I have said it before and I now feel more than ever that Doc is the weakest link in this team. We have arguably the best "big three" in the league. We have some talented young players who can play a supporting role on the team. We now have some veterans to support the younger players and to back up the "big three." But what we don't have is a head coach who has proved that he knows how to coach. He says all the right things, but I haven't seen him doing the right things. He has been incapable of managing the rotation, making wise decisions during games, and teaching defense to a young team very capable of playing it.
First and foremost is his lack of respect for defense. He has made the comment that he worked on offense in practice because because "after all half of the team is playing defense when they work on offense." This would seem to be a bad approach to coaching because our team desperately needs more defense. We won't win without it. Any coach who doesn't stress defense is not a good coach. Defense wins games and championships and a team will go nowhere without it. During Summer League, Doc made the comment that he was going to take over the defense this season and leave the offense to his assistants. He also threw Tony Brown under the bus saying that in the past 3 seasons he was the one who was in charge of the defense. But as head coach, if you give the defense to an assistant, and that assistant obviously isn't doing the job, don't you have to step in at some point? With the hiring of Tom Thibodeau and with KG in the lineup, with or without Doc, we should be a much better defensive team this season. For three years, we haven't been able to defend the pick and roll. This is something we have to do if we expect to win a championship. KG, Rondo, Tony Allen, Pollard, Wallace, and Manuel are all good defensive players, but we need the coach to develop the team defenses. I am hoping that Tom Thibodeau is that coach because I don't see Doc being able to do it.
Second, Doc doesn't seem to know his players. He sat Gomes on the bench for half a year before giving him a chance to play and when he did play, he became a starter almost overnight. I just can't believe that Gomes wasn't showing enough in practice to get some playing time all along. Doc started Telfair much of the season, even when it was obvious that Rondo was the better point guard. Doc pulls some players from the game for the smallest mistake while leaving some veteran players in the game who are making mistake after mistake and because of this, he doesn't instill confidence in his younger players. Last season, after watching Leon Powe have a great game, Doc said that he would be playing him more but in the following games, Powe barely played. What does this do to a player's psyche, to be told that they would be getting more minutes because of their strong play and then find themselves stuck to the bench.
Third, Doc doesn't have a clue as to how to use our bigs. I am very tired of seeing our center inbound the ball and then run up the floor only to stand at the top of the three point line to wait for the ball to be passed around the arc. Bigs should play in the paint, not out on the 3 point line. Doc loved Raef and Blount because they could "stretch the defenses," and even though they didn't rebound and mostly stayed on the perimeter, he played them over Perk, which caused Perk to get very little playing time over his first 3 seasons. Our young bigs have played tentatively because at their first mistake, Doc tends to pull them and sit them. They know that they get very little time in the first place because Doc tends to rely on veterans, whether they play well or not. And they are afraid of making a mistake because they don't want to be pulled from the game and that makes them more tentative. Doc needs to let them play through their mistakes and soon they will make a lot fewer of them. Doc needs to get his bigs in the paint and hopefully with KG here he will do so. If I see KG come up the floor and stand outside the 3 point line while the ball is passed around the arc, Doc needs to go.
Doc loves small ball but doesn't realize that when you go to small ball, you will be at a big disadvantage on the boards if you don't keep at least one of your bigs in with them to grab rebounds. Yes, the small ball teams are faster and can run more, but you can't run without the ball. Small ball is good to shake things up but you have to have a rebounder in with the small lineup. Too many times Doc went to small ball without a rebounder or a shot blocker in there.
In spite of promising a running game for the past three years, we always revert back to half court sets, even though we have a point guard who can run a fast break team and flourishes in the open court. Here is a quote from Ainge from the Globe:
"He was clearly our best point guard coming out of training camp," Ainge declares. "At the time, we were running an offense called 'Random,' which is more of an uptempo style that fits his game. We stopped doing that, and I'm not saying we shouldn't have, due to our personnel."
The Random offense was designed to get the team into it's offense quickly. The idea was to keep the defense off-balance by making quick decisions and by getting into the offense quickly. We stopped doing that. My question is why. Is it because Doc couldn't motivate the players to run on the break? Is it because Doc couldn't teach the younger players this system? Either way, it should have been Doc's job to get the team to succeed in the uptempo style. In spite of talking about a running game and in spite of having a PG who could run a fast break team, Doc doesn't know how to coach a fast break team. They don't run and settle for way too many half court sets and usually end up with a Pierce ISO. Too often we had the point guard walk the ball up the court instead of trying to get into the offense quickly. A running team should have the player closest to the ball inbound it. Instead, Doc always had a big come back to the ball for the inbound pass, even if others were closer.
Last but not least, Doc's rotations are bizarre. He will stick with players who are not playing well and pull players who are playing great but make a mistake. He plays small ball way too much without leaving a rebounder in the game and when we need a stop, doesn't put our best defenders on the floor. He doesn't manage the minutes of his players very well, like when doctors said that Wally shouldn't be playing more than 25 minutes per game and Doc was playing him close to 40 mpg. I have this fear that Doc will be playing our veterans 40+ minutes per game and they will have nothing left for the playoffs and at the same time, the bench won't have a chance to develop together.
I am not alone in my assessment of Doc's weaknesses. Here is a quote from Mike on BSMW's Full Court Press:
I certainly don’t think Doc is at the top of his profession. He seems incapable of managing his team’s rotations, to the point where it seems like every other game finds the Celtics with 5 subs getting run off the floor by an opponent playing 2 or 3 starters. Similarly it is rare to see the Celtics play a solid game two games in a row. Most people would lay that at the feet of the youth movement, but the coach has some say in that too.
Steve Bulpett pointed out that there are no more excuses and questions the results that Doc has gotten over his first 3 seasons with the team.
If a player has the requisite talent and aptitude to learn, then exactly whose fault is it if he doesn’t perform to his capabilities? I don’t know,” said Rivers. “I don’t think it’s necessarily on the coach. I think it’s on both of us, but I don’t think you can say, ‘Now this year I’ve got to get them to do this.’ That’s just idiotic thinking.” Even after the positive signs displayed by a number of the Celtic kids? “What did we accomplish?” countered Rivers. “We accomplished a bunch of individual guys doing things.” Precisely. And the logical flow model states the next step is getting the conductor to figure out how to put his musicians into the same harmonic key. What sets best fit their talents? The measure of a coach will be told in the results. First, however, the coach must get his players to put team concerns ahead of personal matters. We can blame youth, injuries, and whatever for the failure of this team to progress, but it all comes down to the coach's inability to bring it all together.
With the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, most would say that Doc just became a much better coach. But, there are still decisions to be made such as whether or not to guard the inbounds pass on the final play of the game or whether to foul when up by 3 in the final seconds. There are decisions as to playing time and rotations. And in spite of having some excellent defensive players on the team now, we also have some players who are weak on defense and so there has to be a team defense set up and stressed. Will Doc be able to do all these things? Will he be able to coach 3 all stars and manage the supporting cast around them? With Garnett, Allen and Pierce as the centerpieces of this team, anything short of a trip to the Finals will be considered a failed season.
I like Doc, I really do. He is a very likable guy and the players seem to like him a lot. House and Pollard had lunch with him before their press conference and they said that he was just like another player and didn't seem like a coach. He is good with the press and always says the right things. But he just hasn't shown that he is a good coach. He has never won more than 45 games in his 7 years as a head coach. He has never gotten a team out of the first round of the playoffs. I am all for keeping Doc if he can do the job, but if this team doesn't get off to a good start, Doc should be fired even with the extension in place. He has a veteran team now so youth isn't an excuse. He has 3 All Stars on his team who will form the best trio in the league this season. There can be no more excuses. Doc needs to produce this season or Danny needs to bring in a coach who can. With the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, who was considered for several head coaching jobs this season and who is considered by many to be the best assistant in the league, Danny may have already put Doc's replacement in place just in case Doc stumbles out of the blocks this season. We have a short window to win a championship now that Danny traded away our young core and I don't want to waste it with a mediocre coach. Hopefully, Danny doesn't either.
I don't think Doc is our biggest weakness. I think our fatal flaw is our lack of a bench at PG and C. Doc is second. But not a close second. He is probably not a good coach, but he's not bad either. He is thoroughly mediocre. I would like him upgraded.