Was Pat Riley the Worst Coach?

Coaches — what are they good for? In terms of improving players the data shows that one coach is pretty much the same as the next. The most important thing a coach does is to decide who suits up and who sits on the bench. With that in mind, I found some players that had the distinction of playing for the worst coaches. When a coach has a terrific talent and decides that, instead of playing them, they would rather play someone else, they’ve failed in their duty. I looked for players that had great seasons but were limited in minutes thanks to iffy coaching. My full criteria was:

  • Played 24.0 minutes per game or fewer
  • Had a WP48 of over 0.200
  • Played more than 41 games (half the season)
  • Fulfilled the above criteria for more than one season

I came up with a fun list. Here are the players and their career stats for seasons they were underplayed:

Table 1: Underplayed Players stats for Underplayed Seasons

Player Teams G MPG WP48 WP
Kurt Rambis L.A. Lakers 351 18.8 0.227 31.2
Jeff Foster Indiana 284 20.4 0.245 29.6
Chris Andersen New Orleans – Denver 259 20.5 0.255 28.2
Michael Smith Sacramento – Vancouver – Washington 240 21.4 0.261 28.0
Nate McMillan Seattle 205 21.2 0.262 23.7
Ed Pinckney Boston 227 20.3 0.227 21.8
Fred Hoiberg Indiana – Chicago – Minnesota 265 16.7 0.232 21.4
Joel Przybilla Portland 159 23.7 0.269 21.1
Arvydas Sabonis Portland 151 19.5 0.342 21.0
John Stockton Utah 164 23.1 0.266 21.0
Dikembe Mutombo Houston 219 15.8 0.290 20.9
Jerome Williams Detroit-Toronto 186 19.6 0.258 19.6
Larry Smith Golden State – Houston 161 23.7 0.239 19.0
Jon Barry Sacramento 185 18.9 0.250 18.2
Reggie Evans Seattle – Denver 145 20.8 0.289 18.1
Alton Lister Milwaukee – Seattle 163 22.2 0.219 16.5
Will Perdue Chicago – San Antonio 157 19.6 0.234 15.0
Scot Pollard Sacramento 156 20.6 0.222 14.9
Jayson Williams New Jersey 155 18.3 0.248 14.7
Cedric Ceballos Dallas-Phoenix 121 21.5 0.270 14.6
Chuck Hayes Houston 157 20.9 0.213 14.6
Paul Pressey Milwaukee 160 20.4 0.215 14.6
Lester Conner Golden State – Milwaukee 156 18.2 0.239 14.1
Adam Keefe Utah 157 19.0 0.219 13.6
Brent Barry San Antonio 149 19.4 0.218 13.1
Tracy McGrady Toronto 113 20.2 0.256 12.2
Ed Nealy Kansas City – San Antonio 142 18.5 0.221 12.1
James Donaldson Seattle 150 17.9 0.203 11.4
Renaldo Balkman New York – Denver 121 15.2 0.284 10.9
Glen Gondrezick Denver 132 15.9 0.247 10.8
Adrian Griffin Chicago – Dallas 121 15.8 0.211 8.4.

Some of these players — for example: John Stockton, Tracy McGrady, and Chuck Hayes – got out of their reduced roles and went on to get starter’s minutes. Others – like Dikembe Mutombo and Arvydas Sabonis – were older players who were not able to keep playing major minutes. With that said, many of the players on this list played at a very high level and were restricted in their playing time. Some fans may be willing to side with the coaches and claim that there were good reasons to keep these players on the bench. I’ll stay on the more cynical side and say it’s entirely possible that coaches don’t always know what they’re doing. And that just might mean that we should crown Pat Riley a bad coach given the way he handled Kurt Rambis’ playing time.

-Dre

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