Aug 09

Terry Stotts: The Basketball, The Philosophy, The Future

By sarahhecht Posted in: terrystotts

August 8th the Portland Trail Blazers welcomed a new head coach to the Rose City. The 14th in franchise history, Terry Stotts joins the ranks with an extensive NBA resume and a philosophy that’s sure to shake-up the Rip City status quo.

An extensive NBA coaching resume

Stotts comes from a storied and experienced background having spent 19 years coaching in the NBA. He began his coaching tenure as an assistant to George Karl in Seattle  and after six seasons with the SuperSonics he followed Karl in his move to Milwaukee where he remained for another four years. His success with the two teams was easily measurable, both ended with records above .500, made the playoffs nine of ten seasons and Seattle made a trip to the NBA Finals in 1996.

After ten years of tutelage under Karl, Stotts was ready to test the waters as an NBA head coach. He took his first gig with the Atlanta Hawks, but all didn’t go as planned. A rough two seasons later he headed to Golden State to be a lead assistant for a year before giving it another go at head coaching in Milwaukee. Another two years and tough seasons later he was relieved of his duties with the Bucks. He was quickly picked up by Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks where he spent the last four years perfecting the Mavs’ offense. His time in Texas was undoubtedly his most successful season as the Mavs won an NBA Championship in 2011.

Now Stotts will give it a go in Portland. Though this is his third attempt at head coaching success, he’s not the type to put his challenges in the past. Every moment of his career in the NBA has been a learning experience.

“We had some successes, but the one thing was keep coaching,” Stotts said of his first two opportunities in the drivers seat. “Obviously our teams were below .500 and there were challenges there, but the one thing coach [Karl] always told me was keep coaching them. That was probably the main thing with being in Atlanta and Milwaukee, that even though things may not be going the way they’re going you gotta keep coaching the players.

“With a roster like Portland, that’s gonna come in handy with the young roster. But it’s a long season and there are a lot of ups and downs and staying positive and keep working.”

Coaching Philosophy

Known as an offensive guru and the mastermind/coordinator of the Mavs’ system as it ran through Dirk Nowitzki, Stotts believes in giving players the freedom to play within an established structure.

“Part of my offensive philosophy, and we did this with Dallas when we won the championship, was trusting the players to make good decisions,” Stotts said. “Giving them the freedom to play within the structure and to make basketball plays. I think the league is going more toward getting basketball players to make basketball plays and to do that coaches have to give the reigns up a little bit to give them freedom at the other end.”

But don’t misunderstand, giving players the ability to make the best available decision only comes when those opportunities arise from playing within the envisioned structure. For Stotts, that means utilizing the talents of Portland’s young roster to spread the floor with three-point shooting, keeping the tempo up and most of all playing as a team by trusting the pass.

“I’ve looked at the roster and there’s a lot of positives from an offensive standpoint. Obviously LaMarcus Aldridge, he’s a stud. He’s an All-Star performer and hopefully I’ll be able to use him in a lot of similar ways that we used Dirk Nowitski. Damian Lillard had a terrific summer league and he’s gonna give the Blazers a pick-and-roll game that they really haven’t had the last few years. Three-point shooting, I’m a big believer in three-point shooting and using it to space the court and between Nic and Wes and Luke and young players improving their three-point shooting I’m excited about that. I don’t want to only play with pace. I’m a big believer in trusting the pass. We want to push it up, not for crazy shots, but I want to push it up. If you’ve got a good one take it, if not, move the ball around.”

Stotts believes his philosophy is one that coaches have been talking about for years, but is difficult to execute with the league trending toward a more one-on-one style. He wants the team to play as a team. Yes, you can run an offense through your most talented players, but at the same time said players must share the rock and believe in the talents of their teammates to succeed.

“Every player has a supreme confidence in their abilities to make plays and having the willingness to make the next pass when I might have this shot but that guys has that shot and I might even be a better shooter than that guy but you gotta trust him to make that play. Not over-dribbling, dribbling slows everything down and it becomes a feel, it becomes contagious,” Stotts said. “I was really proud of our team that won the championship, I thought it was one of the better exhibitions of passing throughout the playoffs and not saying this to mean anything other than this, but I love the way that the Portland Trail Blazers won their championship. As a matter of fact, I texted Coach Ramsay after we won the championship because I though the way we played was similar to that and that’s my ideal. It takes a lot of time and trust to do that, but it’s something that’s contagious and once you start playing like that you don’t want to play any other way.”

Core values and vision for the future

Naturally, any team-first coaching philosophy goes hand-in-hand with a coaches core values. Stotts prides himself on giving players freedom, focusing on development, and setting a process in place to reach goals.

“I think my fundamental belief is you’ve gotta give the players the freedom to play offensively but you’ve gotta give them some structure so that they’re not just out there willy nilly,” he said. “Developing a sense of team, a sense of teamwork, is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Asked how he thinks the team will perform this year, Stotts was quick to point out that measurable development is the goal, but he doesn’t mean the team won’t excel. His visions for the future and cementing his core values into place in order to build a perennial contender are undoubtedly his priority.

“I think that they’re going to be good in that they’re going to play an exciting brand of basketball. I think the young players are going to improve. I think we’re going to be better in April than we are in November. To me, that’s how good we’re going to be and that’s going to be the measuring stick. Again, there’s not a player on this roster that’s not going to try and make the playoffs this year and whether expectations are this or that, that’s going to be the goal, but my concern with this team, especially with the young players, is getting them better everyday, every month.”

If you missed Coach Stotts sharing his views at yesterday’s press conference you can watch it in full here. And if that’s not enough Stotts for you check out his one-on-one with Mike Barrett and his fan chat with Casey Holdahl.


  1. I love how the lower right of the white board is listing the coaching signals of the other team which they apparently figured out scouting them.

    by Jeff Lennan on 8/9/2012 4:34 PM
  2. Whenever a coach stresses team and ball movement and not overdribbling...he's talking my language! Honestly didn't know much about Terry but I'm impressed and glad to see such a clear headed guy take the reigns here. Asking Kaleb to join his staff was a class act and I think we've found the sleeper in the coaching pool! Go Blazers! Was glad to see him mention JJ Hickson's value going forward as well. Also respect due to Kaleb as 1st assistant! Loyalty means a lot!

    by riverman on 8/9/2012 9:01 PM
  3. Coach Stotts looks like he has good promise, I hope we are not pushing just to make the playoffs.
    Great Blog Sarah!

    by mbmurr1 on 8/9/2012 9:58 PM
  4. Man, you're such a good writer

    by Choong Huh on 8/10/2012 2:33 AM
  5. Hey Miss Sarah;
    I am back; I have been on a week LONG vacation down on the coast with beautiful weather;
    I too, don't know that much about Stotts, or about coaching for that matter. He says the right things, he will make the game exciting, but I tend to wonder if he will see a lot of wild passes out of bound and picked off by defenses. As I remember, the reason we were able to contend with the Mavs the year they won the Championship was because of their turn overs and us picking off passes. Of course he they tightened the turn overs and got tough on D and rebounding and that was Stotts coaching ability to obtain that.
    I am excited about or new players, our new coach, our new GM and eventually our new president. For a retoot we have a lot of NEW.

    I thank you, Miss Sarah, for the transcript as You know my hearing is bad and I can't get the full concept of what was said.
    Keep the Blogs coming as I love them

    by Hg on 8/10/2012 5:56 AM
  6. I appreciate Stotts letting the players play and adapting to their styles rather than trying to fit square pegs into round holes. I can't wait to see how he decides to utilize Batum, Aldridge, Matthews, and Lillard.

    by DHawes22 on 8/10/2012 9:38 AM
  7. "I don’t want to play with pace. I’m a big believer in trusting the pass. We want to push it up, not for crazy shots, but I want to push it up. If you’ve got a good one take it, if not, move the ball around.” THIS IS how I believe basketball should b played! :) THIS IS the way I've played/play in my personal life; I believe it IS the smartest/MOST efficient way to play; it's IMO THE very definition of "playing the right way." It surprises me how MANY NBA teams DON'T play this way; however, @ the same time, I'm not surprised. I understand why they play the paces that they do (there r advantages of course; that's why they do it but I think the # of reasons to play Stotts' way r FAR greater) but I feel that most of the time, u r forcing things (you've gotta estab. ur pace & impose it on ur opponent all the while stopping the opponent from establishing theirs & stopping u SIMULTANEOUSLY!) & this can get ur players out of rhythm (for shooting, passing, etc.), it's an unnatural way to play. Dribbling of course has a rhythm, so does the entire game itself; if u can feel it/go w/ it (v. fight it; gettin' kinda Zen. Hahaha!), this is how players/teams "get in the zone (even in my b-ball life, I've "felt it" ;)."

    So in conclusion, love Kaleb (glad he's still w/ us & I believe EVERY1 including Kaleb will benefit w/ Stotts being here/his system) BUT his game plan is too predictable (for opponents; this is not entirely his fault; u have to keep things pretty simple when u have a new coach/system come in); Stotts' way of play though, is unpredictable (the way opponents will prepare & plan for our guys is by moving our guys away from the spots that they like & trying to stop all the things that our guys like to do; I say, good luck to opponents); things actually become simpler & more natural (for our players) yet w/ the unpredictability of letting our players react more to the game, things actually become more complex & harder for opponents to prepare (bc u can't) for us. :)

    by Simpson on 8/10/2012 10:21 AM
  8. The only way the blazers are going to be competitive is if LA plays the 5 and Hixon starts at the 4

    by tfal930 on 8/11/2012 5:42 AM
  9. horrible coach now we need to hire phil jackson as our pred. and then he will fire him and phil will be our 15th coach.

    by DamianLilard on 8/11/2012 3:17 PM
  10. @ Damian..., don't go by his past record (w/ the exception of this situation, in a lot of cases in life, u should only pay attention to past performance as an indicator of future performance (s)). I absolutely agree that he WASN'T the right man for our Blazers b4 BUT now after all he's been through/learned, the time is right to let him coach our guys. IF he is horrible coaching OUR guys, THEN we can say there is no hope for Stotts as a head coach & he should hang it up when it comes to being trying to be 1. Go Blazers! :)

    by Simpson on 8/11/2012 5:19 PM
  11. @tfal930..., another thing we could do is waive Dan Gadzuric and than pick up the 7'1 shot-blocker who formerly played with the T-Wolves Darko Milcic. He was the #2 overall pick in 2003 and never lived up to expectations but in 2006 he lead the World Championships in blocked shots. He also has a fairly good post up game at least better than Przybilla and can work a fine pick and roll with Lillard when LA on the bench... Also Darko has a tough part of him kinda like Przybilla so we can have somebody willing to battle. #BRINGDARKO2PORTLAND

    by WES"3" MAT"2"S on 8/11/2012 8:38 PM
  12. What bugs me about this article is that the author sometimes quotes Stotts as saying "gonna" and other times "going to."

    by Coop on 8/16/2012 2:30 AM
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