NBA Playoffs: Savvy Former Players Lead Teams in the New Western Conference

Vinny Hardy@ INovember 20, 2016

February 12, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson shakes hands with Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale before the start of the game at ORACLE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Cary Emondson-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't seem all that long ago that the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls were working their way up the NBA playoffs food chain.

Both teams eventually spent time at the top and got to see the view the Lakers and Celtics had long enjoyed.

In reality, the '90s are getting farther and farther back in the rear view mirror all the time.

With each Flagrant 1 or 2 that gets handed out, a lot of folks over the age of 30 either think to themselves or wonder aloud that back in the '90s that was just a typical playoff foul.

Let this sink in, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Clyde Drexler are all 50 years of age.

Time is moving on .

Another thing to reflect on is the coaching jobs some of their peers are doing in the Western Conference.

Kobe Bryant's injury and Jim Buss' decision-making have the Lakers' future more uncertain than it's been in quite a while. Determining if Dwight Howard wants to return or if they want to build around him doesn't help matters either.

The Spurs are locked in a fierce 2-2 series tie with Golden State, and some of their playoff speed bumps seem to be resurfacing as well.

This opens things up for former players to lead their teams to the top of the new Western Conference.


Scott Brooks

Brooks may be the least accomplished (career 4.9 PPG) of the former players turned head coach, but his Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the league's best for a while now. He also earned a ring with the 1994-95 Houston Rockets.


Things may not go as planned for the defending Western Conference champions this season now that Russell Westbrook has been lost for the playoffs, but the Thunder have a strong nucleus and will contend for years to come.


Lionel Hollins

Hollins technically is not a '90s ; his career ended in 1985, but he was a really good guard (11.6 PPG and 4.5 APG). He has hardware as well. He was a member of Dr. Jack Ramsay's 1977 Portland Trail Blazers squad.

His Memphis Grizzlies are a reflection of him. Their hard-nosed style will give them a good chance at advancing to the and possibly NBA Finals. The road is a little easier since they don't have to contend with Russell Westbrook in the semifinals.

They have beaten the Spurs in a series before (2011), and although the Warriors are playing well, experience would be to their advantage.


Mark Jackson

Be honest, is this the first thing you think of when Jackson comes to mind? The shimmy, yes the shimmy. Stephen Curry has even added a version of it to his arsenal, along with a bevy of difficult shots that he makes appear easy.

Jackson was one of the league's best assist men (10,334 for his career). He had the luxury of dishing dimes to Reggie Miller for a time in Indiana. Now he has his self-proclaimed greatest shooting backcourt in league history to coach.

Not to shabby.

Kevin McHale

As a member of Boston's original Big Three, McHale was one of the best big men to ever play. He chipped in 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds a game from his power forward spot en route to helping the Celtics win three titles.



The Rockets went 45-37 and earned the No. 8 seed in this year's playoffs. Everyone knows what they have in James Harden. Soon everyone will know what Chandler Parsons is capable of once he becomes a household name.

McHale also has a plethora of moldable young big men. Omer Asik, Greg Smith, Thomas Robinson, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas would all be better served from learning a thing or two from McHale.

In sports, things are cyclical. That said, the NBA is the least cyclical sport of all.

Since 1980, only nine teams have won a title; only four (Lakers, Rockets, Spurs and Mavs) of those teams were from the Western Conference. 

The coaches and teams above are in a good position to add some new names to the list.

All stats are accurate as of 5/11/13.

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