The Trail Blazers host the woeful Orlando Magic tonight at 7 p.m. While the Blazers are fresh off a 3-1 road trip, the Magic (shouldn’t it be the “Magicians?”) have lost eight straight. Some have been very close games, nevertheless a loss is a loss staining the first year of new head coach Jacque Vaughn. The Magic are 12-21 in his first season.
Conversely, things are as good as they can possibly get in Blazer land these days – with an 18-15 record and seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff picture – and I’d say that’s largely due to coach Terry Stotts. But Stotts knows struggles like Vaughn is having now.
Back when Stotts landed his first head coaching gig – 27 games into the 2002 season with the Atlanta Hawks – he won his debut before the team laid down for six straight losses. The Hawks had another six-game losing streak in them before the season ended, and as a first-time head coach, Stotts needed to lean on the encouraging words from a mentor to make it through.
“The best coaching advice that I ever got was from Tim Grgurich who said ‘just keep coaching them,'” Stotts said. “You got to come to every game, every practice prepared. You got to have enthusiasm. Every day’s a new day and you got to keep coaching them and show your passion. I think the players feel that and will follow that.”
Vaughn, who played at Kansas under head coach Roy Williams, finished his 12-year pro career in San Antonio where he transitioned to the bench as one of Gregg Popovich’s assistants. As with Stotts, Vaughn has a well of advice where he can spring fresh waters from and help him through the rough patches.
“I think Jacque’s had a lot of great mentors along the way. He’s played for some great coaches and to obviously be with Pop,” Stotts said. “He learned a lot from all those coaches along the way. I think Jacque has a great demeanor with people in general, obviously with players. I think the important thing that he’ll do is that he’ll be himself. When you’re going through those times, you search for answers. Every team is different. I think mine was different and his is different.”
“I think his team is playing hard. As a coach, it’s an extension of his personality. They play hard and execute well. I think he’s a firm believer in fundamentals and I think he has a coaching foundation and basketball foundation that’s his strength and he’ll get through this.”