.html

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 26, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Two points:

AB is known as a party animal, but I'm surprised there haven't been any sightings or reports on him running around town and living it up.

I'm really glad I recorded the GS game. It's a dunk fest, and I had to replay a couple of JaTravel and AB dunks.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 26, 2008 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Blatche played well alongside Jamison, I like to see the two of them on the floor together. We'll see if that pairing continues.

Posted by: satchmore | November 26, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

The Way Things Are on the Wizard’s Insider Blog

Ivan Carter is reported to have said in The Washington Post that unnamed sources have speculated that our very own Kallie Kalorama provided President-elect Obama the following briefing points as part and parcel of his piercing analysis of life in the big city:

1) Just like the Wizard’s players, the 5 million or so federal employees are bad news
2) They cannot be motivated
3) They cannot be trained
4) Those just out of college are not only useless, but they are a distraction
5) And don’t expect to hire anybody because no one will come to Washington
6) When in office, rotate your priorities to those areas where you have a disadvantage
7) Don’t worry about defending the homeland; offense will keep the country in the limelight
8) Make sure you intimidate at least one cabinet secretary so that everyone knows who is in charge
9) Don’t detail any strategies – stick with platitudes (accountability can backfire)
10) No matter what happens, don’t adjust – stick with what got you there and never take a timeout

Kalorama’s policy recommendations to the President-elect have not been included here because they were deemed to be too depressing. Needless to say, nothing will work anyway so why bother to summarize the salient points.

From: The NBA Wizard’s Insider's blog – where insanity happens (on a regular basis, but more lately). Cheers all.

Posted by: Izman | November 26, 2008 10:55 PM | Report abuse

I really like the direction of the team now and am once again excited to watch the games. It's not always just about winning. If your developing and playing the "right way", then I can handle losing. The Wiz were just not playing together this year. The subs were dizzingly confusing. And, for all the "talk" about playing hard, I watched every game and the team was NOT playing hard every game.

I think players like McGuire, Blatche etc need a coach to clearly define roles. So, hopefully, Tap can do such as this post suggests. Is it a coincidence that Blatche, Brown, and even Butler had their best games of the season? I don't know, but time will tell. I think that we will be better the rest of the season, which is not to say we are now going to the playoffs.

I will say that the rotations were the best I've seen all season. Everything made sense for once and when something was not working a sub was on the way immediately i.e. Brown's size getting tested, no Song at center.

Go wiz! If you continue to play this way, the season may not be lost after all!

- Rob P

Posted by: rphilli721 | November 27, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

I have been silent on this site ever since the playoffs last spring. When Haywood went down my expectations for the season sank instantly. I thought and still think now that 32-34 wins would be a success. Then as the losing streak mounted I told myself that this was worse than anticipated and that I would not post comments on this site till I felt we had turned things around. Well I am now back! Glad to see that things are now filtered. These thoughts will be long so let me apologize up front:

I was not saddened to see EJ go despite the fact that like many I like him as a person. Until last year I never thought he got the most from the team. Last year he obviously did so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But as this year began it was apparent that things were spiraling downward swiftly. He could no longer rest on the laurels of success several years ago. So EG made the right move. I wish EJ well and think on the right team he will again be very successful.

I missed last Wednesday's Hawk game but saw that losing a lead in the last minute could potentially demoralize the team. The 2 games over last weekend were ridiculous despite the fact that they seemed to play hard. Jeff Van Gundy on ESPN said it all as he questioned the rotations and the fact that the 2 all-stars sat together on the bench for much too long. Saturday was a bigger embarrassment. My biggest problem in those games was that down the stretch the wrong players were taking shots. This was a sign to me that EJ had lost control. I am sure he told them to get the ball to Caron and Jamison yet Stevenson and Dixon especially took and missed shots down the stretch.

Ed Tapscott said all the right things on Monday and on Tuesday and so far after 1 game it's apparent that it wasn't just a lot of talk. We saw against the Warriors help defense, ball movement, blocked shots, floor burns from all-stars, understandable substitutions, rebounding after blocking out defenders, Zards defenders contesting and running out at jump shooters, players playing with passion, energy and confidence rather than being on uptight.

I LOVE Tapscott's concept of the 8 plus 2. Players will know their roles now. I do not think he has the top 8 set in concrete yet and that is good. I think we will see certain players demoted from the starting 5, to the 9-10 slot before the season is over. Healthy competition brings out the best in people.

Right now there is only 1 true point guard. D Brown clearly set the quicker pace the other day. If he continues to play like that and also hit a few shots, will Daniels get his spot back? Will be interesting to watch.

Big game Thursday. I would use all the fouls that the bigs have to frustrate D Howard. McGee, Blatche, Songalia, Thomas, and even Pecherov.

BmoreRev

Posted by: stanlong23 | November 27, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Also,

It was very interesting to me that we had our best output in rebounding and assists the first game after EJ was gone. Jamison also had more isolation low post plays called for him, which is where he belongs. JaVal had some plays called for him and he responded - EJ acted liked he was good enough to start, but EJ was too afraid to call anything for him. I mean zero! I'm not saying he has to be a focus, but he is on the court for a reason. If you ignore him, the other team will too! Brown actually pushed the tempo and was all over the PG with ball pressure. In other words, we played to the guys strong points as limited as they may be. It was the first game where I thought he actually belonged on the court! All coincidences? Time will tell.

We might lose to Orlando tonight, but I predict it will be a game. Etan will be used to bang Howard and I would even be on board with him starting THIS game. It's a better matchup!

Posted by: rphilli721 | November 27, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

"EJ was known as a player's coach, but what we've come to discover is he clearly has a tiered system in how he responds to and treats the players. This is understandable to a degree, but Gilby's antics were way out of line."

Every coach in professional sports has a "tier system" for dealing with players. Star players get treated differently than the guys at the end of the bench because the teams have more invested in the star players than they do the guys at the end of the bench (or, often, the coach). It's a basic reality of pro sports.

The one thing Tapscott has in his favor is that since he's just a fill-in, he doesn't have to worry whether alienating players by taking a hard line will result management being forced to chooses sides and not choosing his. He's gone at the end of the year anyway, so he has no long-term job security to worry about.

Most coaches don't have that luxury.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 27, 2008 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Izman, we all know you're an idiot who knows nothing about basketball. But you've now proven yourself to be a mentally unstable, emotionally-fixated idiot.

Really, I'm flattered by your stalker-like obsession with me, but can't you go shoot up a shopping mall or kill neighborhood pets like all of the other lonely high school kids who don't get enough attention from their parents?

I won't take it personally, I promise.

And really, if you're going to try out a comedy act, you might want to get some new material.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 27, 2008 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome back B-Rev! Your posts are always spot on in my "old guys" opinion. GM

Posted by: flohrtv | November 27, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

"Every coach in professional sports has a "tier system" for dealing with players. Star players get treated differently than the guys at the end of the bench because the teams have more invested in the star players than they do the guys at the end of the bench (or, often, the coach). It's a basic reality of pro sports.

The one thing Tapscott has in his favor is that since he's just a fill-in, he doesn't have to worry whether alienating players by taking a hard line will result management being forced to chooses sides and not choosing his. He's gone at the end of the year anyway, so he has no long-term job security to worry about.

Most coaches don't have that luxury.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 27, 2008 1:37 AM "

As I said, EJ had a tiered system, but understandable, but one of things that contributed to his undoing was how Gilby just went over the line without being rebuked.

Les BouleS had less leverage before Gilby signed, but things are different now. Hopefully, ETap will have the cojones to put Gilby in his place when he steps way over the line from now on.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 27, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

wait, did I miss something? when did OPech play? Thought he got a DNP - Coaches decision during the GS game

Posted by: babbtong | November 27, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Washington, D.C.: What single -decision- (not injury or something outside of the team's control) do you think Eddie wishes he had back today?

Michael Lee: He probably wishes that he had started Gilbert Arenas against Charlotte in that game in April 2007. He probably wishes that he had fined the guy $50,000 for being late and moved on.
As for a basketball decision, Eddie wishes he had chosen a different lineup in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee earlier this season. If the Wizards win that game, the entire tone of the season is different. They definitely have at least two or more wins because they'd have the confidence that they can finish games. Right now, these guys go into the fourth quarter expecting to blow it.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 27, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

happy thanksgiving to you too Ivan! glad to have met you at the concert last nite (ran into you as the show was letting out, gave you props on your blog and talked about internet commentors. i think we both were a little inebriated.. ;p)

keep the blogs rolling!

Posted by: 3tripleiii | November 27, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Babatong,
I was thinking the same thing. I remember Pesh heading to check in with around 2 mins left. However, since it was clear the the refs were letting the guys play out the final couple of minutes, Tapscott probably pulled Pesh back once the clock kept running...

Tapscott did keep playing Butler & Jamison until 3 or 4 mins left, so he really wanted to secure the victory, eh??

Posted by: -CN- | November 27, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

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