Back in March, after speaking at length with Trail Blazers Guard Jamal Crawford, I was convinced that interim coach Kaleb Canales would eventually be named Head Coach on a permanent basis out in Portland. It wasn’t just what Crawford said about the guy who had just been promoted from Video Coordinator to replace the recently fired Nate McMillan, but the way he said it. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when reports surfaced that Canales had been unanimously endorsed by Blazers players during their exit interviews, and was expected to assume that position next season.
After Neil Olshey was hired away from the Los Angeles Clippers as the new General Manager in Portland, it seemed even more certain that Canales would stay on in Rip City. That is until Olshey opened back up the coaching search yesterday. This according to Ken Berger at CBSSports.com:
Also, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, the Trail Blazers are expected to conduct an open head coaching search after the draft. How open that search will be remains to be seen. New GM Neil Olshey had all but stated at his introductory news conference that the team would be sticking with interim coach Kaleb Canales, who shares the same agent with Olshey. But league sources say the team plans to interview other candidates, though probably not until after the draft. It would be somewhat unorthodox, but the Blazers seem to want to get their roster settled first before interviewing potential coaches.
That last line about the Blazers wanting to get their roster settled first before interviewing, and eventually deciding on, a potential coach reached out and grabbed my attention specifically. Relatively simple concept, but probably not the worst idea ever. As much as we like to think our teams control their own destiny in crap-shoots like the NBA Draft, often times the players they end up with are more impacted by outside forces than we realize. Say the two players Portland targets come off the board at 5 and 10 instead of when they pick at 6 and 11. Why force a collection of talent on a coach who’d be better suited with a group of different players completely?
Maybe that’s what Olshey is doing here. Taking advantage of an opportunity to more precisely fit his head coach with the players around him. Or maybe he doesn’t feel like Canales is ready. The fact that they share the same agent leads me to speculate the decision would be a no-brainer if all things were equal. We may have to wait until July to see what happens though, and until then this Draft is Olshey’s show completely. Which is maybe also what he was going for in the first place.