April 7, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts watches his team play against Dallas Mavericks in the first half at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Stotts: The Right Direction

The Blazers have had their fair share of legendary (or at least damn good) coaches over the years: Dr. Jake Ramsay, Rick Adelman, and Mike Dunleavy either went to the promised land or got the Blazers within spitting distance. Nate McMillan was supposed to reach that level of acclaim. He didn’t.

Terry Stotts came in with lower expectations… and while he falls somewhere between “good coach” and Mo Cheeks, he’s the right person for the right team at the right time.

Ego Management

One of the best changes Kaleb Canales made after taking over for Nate McMillan was unifying the players in a way that “Sarge” never could. It didn’t mean they played better… but you could tell there was more investment and more buy-in, even when what was being invested and bought into wasn’t necessarily a superior system.

Terry Stotts is a coach in a similar vein who’d rather win his players over with respect than beat them over the head with “my way or the highway” roundball dogma. Stotts also didn’t have the chore of revamping a team whose antics (both on and off the court) had soured fans and needed a deep cleaning; a task which McMillan performed admirably. When the closet was finally clean, however, McMillan seemed unable to make anything other than Craig Sager suits with the remaining cloth. Stotts seems better able to match the colors into a respectable end product.

X’s and O’s

What we saw from the Blazers last year wasn’t particularly complex or cunning: more player movement will create more looks, shooting threes is good, being unselfish is better than playing hero ball, and adapting to what the defense gives you is valued.

Those first and last points in particular are pretty different from McMillan, whose offensive schemes were rigid and predictable, but whose goal was to force the other team to play at the Blazers’ pace. While McMillan can’t shoulder all of the blame, that rigidity hurt the Blazers during the playoffs when being able to think three or four moves ahead of your opponent is paramount.

What Stotts has replaced it with is a more adaptable, more modern, and (perhaps) less intimidating brand of offense  that works best when your team has more than 3 or 4 people capable of making a play at any given time.

But is Stotts a great play creator? No. Does he need to be? Time will tell.


Let’s face it: many Blazers fans were done with McMillan at least a few months before he was canned. As described before, his rigidity and system-oriented approach to the game had gotten the Blazers to the first round and nothing more. That’s not entirely his fault. What the Blazers would have been able to do with a healthy Oden, Roy, and Aldridge with McMillan at their disposal is a tantalizing reminder that greatness is sometimes an injury or two from slipping through your fingers.

Regardless of how the Blazers got there, they had to play the hand they were dealt, and McMillan was no longer best suited to play it.

The Blazers find themselves on the upswing. A rookie-of-the-year who balled with some of the best in the world over the summer and more than held his own, an offseason full of position-improvement and the building of the bench from deplorable to good, and a coach who’s willing to let his young team learn, grow, make mistakes, and ultimately become better players than they would have under McMillan.

Stotts may not be around forever. He might just be the right person for this team at this time, just like McMillan a handful of years before him. Sometimes, that’s exactly what a team needs to get themselves on the right path, and for now, there’s no better leader than Stotts.

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers Terry Stotts

  • Jeffrey Hall

    I’m not a fan of how Stotts uses LMA and that’s one of the most critical pieces the Blazers have. Batum has blossomed and they’re getting the most out of Matthews. But with a revamped bench, this will be the year to hold Stotts to account for how the Blazers finish. I’m not confident he’s got the chops to be a good head coach, but I’d like to be wrong.

    • Brandon Goldner

      How do you think LMA would be used most effectively?

      • Jeffrey Hall

        Aldridge has a great post game, as he demonstrated the previous couple years. I think he should be spending more of his time on the court in the post- maybe not as much as those previous years- but certainly more than last year. They have him playing like a stretch 4 now, and while he is a proficient shooter, mid-range shots are the least effective shots to shoot. I like him mixing it up to give other players room to drive, etc., but also taking advantage of his ability to beat any defender covering him in the post. With the perimeter players they have now to give him room, I think he could be very effective.

        • Brandon Goldner

          I’ve always fantasized about Aldridge catching the ball low in the post, spinning around the defender, and jamming it with authority in traffic. He does it… rarely. I honestly don’t think he likes banging down low, so I’m not sure that Stotts’ fault, but I agree that both he and the coaches need to emphasize that part of his game. He’s so long and he’s pretty strong that it would make sense.

          Even little things like dunking hard would help him out and intimidate the other team, I think. notice Aldridge’s dunks are usually much more finesse than power. Maybe Meyers can teach him a thing or two about dunking strong.

  • blazerfan808

    first i want to say that i appreciate this blog. BE has been heavy on the sarcasm/pop culture references and lite on actual storyline and content.

    stotts seems like a good coach. the thing i didnt see last year was defense and play execution. i believe that will be much improved this year. just because they know the roster and are more familiar.

    • Brandon Goldner

      Thank you!!

  • Pingback: The Portland Trail Blazers and Their "Soft" Schedule