Assistant coaches are often overlooked to say the least. They appear to be the guys who just sit there and occasionally talk to the coach, but not so much that they impose on anything going on within the game itself.
These assumptions are wrong and any head coach in the NBA will tell you that they value their assistants maybe more than anything. Their jobs can range from keeping track of in game situations to running the offensive or defensive portions of the game. So by saying that losing an assistant coach isn’t important to the grand scheme of a team, it would be foolish.
Former San Antonio Spurs assistant coaches Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown left for greener pastures this summer in Atlanta and Philadelphia respectively. These were the two longest tenured assistants on the staff and presumably the two coaches in waiting for whenever head coach Gregg Popovich decided to step down.
Their influence on Coach Pop has grown over the past few seasons as they have shifted their offense into a more up-tempo style of play. They had a feel and a bond between the coaches that is crucial during in-game situations, just as players have with each other. There are certain times when a coach sees something that Popovich might not. We all know Coach Pop is the general when it comes to the Spurs, but you always need those other minds to bounce ideas off of.
So heading into this season, the coaching staff is looking at two new faces on the bench with the additions of Jim Boylen and Sean Marks. Ime Udoka is the only holdover from last season and he’s coming off his first season of coaching experience.
Trust is something that takes a lot of time for Coach Pop to gain with anyone. Theses coaches will have to prove themselves and show they can think in the mold of the Spurs system. Till then Coach Pop will lean heavily on himself. At times he needs those other basketball brains to tell him when he’s wrong or if there’s something he’s missing. Who is going to step up from the bench now and be that guy in Pop’s ear?
Even if someone does step up to that role, it takes time to develop that rapport that was left behind by Budenholzer and Brown.
If he does give his coaches the time of day to influence his decisions in games, just how much will it affect the outcomes this season? Ultimately Coach Pop is judged by all coaching decisions since he has the final say, but we will never know just how much influence Coach Bud and Coach Brown had on Pop. May we finally see it this season with their departures? Or will we see the lack of their influence and just how much control Coach Pop has had these past few years?
Guess we’ll have to wait to see the outcomes. In no way do I think the Spurs will be completely hampered by these changes. It’s just a chance to shed some light on the importance of the assistant coaching jobs here in San Antonio that we never paid a lot of attention to.