BOSTON — Prior to tipoff of Game 3 of the NBA Finals in Boston, someone asked Lakers coach Phil Jackson what he thought of a college coach potentially getting a $6 million contract to work in the NBA.
"Good for him," the Zen Master answered with a smile. "Way to go."
The coach "potentially" in question was Tom Izzo, who, according to the Associated Press, is looking at an offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers of up to five years at $6 million per, to be their next head coach. This comes just two weeks after the firing of Mike Brown, the Cavs' coach for the last five seasons.
Jackson, the most accomplished coach in the history of the Association, warns that making the jump into the pros is always a challenge.
"It's not an easy job," the Lakers coach said. "It's 200-something days, depending on how far you go in the playoffs. It's a pretty arduous task, as far as dealing with stars of all ranges coming to the NBA, and that has to go on for 82 games. It's a long march, and that gets difficult. Eighty-two games is a big difference from 30 or whatever you coach in college. It's an arduous task."
Jackson's counterpart in these NBA Finals, Boston's Doc Rivers, saw things a little differently. In his eyes, it all depends on the personnel surrounding the head coach.
"I don't think it's tough for college coaches to coach in the NBA," Rivers said. "If you look at it historically, they've all had bad jobs. They've all had bad talent on their teams. I think the first one that gets good players will be a good coach in this league."
If a coach were to be surrounded with the right talent — say, LeBron James and a group of capable veterans around him — the story might unfold a little differently, for Izzo or for anyone else. But in past instances — John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Tim Floyd to name a few — it hasn't worked out.
"It's usually because a team hasn't done well," Rivers explained. "Usually they don't have a lot of players, and those are the jobs that a lot of the college coaches have gotten. I think it's more that than anything else. There are a lot of college coaches that would be very good NBA coaches."
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