I know … I know—you went to Goliad, Texas to ride horses with Bum Phillips? Indeed, I did. And it was friggin’ awesome. Bum is one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met, and my day on his ranch was one I’ll never forget.
When he got to talking, I asked Bum about his coaching philosophy, and why what worked in Houston failed in New Orleans. “Different situations,” he said. “Different personnel.” In other words, when Bum Phillips’ Oilers were scaring the NFL, they were doing so behind the destructive force that was Earl Campbell. Ken Stabler would take the snap, hand the ball to No. 34 and watch the magic. Over and over and over again, the Tyler Rose would slam into defenders. It was beautiful.
In New Orleans, however, Phillips didn’t have Earl Campbell. Well, he had him, but in a diminished state. He also had George Rogers, an excellent runner, but no Earl. So how did Phillips adjust? How did he change his system? In short—he didn’t. He brought the same offense to Louisiana, then watched as the Saints failed miserably. Simply put, he refused to change, and never adapted. His coaching tenure in the Superdome was a failure.
Enter: Mike D’Antoni.
When the Knicks hired D’Antoni some three years ago, I thought, “Wow! Wonderful move!” D’Antoni was an inventive, creative, succesful coach; who who helped turned Steve Nash into an elite point guard and whose Phoenix Suns were the league’s most entertaining team. Surely, I figured, D’Antoni would be equally skilled here in the Big Apple.
Yet, just like Phillips, D’Antoni never adapted. Lacking the Suns’ deep, speedy roster, he tried to make grapes out of apples. The Knicks were awkward and ugly and eternally turnover prone. Then, when James Dolan forced the trade for Carmelo Anthony last season, all hope was dead. Nash, the cornerstone of the Suns’ success, can be happy with 0 points and 15 assists. Carmelo needs touches. Lots of touches.
That’s not D’Antoni. He doesn’t cater to selfish players; was unwilling to change his philosophy; seemed convinced his way could … should … would work.
And now, just like Bum Phillips 2 1/2 decades ago, Mike D’Antoni is out of a gig.