Nets Preview: Fratello on Top Coaches

10/15/2012 10:58 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Avery Johnson now has the pieces in place to make a run, says Mike Fratello.(AP)
Mike Fratello knows about X’s and O’s.

He may be “The Czar of the Telestrator” now, but Fratello has spent parts of 16 seasons as an NBA head coach, amassing 667 wins and guiding some of the greatest players in NBA history. From Dominique Wilkins to Mark Price to Pau Gasol, several All-Stars and superstars have flourished under Fratello’s guidance.

However, Coach Fratello has also had several future NBA coaches and executives on his rosters at times. Doc Rivers, Randy Wittman, and Sidney Lowe all played on Fratello’s 1984-85 Atlanta Hawks team, for example, while Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks and current Hawks GM Danny Ferry were with Fratello in Cleveland in the 1990s – and several others have gone on to careers as assistants, collegiate coaches, or player development personnel.

With all that on his resume, there is one thing Fratello (and his subjects) know: no matter how great a coach you are, the talent around you makes a world of difference.

When asked about the top coaches in the league, Fratello was quick to put Brooklyn boss Avery Johnson in the category of top “X’s and O’s” guys, but said that this year will make all the difference in evaluating his Nets tenure.

“When he was in Dallas, Avery certainly showed that when given enough talent, he can take a team to the Finals,” Fratello said. “This has been a different process for him, and now, he’ll coach the best roster he’s had since he’s come to the Nets. Obviously that’s huge for him, because you can do a lot more when you have good pieces to work with – and when he had good pieces in Dallas, they went to the NBA Finals.”

So who else would join Johnson in the ranks of the top X’s and O’s guys in the NBA?

“Well, there are a bunch that are really good,” Fratello said before naming a half-dozen he would put in consideration. “Doc Rivers is very good in Boston, and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio is as well. Lawrence Frank (Detroit) is a very good X and O guy, as are Rick Adelman (Minnesota) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago).”

And, to close out that pantheon, Fratello also included one man who just a few years ago was a broadcast colleague of sorts, but has come back to the game with a unique perspective.

“Doug Collins and the job he did in Philly last year, he really matured as a coach,” Fratello said.

Sometimes, it takes time away from the game and/or a new perspective, to help a coach adjust to a changing NBA; after all, it worked for Fratello, who led the Cavaliers, Hawks, and Grizzlies to the playoffs in his first season at all three stops.

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