This week, the NBA Twitterverse was captivated by news that this NBA season would feature special games where players would don unique nickname jerseys. Opinions on the idea seem to be very strongly held, with most fans occupying one of the two poles in the discussion. As much as I'd love to see Boris Diaw don a "LAND WALRUS" (h/t Dan McCarney) jersey or Danny Green sporting an "ICY HOT" (h/t Andrew McNeill) one this year, I can't shake the feeling that we'll end up with pretty bland names on the backs of the selected players, so I find myself ambivalent toward the idea. Still, the proposition of seeing players wear nicknames strikes me as the first step toward real NBA magic: Personalized Coach Jerseys.
While we can all acknowledge that we watch the games primarily for the players, we should also note that the personalities, situations, and idiosyncrasies of each coach in the league contribute much to the overall NBA experience. And while some of the bigger names in NBA coaching immediately bring to mind unique demeanors or strategies, each coach can offer something special to a NBA fan when put under the microscope.
And what better way to provide these offerings to fans than through the absurdist spectacle that would be personalized coach jerseys?
In this piece, I've compiled some personalized jersey ideas for each coach in the Eastern Conference (with jerseys for the Western Conference coaches to come next week). For these coaches, nicknames were created that either referenced their personal history, their team's current situation, or simply a pop culture reference that came to mind as I repeated their names out loud while staring at the ceiling.
PART 1: TEAM SITUATIONS
Jason Kidd - Brooklyn Nets - "KIDD PROK" #08
A lot is riding on Jason Kidd's freshly retired shoulders. With a very wealthy owner who is firmly set in "win now" mode, Kidd must do what he can to improve a team that was remarkably inconsistent last season. The Nets have rebuilt their roster for their new coach, bringing established (read: old) veterans in to shore up the defense and steady the ship. These additions, however, bring with them large entrenched egos, and Prokhorov's man will have his hands full managing these star personalities. It's a lot to handle, so I've made Kidd's number "08" to remind him of the BAC limit, just in case the sauce starts calling again.
In ten years as a NBA franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats will have featured six different head coaches. Clifford looks poised to usher in a fresh start for a franchise that has turned head-scratching player movement and bizarre coaching tactics into team characteristics. After quickly dispatching Mike Dunlap, the Bobcats have to feel good about a coach whose qualifications include a reputation as a defensive expert and a degree in special education. (Side note: The Bobcats seem to be the only team in the league for whom NBA.com won't let you create an Authentic NBA jersey. Supply and demand?)
When the Cleveland Cavaliers let Mike Brown go the first time, neither the team nor Brown could have imagined that they would both be lost without each other, Brown in the tragicomedy of this Lakers era and the Cavaliers going with Byron Scott because he worked with a great point guard that time in New Orleans. The moves made some sense for both parties, and yet here we are, witnessing a rare NBA reunion. The Cavaliers don't know how to quit Scott, and he's eager for his "2.0" moment.
PART 2: UNIQUE DEMEANORS
Bill Schoening's postgame radio coverage of the Spurs should be a staple for any San Antonio fan. Each night, he features a Player of the Game to interview and also gets some quick analysis from one of the team's assistant coaches. If you've ever listened when Mike Budenholzer has been interviewed, you probably had the same thought everybody else did: he seems like a really nice dude. This is partially surprising in that we might expect someone working closely with Pop to be just as grizzled and curt as the head coach. Budenholzer seems different, and his time as head coach in Atlanta will be telling. In any case, he seems to be acclimating himself to the city well. Perhaps too well. His number is "08" for the same reason as Kidd's above.
I bet Larry Drew has been upset before. He's probably had some choice words after a particularly frustrating game. These seem like things every coach does at some point. But I can't be sure because part of me thinks Larry Drew has no emotions. He had to have been ejected from a game, again like every coach in the league, but I can't find any evidence of that anywhere. Every interview with him on YouTube seems to have been recorded just after an hour in the sauna. Even his coaching seems laid back. "Al Horford has two fouls at the beginning of the second quarter? Better bench him for a few quarters. We'll be fine. Just let it play out." I bet Larry Drew loves The Eagles.
Mike Woodson has the most inexplicable facial hair in the NBA. And yes, I've seen Drew Gooden's portfolio. Every time I see a picture of Woodson in an NBA recap, something seems off. Photographs of his goatee stir up the same feelings I had watching the Final Fantasy movie. It's at once both so perfectly manicured and horrifyingly stark as to occupy the uncanny valley. A bust of Mike Woodson and a half assembled Mr. Potato Head could be twins. Woodson's goatee would feel at home on a Drunk History extra. It's mystifying. (I've included the number "49" to memorialize the year Mr. Potato Head was created.)
PART 3: FUN WITH NAMES
In The Sound of Music, a young nun forsakes a life of the cloth to marry an Austrian naval captain and raise his children, eventually accepting the Von Trap family name as her own. Spurs fans probably remember Jacque Vaughn as the guy who would spell a tired Tony Parker and do his best to keep the ship afloat. On most nights, Vaughn would turn in a solid, if forgettable, performance. Vaughn's new gig as head coach of the Orlando Magic won't permit such a modest output. Though his tenure won't initially be measured in the win column, Vaughn will be tested by how much the young Magic players buy into his vision for the team. He may not be Julie Andrews, but his career as a head coach will depend on how quickly he acclimates to the song-and-dance of player development on a rebuilding team. The number "66" is both a reference to the year The Sound of Music won Best Picture and to the highest point total Vaughn averaged in his career (6.6).
Maurice Cheeks was a very good basketball player during his time in the NBA, recognized throughout his career as a phenomenal defensive force. His coaching career has been less consistent, as he's bounced a bit around the league, as a head coach for the Blazers (twice) and an assistant coach for the Thunder. Now, he has a chance to lead a team again, and Pistons fans will get a good look at what he can bring to their new-look roster. His nickname has nothing to do with any of that and is just a play on Wikileaks, which was founded in 2006. But when you're last name is Cheeks, why come up with a difficult nickname?
As mentioned above, Bill Schoening's postgame Spurs coverage always includes a brief interview with an assistant coach. In case you were wondering, Brett Brown is the one with the confusing accent. He was born in Maine, but he's spent a lot of time in Australia, coaching there in some capacity since his start in 1988. That was also the year the insanely successful Crocodile Dundee 2 came out. Just like Maine and Australia have come together to create a confusing accent, so do the words "Brown" and "Aussie" come together to create a confusing nickname. Plus, it kind of sounds like "boss."
The Wizards are that team that always seems to be on the cusp of mediocrity. I don't know that they'll ever be good, but they're still somehow always worse than you expect them to be, even though your expectations were justifiably pessimistic. This year, they're starting off a season of question marks with key injuries. You know, just like last year. And somehow, Randy Wittman is supposed to figure it all out. His is not an enviable position. I made his number "66" because it is both a reference to his height (6'6") and could be the number of losses the Wizards endure this season.
PART 4: POP CULTURE
I loved the Ninja Turtles. I had all the toys, I dressed like one whenever I had the chance, and I even begged my parents to take me to see them in concert. You'll have to take my word for it when I say that Tom Thibodeau is Krang. He's tiny, he's a genius, and he's always angry. To make the comparison even better, Thibodeau seems to use his players the way Krang did Rock Soldiers, which is to say strategically and with little concern for their destruction. The jersey number "87" is a reference to Krang's debut on the show and the number of injuries Luol Deng will likely play through this season.
Dwayne Casey - Toronto Raptors - "ROADHOUSE" #89
Inspired by the Spurs' adoption of Jacob Riis' "pounding the rock" quote, Dwayne Casey decided last season, his second as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, to put a giant boulder in the team's facilities. While he was correct to believe that the boulder would make sure everyone remembered the quote, it's hard to deny that the rock won a lot more last season than the pounding did. Raptors fans are hoping this season will be different, maintaining that this could be the year the team takes the league by the throat. Road House is a movie where Patrick Swayze, whose last name sort of rhymes with Casey, plays a character that rips out a guy's throat. It's not really related at all to the Raptors as a franchise, but it makes a little more sense when you realize that "89" is both the year Road House came out and the number of threes Rudy Gay will miss this season.
Brad Stevens - Boston Celtics - "DIAMOND" #00
My buddy Dan loves Young Guns. Like to an embarrassing degree. The last time I heard him mention the movie was during a serious discussion of westerns that included references to Unforgiven and Once Upon A Time In The West. And while he's absolutely insane to mention Young Guns in the same conversation as those classics, I can't deny that Young Guns was a huge success. It featured an in his prime Emilio Estevez, who was still riding out his position as leader of the "Brat Pack." It also included a good performance from Lou Diamond Philips (one of my friend Dan's, ahem, "favorites") and strong support from a sober and youthful Charlie Sheen. The NBA's coaching fraternity has recently experienced an influx of youth. But the king of the NBA's Young Guns is indisputably Erik Spoelstra, who boasts three Finals appearances and (*cries into hands*) two NBA championships. Vogel is a rising star who has done great work in his short time in the league and is appreciated for his candor and impassioned approach to coaching. (The "3" would be a reference to Vogel's years as head coach and Sheen's number of ex-wives. Yes, I know George Hill would have to change his number.) Brad Stevens is the baby of the league, new to the NBA coaching scene. Up until now, he's had success with a smaller enterprise, but he's never taken on a blockbuster like this. He is the Lou Diamond Philips of the NBA's Young Guns. I think my friend Dan is going to like him.