By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

So you want to be an NBA coach?

What are you, nuts?

Saddam Hussein's Minister of Truth had better job security than these guys.

Byron Scott
Former Nets coach Byron Scott, in a happier time.

Only one team -- one team! -- in the Eastern Conference is currently being coached by the same person who coached it at the end of last season.

So many NBA coaches have been 86'ed this year that teams are adding the "Guillotine Drill" to their pre-game warm-ups, along with lay-ups.

That's the drill where players mime out the actual beheading of a figurehead in a Zegna suit at half-court.

Very "Tale of Two Cities," if you ask me.

The best part is when the Coach Figure tells the team: 'Tis a far, far better thing than I have ever done -- especially since I had the majority of my salary front-loaded in my contract.

Whatever happened to the good old days of the NBA? You know, back in 1980 when a 19-year-old Magic Johnson made sure Paul Westhead would never work in his town again.

Wait. Maybe things haven't changed that much.

Anyway, the tenured coach is a thing of the past, as long-gone as a feathery jump shot or crotch-hugging satin shorts.

Security Check
There have been a rash of NBA head coaching changes this season. Why do coaches put up with this, and which ones don't have to worry?

  • Dr. Jack: Why do it?
  • Peter May: The lucky few

  • It's a sad day in the NBA when there's more movement on the coach-employment front than there is in an average half-court set.

    But our job here is to seek out those who still enjoy the challenge, to provide a test for those who crave the intense energy of coaching an NBA team. You know how it is:

    Diagramming a key play in the final seconds.

    Finding the magic cure late at night while studying film.

    Picking up your star player's dry cleaning on your way to the arena.

    But you still want to be an NBA coach, don't you?

    It's your version of "Dream Job" -- except you don't have to eat in the Bristol, CT, World HQ cafeteria.

    OK, we'll see if you're up for it. The following is a rough outline of the things you'll face in your interview for that big job.

    Just think -- some day soon, you, too, can be coaching pituitary cases in front of thousands of empty seats in Atlanta!

    The Interview, then:


    Situation No. 1: Your star player shows up late for pre-game warm-ups. When you confront him, he tells you that you'll have to refer all questions to members of his posse before he'll move on with the investigation. Do you:

    a) Immediately suspend the player.

    Jim O'Brien
    Jim O'Brien couldn't take the Celtics job any longer.

    b) Make the player run laps.

    c) Tell him: "Please be sure and let the Chief of the Posse use my parking space for any and all games in the future. And please be sure and let the Posse Member in Charge of Wardrobe use my wife's parking space for any and all games in the future. Good to have you here, Big Guy."

    Situation No. 2: Your star player opens his locker and a sack falls out of it. Contained in the sack is a plastic bag of what may or may not be oregano or pencil shavings, along with what appear to be several hand-rolled tobacco cigarettes. At least you think it's tobacco. Do you:

    a) Warn the player of the perils of narcotics.

    b) Immediately call the Commissioner's Office to report a possible drug case.

    c) Tell him: "I've got a phenomenal bootleg tape of the Grateful Dead on New Year's Eve, 1984, at the Oakland Coliseum that I think will go really, really well with this sack of yours. Say, do you need me to run to 7-11 and buy you some Doritos?"

    Situation No. 3: Your star three-point shooter from Eastern Europe is upset because his girlfriend's visa hasn't been approved by the U.S. Government. On top of that, his favorite brand of smokes isn't available for purchase in the United States. He threatens to fake an injury until you remedy his problems. Your response is:

    a) Tell the player to shape up, or ship out.

    b) Lecture the player on the virtues of fighting through adversity.

    c) Offer to arrange the illegal smuggling of both his girlfriend AND 10 crates of Yugo cigarettes on a barge that is set to sail from Athens to New York the following day, at your cost.


    Problem No. 1: You have 12 players on your team. During a given practice, each of the 12 players is using a cell phone for conversation or text messaging while you are trying to give a scouting report on the next opponent. Given that each player has two cell phones -- one for his wife to call, one for "extracurricular" use -- and given that at least six of the players are using both phones at once, what is the percentage of players who are grasping and digesting your scouting report?

    Problem No. 2: You have designed 15 different plays to run in a half-court set against man-to-man defenses. You have designed 15 different plays to run in a half-court set against zone defenses. Given that no player on your team has the grasp of the fundamental jump shot, and given that 90 percent of the time, your players ignore your set play to freelance, what is the likelihood that your team's season-long field goal percentage can crack the 40-percent barrier?

    Doc Rivers
    Remember Doc Rivers? He got fired this year too, in Orlando.

    Problem No. 3 The season is 82 games long, and is followed by the possibility of 28 playoff games. Each player on your team has a contract that is 100-percnet guaranteed, and worth 50-to-60 times your contract. Given those variables, please work out a formula that allows your team to give maximum effort for at least 30 percent of the games in a given season.


    You grew up hearing your Dad talk about the legends of Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Bill Russell. In your own youth, you worshipped Magic Johnson, George Gervin and Moses Malone. In an expository essay, outline the reasons why you think you can coach a group of teenagers in today's NBA without crying yourself to sleep at night over their lack of fundamentals and team play. For bonus points, factor in your sanity level as you fend off 5-foot-11, 260-pound beat writers who question your team's conditioning; general managers who go off-the-record with columnists to question why you can't get the 17-year-old he drafted to mature more quickly; and owners who tell the media you have a vote of confidence, then pass you in the hallway and say "Keep grinding, Steve" when your name is actually Scott.

    Xs AND Os

    You are given the following rubric:

    Player A wants the ball on the next possession.

    Player B wants the ball on the next possession.

    Player C wants the ball on the next possession.

    Player D wants the ball on the next possession.

    Player E, who has the ball on the next possession, wants a new contract, and won't pass the ball until he gets one.

    Given the above conditions, diagram a play that will result in a high-percentage shot for your team and maximize team morale.

    Finished? Good job! If you've navigated your way through the Page 2 "So You Want to Be an NBA Coach" interview, head to the nearest men's store and buy trendy suits, silk ties and clichés for the media.

    And remember: Get the contract front-loaded.

    The Guillotine Drill is just one losing streak away!

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.