Trend could hinder Terry Stotts' candidacy
The champion Miami Heat coach was 38 when he succeeded Pat Riley and became a rookie head coach. Now 41, Spoelstra, a four-year starting point guard at the University of Portland, got his start with the Heat in 1995 as a video coordinator and climbed the ladder all the way to the lead chair.
Stotts' remaining competition for the Portland job is Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales, a 34-year-old go-getter initially hired as the team's video coordinator intern in 2005. Canales took over as interim coach when Nate McMillan was fired in March.
The Laredo, Texas, native and graduate of UT-Arlington proved to be an animated and intense presence on the sideline and also displayed savvy coaching chops.
The decision facing Portland general manager Neil Olshey is thus: Hire the smart, steady and experienced Stotts, 54, who has paid his dues and deserves another shot, or opt for continuity with the belief that Canales' fiery youthfulness will evolve with his team.
An interesting youth movement has certainly been under way in sports, starting in the front offices. Baseball got it rolling when the Boston Red Sox hired 28-year-old general manager Theo Epstein, now with the Chicago Cubs. The Texas Rangers followed by hiring their own 28-year-old GM in Jon Daniels. Their successes have certainly resonated.
In the NBA, the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, made Sam Presti their GM at age 31. The Orlando Magic recently hired 30-year-old Rob Hennigan, groomed by Presti, to be their GM.
The movement is trickling down to the bench. Spoelstra was the youngest head coach in the league until New Orleans hired 38-year-old first-time coach Monty Williams in 2010. Hennigan just handed 37-year-old Jacque Vaughn his first first job as coach of the Magic.
Canales follows the unorthodox path taken by Spoelstra. Both had no future playing professionally and essentially started on the ground floor in the company mail room, or in the NBA's case the video room.
Stotts, a four-year starter at Oklahoma and a second-round draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 1980, played several seasons overseas before joining George Karl's staff in the old CBA. He followed Karl to the NBA and began the traditional journey of climbing the coaching ladder.
Stotts got his first head coaching break a decade ago -- when Canales was an assistant high school basketball coach -- with the Atlanta Hawks for just two seasons. He coached the Milwaukee Bucks from 2005-07, again given just two seasons.
Imagine if Mavs owner Mark Cuban had pulled the plug on Rick Carlisle after two seasons. Anyone recall the end of the 2009-10 season? Dallas was embarrassed in six games by the San Antonio Spurs as Carlisle allowed rookie sensation Rodrigue Beaubois to languish on the bench. When the series was over, the team had the feel of one ripping at the seams.
A year later the Mavs were NBA champions.
Soon, the two Portland finalists -- 20 years separating them in age and with vastly differing coaching experiences -- will know which qualities Portland's new GM covets more.
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