1983-84 Boston Celtics
In his own words, he has been "sitting back and watching the fireworks."
But when it is all over, and K. C. Jones can settle into his new role as coach of the Celtics, he has definite ideas on what he wants to do.
"The ideal situation," he says with his easy smile, "would be to have seven players you give a lot of playing time to and another five who feel lucky to get into the game. What we have now is 12 guys with the ability to play a lot of minutes, and no way to give them the playing time they want. It just isn't possible."
So the best thing that can happen for Jones, if it's done properly, would be a trade or two that reduced the numbers in his present cast and brought "a guard that can really shoot. Moreso than anything else, that is what we need at this point in time."
If nothing happens - no defection by Kevin McHale and no trades to relieve the pressure for playing time - he will deal with the problem head on. "There are situations now where the coach can't control the trades anymore. You have players with contracts that say they can't be traded one way or another. So what we do will be a group effort with everyone having his input."
On the floor, Jones is going to be an instinctive coach. "The one regret I have most of all about my coaching in Washington is that I deserted my instincts. There were many times my instincts told me to do something, and then I fought them off and did something else. That won't happen here.
"My philosophy is to build the team starting on defense; run the fast break; get the players to pull for one another as a team, and to be as straightforward with the players as I can possibly be. I am not worried about being friendly with the players. The way to handle that is to be friendly with all of them the same way, and not favor one over the other. That can lead to trouble."
Jones says his major thrust will be to recreate the defense the Celtics had before last January's slump and retool the offense to break the stranglehold the Philadelphia strategy put on it.
"Defensively, we just didn't play the way we could the second half of last season.
We just didn't work at it as a team. We came into the second half of the year looking for big things. Then we lost three in a row, and something like nine out of 11.
"When that happened, we started losing our confidence, and then we lost our consistency. Guys started looking cross-eyed at one another and started grumbling instead of patting each other on the backs and saying we're going to try harder to get better.
"Offensively, Philadelphia developed a defense against us a couple of years ago that other teams in the league are using effectively. All they do is load up the middle. No matter who we put down low on offense - (Robert) Parish, McHale, (Cedric) Maxwell - they just collapse the defense on them and force us to shoot from outside. Our outside shooters didn't get the job done, and we didn't do the things we have to do to break that logjam under the basket.
"This season we are going to restructure some of our set plays to shake those big guys loose to give them room to operate. People were talking about Max disappearing. Well, Parish and McHale and Larry (Bird) disappeared, too, when we played teams that jammed the middle against our big guys.
"The advantage we had on teams before that was our size underneath and our rebounding ability. A lot of that was taken away by the Philadelphia defense. It was used against us by Milwaukee, Atlanta and some other clubs, and they did it well.
"We have to beat that type of defense with better outside shooting and running our players better inside so that our big guys won't have to work against a double team all the time."
Going into camp, Jones says his starting five will be that which finished last season, with Gerald Henderson and Danny Ainge starting in the backcourt. He feels Henderson made tremendous strides in the second half of the season and that "someone is going to have to beat him out" for the starting job.He wants to play Bird and Parish less. "Both of them expend tremendous energy in the course of a game because they work so hard at it. I don't want them to play 40 to 48 minutes a game unless the game dictates it. I want to take some of those minutes and give them to guys that didn't feel they got enough minutes last year."
Jones says that Quinn Buckner and Scott Wedman (EMPLOYEE #8), used in the right way, can contribute more than they did last year. "Wedman is one of the best shooters in the league. But you can't show it playing two minutes when it takes a minute and a half to warm up. I think Buckner is up there with the best point guards in the league."
He also claims he has not dumped Tiny Archibald, M. L. Carr or Charles Bradley. "Tiny can still play. He has lost a step here or there, but he can do things. M. L., when he is going right, brings a certain dimension to the team. He is a street player and very effective at it. Bradley has great talent. I want to try to develop him into a defensive expert, much the way Los Angeles uses Michael Cooper.
"I've already spoken with Rick Robey and told him what I expect. He has been told to come into camp ready to work on his game more than he ever has before. With his skills, he should be a much better offensive player than he has shown."
K. C. insists that, in spite of his mild-mannered approach and popularity, he is going to be firm when it comes to leading this team. "If a player does not want to do things the way I want them done, then we are going to get rid of him. I want the player to pat his teammate on the back even after he makes a bad play and encourage him to do better. I don't want any bickering about what kind of shots players are taking, and how many.
"I feel our defense, being better, can produce more shots for our shooters to keep them happy. I'm not going to pick a starting lineup in training camp and go with it all year. The roles of the players on the team are going to change week to week, depending on how well they have been playing."
Jones says he has no idea how the McHale-Webster-Williams polka with the Knicks is going to work out.
"I have no control over that. I just sit back, watching and waiting to see what I am going to have for players next year. I don't think I will really know that until all the drafting and trading is done."