The CzarFather: NBA Survival Tips

In the third quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards, Deron Williams was hit with consecutive technical fouls and ejected from the game after arguing a no-call with the officials. Coach Avery Johnson reacted to losing his All-Star starting point guard and wound up joining Williams in the Nets’ locker room after getting tossed during the same timeout.

When your star player is thrown out of a game, as head coach you have to deal with the aftermath and decide how to react to the referee’s decision, bearing your team’s best interest in mind. Sometimes your emotions will get the best of you, but you must try to keep them in check and figure out what will ultimately benefit your team. Does your team need you on the court? Or is there more value in making a statement by venting your frustrations?

Though I earned more than my fair share of technicals when I was coaching, I seldom got myself thrown out of a game intentionally. However, it did happen on occasion. There were nights when I decided enough was enough, and I made my point. I also paid some hefty fines to the league as a result. But for the most part I felt my job was to guide my team down the stretch. Players expect their coach to be there for them when the going gets tough.

Of course keeping your cool while doing battle on the NBA hardwood is far easier said than done. But if you want to stay on the sidelines and guide your guys to a win, you’ve got to regroup, get your emotions under control and lay off the officials. Your team will only get back in the game by playing good basketball.

The CzarFather: NBA Survival Tips

Speculating on the ever-rotating rosters of sports franchises is one the media’s favorite past times. Headline dominating conjecture about Melo and the Nuggets picked up where our obsession with LeBron left off after he announced his decision to leave the Cavs in 2010. The abbreviated 2011-12 season will be no different. Signing and trade rumors began flying as soon as the handshake deal that ended the five-month NBA Lockout was announced over Thanksgiving weekend.

With free agency fast approaching for Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the Magic, Hornets and Nets all face franchise-altering decisions. Every organization is structured differently as far as who’s involved in personnel decisions. Some teams want the head coach to be a vital part of the process, while others don’t permit the coach to weigh in at all. Instead they leave the team building chess moves entirely up to the owner, president and general manager.

When faced with the possibility of losing a franchise player, no question the most critical task is to break down all communication barriers by going directly to the source. You can’t rely on third-party negotiations because messages can easily get misconstrued during the back-and-forth. Instead I would start by sitting down to have a candid, face-to-face discussion with the player in question. Look him in the eye and say, “We want you here. We want to build our franchise around you.” Then ask him point blank what he wants to do, “Do you want to be here or not?”

If the player is ready to move on then management has to cut its losses and do what’s best for the team. You have to go after a deal that will get you as much as possible in return for that player. Otherwise you risk being left empty-handed like when Shaq parted ways with Orlando. Best-case scenario you reinvigorate your roster and reinvent your team like George Karl and the Nuggets were able to do through their successful handling of Carmelo Anthony’s departure.

Guys on the team are obviously affected by media speculation, especially those rumored to be on the trading block. The best approach you can take as a coach is to be honest with them. Let them know what you know whenever possible. Hopefully that will help them feel somewhat settled. There’s so much turmoil involved for a player and his family when they have to relocate, so they appreciate it when you keep them in the loop. And the fact is they’re reading about it in the news anyway. The worst thing is when they believe the hype and it’s inaccurate. Being straightforward is the best way to handle this dubious situation.

The CzarFather: NBA Survival Tips

When you hit the road leave your club gear in the closet.

From preseason to post, the NBA season is relentless. Not only do the pros have to contend with the physicality of the sport itself, but they must also endure the rigors of life on the road.

The NBA travel schedule takes both a physical and emotional toll on players. Most teams average 20-25 back-to-backs during the 82-game regular season. You wind up playing 2 games in 3 nights, 3 games in 4 nights, and it’s easy to run out of gas. That’s what happens in this league.

Depending on whose call it is, a coach or organization can take steps to minimize wear and tear on players when making decisions such as when to fly out after a game. For example, if you are playing in a city like Atlanta, New York, Miami or Los Angeles where guys are going to want to hit the town, you may want to think about getting them out of there straight away.

But ultimately it is up to each individual player to proceed with caution and common sense. As a player looking to enjoy a long, successful career you must respect the demands of the marathon schedule and your own physical limitations, or the fatigue factor will eventually catch up with you and compromise your performance, and ultimately your longevity in the league. You must learn how to take care of yourself, get adequate rest and preserve your strength so you can return to the court night after night with the focus and energy required to compete at this level.

The CzarFather: NBA Survival Tips

If you wind up in the middle of a team scuffle try not to fall on top of your opponent’s big guy.

Outnumbered and outsized, Hawks head coach Mike Fratello has a close encounter with Charles Oakley at The Garden. Hawks players ran to their coach's rescue when a scuffle erupted on court in a heated matchup against the Knicks during the 1988-89 season.