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Nets Preview: Spanarkel on Top Coaches

10/22/2012 10:30 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Now Philadelphia's coach, Doug Collins was Jim Spanarkel's teammate on the 1979-80 Sixers.(AP)
While players can be endlessly debated in a vacuum, it can often be hard to judge an NBA coach objectively, because there are so many variables that go into the biggest quantitative stat (win-loss record) a coach can be judged on.

To that point, Nets analyst Jim Spanarkel believes the Brooklyn head coach Avery Johnson is a great example. In his first head coaching gig in Dallas, Johnson became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach both 100 and 150 wins and led the Mavericks to the 2006 NBA Finals in 2006…but in two seasons with the Nets, he has managed just a 46-102 record.

“It’s been kind of unfair to judge Avery for the last year or two because of some injuries, but now that he has the talent, I think you’ll see his ability to work a lot of different things,” Spanarkel said. “I think you’ll be able to see Avery utilize multiple lineup changes – in terms of playing fast, playing small, making adjustments on the fly – and utilizing the talents of his players to maximize their skills and compete on a nightly basis.”

So, when asked to name who he thinks are the top “X’s and O’s” coaches in the NBA right now, Spanarkel instead chose to spotlight Johnson and four others (listed below in no particular order) who have either the pedigree or the experience to succeed in seemingly any situation – and absolutely thrive in the right one.

No. 1: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio:
“I think when you look at Popovich, you see how he’s been able to take the talent and personalities of the Spurs’ superstars and mesh that together in a seamless fashion year in and year out.”

No. 2: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago:
“Thibodeau has been able to emphasize the defensive end of the floor and get guys to maximize out at that end of the floor. Obviously, no Derrick Rose makes that a whole different picture there, so we’ll see what happens early on this year.”

No. 3: Doc Rivers, Boston:
“Doc does a terrific job of meshing subs and starters, as well as experience and youth, to get the most out of his team. His experience and his ability to mesh his roster will be key this year; he’s going to have to get the most he can out of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce without wearing them out, so that will test the Celtics’ depth.”

No. 4: Doug Collins, Philadelphia:
“Collins is a seasoned basketball guy who has been able to do something similar to Rivers; he has been able to mold some young players and get the most out of some of his experienced players. It will be interesting to see how he uses Andrew Bynum this year in the post.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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