Everything in my life, one way or another, relates to Star Wars. Students in school are Dr. Johnson’s padawons. A Lamborghini passing by is the Millennium Falcon. The Kings’ epic playoff run is like the Rebels taking down the Death Star. There are a select few NBA coaches that truly have a positive or negative impact on their team, while all other coaches don’t really make a difference.

The Chosen Ones

“When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.”-Yoda to Luke Skywalker

Red Auerbach-Yoda: Red Auerbach was the NBA’s first great coach, just like the first great Jedi Yoda was. Red Auerbach knew how to assemble an incredible team before people even knew what an incredible basketball team was, and nobody has ever created as dominant a dynasty as Auerbach did with his Celtics. Those teams won the 1956-57 NBA Championship, and then, starting in 1958-59, Auerbach’s Celtics won back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back NBA championships. Let me reiterate that point. In a 10-year span, Auerbach’s Celtics won 9/10 championships. Like Yoda, nobody mastered the force quite like Auerbach did.

Phil Jackson-Obi-Wan Kenobi: When Obi-Wan Kenobi defeated Darth Maul in Second Battle of Theed, he became the first Jedi in 1,000 years to defeat a Sith lord. Obi-Wan trained two of the most skilled Jedis ever – Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Coach Phil became the first coach to achieve Red Auerbach-level success since Red himself. Jackson had two extraordinary padawons – MJ (Luke), Kobe (Anakin), Coach Phil was an absolutely incredible coach, winning 70% of his games and winning 11 NBA Championships. With the Bulls/Lakers in 1995-2002, Jackson led his teams to an NBA Championship victory each time. Phil had to deal with tons of egos, coaching the likes of Dennis Rodman, MJ, Kobe, and Shaq, yet his teams always had exceptional team chemistry. Bringing his Buddhist beliefs into the locker room, Jackson would constantly lead his teams in meditation. The Triangle Offense is Phil’s force. Many of his championships were because of the Triangle, and without it, the Lakers lost in the second round of the playoffs. Obi-Wan wasn’t afraid of loss, in fact he embraced it when he allowed Darth Vader to kill him in A New Hope. When Jackson lost the greatest basketball player of all time, Jackson led a Jordan-less Bulls to a record of 55-27, only two games worse than the previous season. No coach was as important to their teams as Phil Jackson was to his. Many skeptics believe Phil was only great because of his incredible teams. Chris Broussard writes,

Sure, nine of his [11] championships came with two of the league’s all-time greatest duos — Jordan and Pippen winning six, Shaq and Kobe winning three. But how many of Auerbach’s nine titles came without Bill Russell and either Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, John Havlicek or a host of other Hall of Famers?


“In fact, two years after Auerbach retired, Russell led the Celtics to the first of back-to-back championships as a player-coach. Talk about stealing somebody’s thunder!

“How many rings did Pat Riley win without Magic and Kareem or Shaq and Dwayne Wade?


On top of everything else, Coach Phil and Obi-Wan could be identical twins.

Come on.

Gregg Popovich-Boba Fett: No coach is more hated by reporters than Gregg Popovich. Pop never says anything. The reporter will ask, “They’re really beating you down low, what adjustments are you going to make?” and Pop will respond by just nodding his head. Boba Fett is a man of few words as well. He is a soldier, like Pop. Both the famed coach and the famed bounty hunter approach their jobs with the military mindset of, “Go in, go hard, get it done, and get out.” Pop developed this mentality in the Air Force, serving for 5 years in Eastern Europe. When he returned to the States at the ripe age of 24, Pop was hired as the Air Force Academy’s assistant basketball coach. Boba Fett achieved success at a young age as well. When his father, Jango Fett, passed away, Boba Fett assumed the role of, in Darth Vader’s words, “the best bounty hunter in the galaxy.” In 1984, Pop was named GM of the Spurs, building a dynasty. The pillar for the dynasty is Tim Duncan, whom Pop drafted. Popovich became the Spurs head coach in the 1996-1997 season and two years later, won 1 of 4 NBA titles. Since the 1997-1998 season, Popovich’s Spurs have made the playoffs every single year, have a .680 winning percentage, and are making a Finals run again this year. Boba Fett, well, he’s still kicking butt in some galaxy far, far away.

The Dark Side

Mike Brown-Jabba the Hut: Mike Brown’s coaching is pathetic. Still, he has achieved great success. To say Jabba the Hut is pathetic is an understatement. He’s a fat, drooling slug. Literally. Nevertheless, Jabba is a very successful crime lord. Yet it wasn’t Jabba who did the actual work. His henchmen, like Salacious Crumb and Boba Fett, did all the dirty work for him. Mike Brown has made the playoffs every year he has been a coach. Pretty impressive, right? On the surface, yes, but if you dig a little deeper, you find the answer is no. Brown has always had henchman to make him look good. First, Brown had LeBron, and now he has Kobe. Brown’s coaching career began in Cleveland where his only strategy was to give the ball to LeBron and see what happened. None of his teams ever meshed and none of Brown’s players had any respect for him. When he was hired by the Lakers, this was even more apparent. Brown and center, Andrew Bynum, frequently clashed and midway through the season, Kobe held a players’ only meeting where he basically told his team, “Fudge Mike Brown! We went from playing for the best coach ever to this doofus? From this moment on, we coach ourselves.” That’s exactly what Kobe has done. In a Thunder, Lakers playoff game, TNT showed a Lakers huddle where Mike Brown was nowhere to be found. Who was barking out orders like a drill sergeant? The Black Mamba.

Mike Dunleavy-Jar-Jar Binks: When most people know you as Mike Dumbleavy there’s a problem. Like Jar-Jar, it seems like Dumbleavy is a mosquito that never buzzes away. Dumbleavy has been coaching in the NBA since 1990, and has never won a championship and is 52 wins from .500. Some of Jar-Jar’s main traits are his clumsiness and annoyance. When watching a Mike-Dunleavy-coached game, it is almost a contest to see when and how he will goof up. He also seems like he never goes away. Dumbleavy coached the Clippers for 7 years, with only one season in which the Clippers had a record over .500. He should have been fired after two years, much less 7! Will he bench a star at a critical moment (odds: 9-1)? Will he call the worst play possible (6-1)? Will he leave Kevin Durant guarded by the worst defender in the league (3-2)? Anything (except a win) is possible when Mike Dumbleavy is coaching.

You know, holding Han Solo and Luke Skywalker hostage isn’t a good way to make friends.

Don Nelson-Ewok: Don Nelson really wants to fit in. He wants to be cool. He wants to hang with the popular kids. Guess what? No NBA player wants to “hang” with a fat 72 year old! The Ewoks wanted to fit in too. They thought, “Hey, the Rebels need to fight on Endor. We live on Endor. We can help them and then they’ll be our friends.” At the end of the day, Luke, Lea, and Han all remembered, “Oh, right. They’re a bunch of little puffs of brown hair. Cool.” His whole “cool” coach act isn’t really working for him. Nelson coached every year from 1976-2010 and still never made the NBA Finals. 34 years and he still can’t fit in! The Ewoks have a better chance of getting on a first name basis with Princess Lea than Don Nelson does!

Isiah Thomas-Young Anakin: When Isiah began his coaching career, he was cocky and arrogant. Since he was 9 years old, Anakin was told he was the chosen one. He would take down the dark side. Isiah became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 2000, and led the Pacers to three straight playoff appearances. Isiah became head coach of the Knicks in 2006. Zeke coached the Knicks to a losing record in ’06 and then an abysmal record of 23-59 the following year. He did all of this with the leagues largest payroll. In 2006, Thomas was embarrassed losing an $11.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit. Back to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Anakin is dominating foes such as Count Dooku and the Tuskens and his future looks bright. Things really went South for Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. Anakin began doubting the Jedi when Palpatine denied Anakin the title of Jedi Master. When Palpatine revealed his true identity as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious to Anakin, Palpatine ordered Anakin to wipe out the Jedis. When Anakin’s wife, Padame, confronted him, he killed her and then had an epic lightsaber duel with his master, Obi-Wan-Kenobi. Kenobi defeats Anakin, cutting off Anakin’s legs and an arm and leaves Anakin to die. Palpatine saved Anakin and put him into the famed Darth Vader suit. Things haven’t been going well for Isiah lately either. He just got fired from his head-coaching job at Florida International, and ODed in 2008. To further the metaphor, just like Anakin got defeated by Obi-Wan, Zeke has a 3-7 career record against Phil Jackson.

The Force is not strong with many coaches. When true masters come, they are a pleasure to watch. When pathetic coaches come into the game, it can be painful. At least in this universe the Jedis (OKC Thunder) have defeated the Dark Side (LA Lakers) and Vader (Kobe).




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