DALLAS – The significant departures from the defending NBA champions aren’t limited to the roster.
Fans are much more familiar with players like Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea than the assistant coaches, but defensive coordinator Dwane Casey left some big shoes to fill when he became Toronto’s head coach soon after the NBA Finals.
The Mavs are confident that Monte Mathis, who has spent the last six seasons on the team’s coaching staff, is ready to fill them.
“He’s a relentless worker that has great love and respect for the game,” said Rick Carlisle, whose team finished eighth last season in defensive efficiency and improved during their playoff run. “He has the right kind of presence. He’s the kind of guy that you love to have in your second or third positions, because when you do, you have a really strong staff. No question in my mind that he’s ready.”
Mathis, the son of a former NBA referee, worked his way up from head video coordinator to player development coach to a bench assistant.
Mathis, who was responsible for preparing scouting reports of opponents, said he learned a lot while working closely with Casey. Mathis doesn’t plan to fix a defensive system that obviously isn’t broken.
“The system will not change,” Mathis said. “Our veteran core that’s back knows the system, so that’s not going to change. It’s getting our new guys and our backups from last year that didn’t get a lot of time to get real familiar with the system so they’re able to step in and take care of all of our defensive rules we’ve got implemented already.”
Mathis won’t have the luxury of having Chandler, who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, as the backbone of that system. However, that isn’t an excuse for a defensive drop-off with Brendan Haywood stepping into the starting lineup.
“Brendan knows the system,” Mathis said. “He knows the defensive principles we’re implementing. He knows what Tyson brought, and he’s going to have to bring the same thing.”
The same goes for Mathis replacing Casey.