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Eating Crow...Gladly

A little over a month ago, just prior to the season starting, I posted my first article relating to Sonics head coach Bob Weiss. This piece pointed to the defensive question marks surrounding the new coach and worries that he may be too soft or good natured to deal with his team. That article was generally positive in nature. It portrayed Weiss as a guy who had so far said all the right things, stressing defense repeatedly, and discussing in some detail how his approach as a head coach would differ from the one he’d used as an assistant. I entered the season very optimistic that Weiss and the coaching staff in general were extremely capable of maintaining last year’s attitude and game plan.

Then the pendulum swung.

My next piece regarding Weiss, and almost all of my subsequent comments were highly critical. Entering the season it seemed clear that the head coach had reneged on a promise to his players and the media to maintain a consistent rotation. His substitution patterns were erratic and it seemed as if he’d lost control of the team a mere 5 games into the season. In particular I, and lets face it almost everyone else pointed to the coaches almost complete and total mismanagement of the Vladimir Radmanovic situation.

After receiving sporadic minutes and a couple of good long banishment to the bench in the seasons first four games Vladi had spoken out to the media. He proceeded to publicly question the teams coaching and insinuate that staff had no viable plan for the team and the rotation. My own knee jerk reaction and that of other members of the media (OK, I’m not really a member of the media but I play one on this site) was to blame the poor rotation and play on the easygoing coaches unwillingness to commit. Weiss has a long standing reputation as a guy who is too nice for his own good and we all assume that nice equals both soft and indecisive. It also appeared to be obvious that Radmanovic had taken advantage of Weiss’ good nature to take control of the situation and begin to guide the team down a negative path.

Did I mention a pendulum?

A mere week later and after winning 4 of the last 5 games I have done another 180 degree turn and find myself owing Weiss an apology.

Blaming Weiss was the easy thing to do. It also seemed expedient to buy into his reputation when looking for the reasoning behind his moves. Then, before last Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls Weiss tipped his hat a bit in the pre-game interview. When asked about Radmanovic’s role in the rotation Weiss stated that the 5th year forward had the ability to play better defense and be a solid rebounder. He would see minutes when he played the way the coaches were demanding that he play.

The way the coaches were demanding that he play. Did I hear that right?

At that point it occurred to me that maybe we were all missing something. Maybe we mistook a hard line for a soft one. Maybe the erratic minutes were not so much a statement of indecision as they were an indication of resolve. A point made early in the season that it didn’t matter what you had done in the past or your contract situation. You both play hard defense and bring a good attitude or this coach will yank you out of the game without apology.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it now appears clear that Weiss handled the Radmanovic situation the right way. Despite the players words Weiss did not waiver and for at least the past two games the point appears to have been made. Radmanovic is playing at a very high level and contributing on both sides of the ball. Both his body language and attitude seem much improved and the coaches have rewarded him with a larger role that is paying off for the team. The problems with Radmanovic, his attitude, and his contract were called out early and hopefully put behind him instead of being allowed to fester for the season.

Going forward it is clear to me that coach Weiss deserves an evaluation that is not distorted by the fact that he is a nice, easygoing guy. Its time to move past the superficial comparisons to Nate McMillan and look remember that just because Weiss is not as surly does not mean he is not as tough.