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.”
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.