Mavericks coaches have been here before, even though the players haven’t

In the NBA playoffs, experience matters. FiveThirtyEight found that championship winning formations almost always an above-average score career playoff minutes played. It’s such a good indicator of success that it’s part of our NBA projections.

This year’s Dallas Mavericks don’t have much of that playoff experience on their roster. They ranked 14th among teams in this year’s playoffs in previous career playoffs weighted by minutes played, ahead of only the Timberwolves and Grizzlies. But they have that experience elsewhere: in their staff.

As their best-of-seven second-round series against the Phoenix Suns moves to Dallas for Games 3 and 4, the Mavericks — down 2-0 — are counting on the championship pedigree of their coaching staff to help swing the momentum in their favour. . Starting from the top with head coach Jason Kidd, the coaches claim an impressive number of titles won – as coaches and as players.

Kidd won an NBA title as a player with the Mavericks in 2011 and as assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. His team includes five assistants with NBA or WNBA rings: Igor Kokoskov, an assistant on the Detroit Pistons 2004; Kristi Toliver, who won two WNBA titles as a player, with the Los Angeles Sparks 2016 and Washington Mystics 2019; Jared Dudley, who won as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers 2020; Greg St. Jean, who was player development coach and advanced scout with the Lakers in 2020; and Darrell Armstrong, who was with the Mavericks since the 2008-09 campaignwinning the ring alongside Kidd in 2011.

This wealth of experience compares well to the other seven playoff teams. Aside from the Bucks, all of whose current assistants coached the team in last year’s title chase, the Mavericks have the most assistants with championships on their resumes.

And if you look only at the assistants whose titles came with a team other than the one they are currently on, the Mavs easily lead the pack: Their four assistants who won NBA or WNBA titles before coming to Dallas are twice as many as the next remaining playoff team.

“Coach Kidd being one of the 75 greatest players of all time, a champion, that has a lot of merit with people, especially our players,” said Mavs shooting coach Peter Patton. “Duds, Greg, KT – they have championships. … Winning is very, very hard to do on every level, so when you have winners on your team who believe in winning, I think it’s contagious and everyone starts to toe that line.

“That’s what this championship pedigree does,” he said. “People want to get there and these [coaches] been there, so you jump in line and say, “Let’s go.”

With the Mavs in the second round for the first time since their title run in 2011, coaches are focused on finding ways to slow down the Suns. This staff also includes assistant Sean Sweeney, who had coached alongside Kidd in Milwaukee and Brooklyn; God Shammgod, player development coach; and Patton, who also worked for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Everyone is on deck – the coaching staff and the players have all made this trip a success,” Kidd said. “It’s not just one person doing this. Everyone has a responsibility and everyone continued to do their part, that’s what makes this team special.

Head coaches have to supervise so much that support from assistant coaches is a necessity, Armstrong said. “Training the players, watching videos with the guys, listening to Luka [Dončić] scream and throw a ball at you,” he said with a laugh. “Those are things that are so important, coaches having a relationship with the players.

“Our role is very important. I never take it for granted. Our chemistry has been great. This is something that J talked about; he always told me it wasn’t a bad question; we all keep learning,” Armstrong said. “We try to teach the players, but as coaches we also try to learn. I learned a lot not only from J Kidd but from Sean, Greg, Igor – these guys have all been coaches for a long time .

“It’s fun to keep learning this game, learning the patterns, new drills because of our defensive pattern – it was great to see it and be a part of it. I appreciate it.”

Since starting training camp last fall, Kidd has given each coach open-ended responsibilities on the team, Toliver said. “It’s how can we all work together and put the pieces together. So it’s kind of like that back then and now in the playoffs, learning a little bit better from each other and understanding where our strengths and weaknesses are and everyone filling in the gaps.

As the only female staff assistant, Toliver holds a special place. “She’s not shy and not afraid to say anything. She played the game,” Armstrong said. “She’s won championships; she understands and knows how to play and she knows how to win.

Toliver said that at this time of year – with a booming playoff series – the coaches who were there share with the players how things change, noise and volume in the arena in which they have played all year to their personal feelings as the stakes rise.

“I like to ask them a lot of questions,” she said. “Emotionally, how are you dealing with the experience? How do you feel ? What’s going through your head? Is there too much hype? »

The playoffs take things “to a whole new level,” Dudley said. “We’re here day and night, understanding the concepts, offensively, showing a player where you’re struggling, how you can get better.

“I’m proud to be the guy who makes adjustments. I have the A, B and C of the fits; Hey, I played against that guy, if he’s got the guts to do that; if he doesn’t, do it,” Dudley said. “…I was a teammate with [Chris] Paul and [Devin] Booker, so a lot of these guys, I know their tendencies.

Will all that experience on the sidelines help a still-rookie team facing the pressures of a second-round series? Time will tell, starting with Game 3 tonight. But being able to tap into their knowledge can’t hurt.

“They made us better,” Dončić said of the staff. “I’m really happy to have them.”

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