Here at the South Stands we have a ton of respect for the Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs and its founder, Andrew Feinstein.
Denver Stiffs was a daily stop for us long before we started this site and it remains one. We blogged about the Stiffs recently. The site routinely offers some of the state's best sports writing.
Today's column by Feinstein entitled "When to criticize a coach?" falls into that category.
Andrew takes a very personal angle on the recently increasing criticism surrounding Nuggets coach George Karl. Feinstein, you see, once founded a blog called "Fire George Karl" and since gotten to know Karl well. If anybody knows two sides of the man it's Andrew.
"I will forever regret launching FireGeorgeKarl.com", Feinstein said in his piece, "I regret launching that site because I threw myself into the lot with the "fire the coach" camp that more often than not wrongly lays blame on one figure."
Of course, it's fair to point out that not everybody calling for criticism of Karl is calling for his head. Some, like the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla, come down on the coach reluctantly. We have lobbed our share of darts Karl's way ourselves around here but we have stopped plenty short of suggesting that he be fired. And Feinstein stops short of suggesting that Karl is beyond criticism. "I believe Karl's reluctance to play his full roster in favor of his "trust"veteran guys like Al Harrington and Andre Miller have cost the Nuggets a few games." He continues, calling out some of Karl's play-calling: " I also believe some questionable end-of-game play calling by Karl has cost the Nuggets a few games."
Feinstein's brilliant article goes on to ask the question, "when to criticize a coach?"
I think he poses a fantastic question. A better one would be "when to call for a coach's head?" Of course, it's nearly impossible to replace a guy like Karl - especially in the NBA.
In the NFL there are dozens of up-and-coming young coaching prospects and you hear about them. You know who some of them are. It's not that way in the NBA. College basketball coaches are considered mostly to be just that, College coaches. NBA assistants are more likely to move into professional jobs and they are relatively anonymous.
I have always believed that you should know who you would hire to replace a guy before you call for him to be canned. I have no idea who the Nuggets could possibly replace Karl with so I wouldn't make the suggestion he be replaced.
I do feel, however, that Karl gets an unusual amount of amnesty for a guy who's team so often fails to meet expectations. That has recently started to change as more and more members of the media have begun calling him out. The trend started right here and at Mile High Sports, where the always courageous James Merilatt let Karl have it in a column titled "Beyond Reproach" back on the tenth of February.
Feinstein's Stiffs column is balanced. He did a fantastic job of cautioning readers not to be reactionary while laying a fair share of the blame for Denver's recent struggles at Karl's feet.
Still, he feels that circumstances have worked against the coach.
"If a team is loaded with talent, stays healthy and plummets in the standings, the coach deserves a lot of blame. If a team has mediocre talent, sustains a number of injuries and plummets in the standings, the coach should get some leeway when it comes to criticism"
Who can argue with him? Feinstein's post was excellent because it was written from the heart. He's not trying to fan flames for the sake of generating clicks to his web site. He's sharing personal experience. His article is well-written and well worth the read.