B/R's Ultimate One-on-One Tournament, NBA Head Coach Edition
As a service to humanity, the esteemed members of the B/R NBA universe have devoted time, energy and votes to an auspicious project that will undoubtedly change the way readers think about basketball, competition and the very spirit of sport.
Or, maybe said project will result in a fun read. Either way, you're welcome.
Behold: "B/R's Ultimate One-on-One Tournament, NBA Head Coach Edition," a cutthroat, seeded tournament designed to determine which current head coach would come out on top in a hypothetical set of one-on-one games.
We're pretending these guys—from once-maligned, drink-spilling, since-redeemed Jason Kidd to ancient media darling Gregg Popovich—are actually going to suit up and ball.
The rules are simple. It'll be winner's outs, games will go to 15 by twos and threes and the higher seed gets the ball to start the game.
We established the seeding for our tournament by popular vote and set up brackets based on those rankings. From there, B/R's NBA writers and editors voted on each matchup to determine who would advance.
A key point we observed throughout the process and one you should keep in mind as we reveal the results: We took these coaches as they are. This is a tournament being played right now, at this moment. Accordingly, factors like age, crankiness, injury, height, fitness, willingness to cheat and recent heart attacks all factored into the calculus.
Enough with the rules! Let's see who won this thing.
*Jason Kidd and Jeff Hornacek, our two top seeds, are getting first-round byes and won't appear in Round 1 matchups.
Round 1: Wheat and Chaff
No. 17 Brad Stevens (21) defeats No. 16 Terry Stotts (17)
It didn't take long to log an upset, did it?
Brad Stevens and his three years at Division III Depauw University triumph over Terry Stotts, who was a four-year starter at Oklahoma before being drafted by the Houston Rockets. Stotts clearly has the height advantage (he's 6'8", while Stevens is around 6'3") and was the better player in his prime.
But the voting pool put a premium on age in this matchup. Stevens is 19 years Stotts' junior.
No. 9 Tyrone Corbin (33) defeats No. 24 Mike Budenholzer (5)
Youth didn't help 42-year-old Mike Budenholzer against 51-year-old Tyrone Corbin, though.
The Atlanta Hawks coach was no match for his Utah Jazz counterpart, largely because Corbin had 16 years of NBA experience under his belt that made Coach Bud's four years at Pomona College look pretty weak. Corbin is a no-nonsense guy who definitely wouldn't pull any punches against a less-experienced opponent.
As you can see by the voting, this was a bloodbath.
No. 8 Kevin McHale (37) defeats No. 25 Tom Thibodeau (1)
Kevin McHale's legendary post game was far too much for Tom Thibodeau—a man with no NBA playing experience—to handle. McHale's age might wind up being a problem for him in later rounds, but the seven-time All-Star is only a year older than Thibs.
Frankly, I'd like to know how the Chicago Bulls coach managed to secure even a single vote.
No. 4 Mark Jackson (37) defeats No. 29 Rick Adelman (1)
Mark Jackson may be 48 years old, but the 17-year veteran's interminable back-down game makes him a nightmare in one-on-one situations. To my knowledge, there aren't any other competitors in this tournament for whom specific rule changes were necessary.
With no referee counting down five-second violations on Jackson, the 67-year-old Rick Adelman is toast.
No. 13 Larry Drew (30) defeats No. 20 Mike Malone (8)
Most fans probably don't remember, but Larry Drew logged 10 seasons in the NBA. He averaged a very respectable 11.4 points and 5.2 assists during his career as a point guard.
Clearly, his accumulated savvy and experience were too much for Mike Malone, a man 12 years younger than Drew.
No. 12 Mike Woodson (28) defeats No. 21 Rick Carlisle (10)
Both Mike Woodson and Rick Carlisle played in the Association, with Woody's 11-year career standing out as much more impressive than Carlisle's five-year tenure. These two are nearly the same age (Woodson is 55; Carlisle is 54), but Woodson's size advantage and career scoring average of 14.0 points per game give him a comfortable win here.
No. 5 Brian Shaw (38) defeats No. 28 Mike D'Antoni (0)
Brian Shaw notches the first shutout of Round 1, unanimously defeating 62-year-old Mike D'Antoni. The 15-year age difference—and the fact nobody among the voters saw D'Antoni set the Italian League ablaze in his overseas career—explain the landslide victory.
Round 1, Part 2: More Lopsided Matchups
No. 15 Dwane Casey (20) defeats No. 18 Frank Vogel (19)
This matchup was the closest of the first round. In fact, it was tied at 19 votes apiece after the B/R NBA staff had weighed in. The deadlock necessitated drastic measures: I cast the deciding ballot.
Neither Dwane Casey nor Frank Vogel played in the NBA, but the former averaged 12.3 points and 6.1 assists per game in four years at the University of Kentucky. Vogel's playing experience consisted of three years at Division III Juniata.
Having never heard of that school, I had no choice but to give my vote (and the matchup) to Casey.
No. 10 Scott Brooks (32) defeats No. 23 Brett Brown (6)
Scott Brooks hung around for 10 years in the NBA because of his work ethic and smarts. And while his uninspiring averages of 4.9 points and 2.4 assists wouldn't make him a favorite in many matchups, they were enough to sway voters here.
Brett Brown, 53, is five years older than Brooks and never played in the league.
No. 7 Doc Rivers (33) defeats No. 26 Dave Joerger (5)
Doc Rivers might be 13 years older than Dave Joerger, but the former point guard also has 13 years of NBA experience that included an All-Star selection to go along with 10.9 points and 5.7 assists per game.
Joerger's willingness to embrace the analytical bent of the Memphis Grizzlies front office got him a head coaching job at just 39 years old, but it sure didn't help him in a one-on-one matchup against Rivers.
No. 3 Monty Williams (32) defeats No. 30 Gregg Popovich (5)
Remember when I said it was important to consider things like "crankiness" and a "willingness to cheat" when thinking about these matchups? Well, I said the same thing to our voting pool.
That must be why Gregg Popovich managed to secure five votes against Monty Williams.
It was still a landslide win for Williams, who is 42 and looks like he's fit enough to log a few minutes in the league right now. But Pop's reputation for orneriness definitely helped him get a little respect.
No. 19 Erik Spoelstra (21) defeats No. 14 Randy Wittman (16)
This is a tough one to explain.
Randy Wittman played nine years in the NBA and averaged 7.4 points per game, while Erik Spoelstra jumped right into the video room after four years of college ball at Portland. Nonetheless, Wittman suffered the upset by a full five votes, making him the second coach to fall in the first round, despite a significant edge in experience.
Perhaps Spolestra's extensive film study revealed tendencies in Wittman's game that he was able to exploit.
No. 11 Maurice Cheeks (36) defeats No. 22 Mike Brown (1)
It might be a while before Maurice Cheeks is involved in any NBA-related competition again; the Detroit Pistons fired him between the end of the voting period and the publication of this article.
Despite back-to-back victories over the weekend, general manager Joe Dumars informed Cheeks of his dismissal on Sunday morning, sources said. Cheeks didn't make it to the All-Star break of his first season as Detroit's coach. He was in the first year of a two-year contract with the Pistons.
Let's all just agree to remember Cheeks for his thorough victory over Mike Brown, and not his consistent failure as a head coach. His advancement beyond the first round won't affect the results of the tournament because—spoiler alert—he's getting bounced in Round 2.
No. 6 Jacque Vaughn (37) defeats No. 27 Steve Clifford (0)
Jacque Vaughn and his 12 years of point guard experience end the first round with a bang. His age (38) and careful, fundamentally sound game give him the flawless victory over 51-year-old Steve Clifford.
Now that we've weeded out most of the pushovers, it's time to really heat things up in the second round of competition.
Round 2: Enter the Ringers
No. 1 Jason Kidd (33) defeats No. 17 Brad Stevens (3)
Fully rested after enjoying a first-round bye, Jason Kidd storms into the competition to trounce Stevens.
The Celtics coach made it this far on the strength of his youth, but Kidd is only three years older than Stevens. Plus, there's the small matter of Kidd's status as a surefire Hall of Famer, 19-year NBA veteran and 10-time All-Star nod.
As B/R's Dan Favale noted: "Kidd is only a year removed from playing in the NBA, and while he doesn't seem to have the rested legs necessary to attack the rim, it seems like his height advantage alone would allow him to drain standstill jumpers from the perimeter."
J-Kidd showed Stevens and everyone else why he's the No. 1 seed.
No. 8 Kevin McHale (31) defeats No. 9 Tyrone Corbin (5)
McHale's run continues here, even though Corbin represents a much bigger threat than Thibodeau did in Round 1.
Let's put it this way: When Charles Barkley says "My personal nemesis was Kevin McHale because he was the best player I ever played against. You could not stop him," as he did on an episode of NBA TV's Open Court, there's a good chance guys like Corbin won't pose a problem.
So long, Tyrone.
No. 4 Mark Jackson (34) defeats No. 13 Larry Drew (2)
Jackson continues to look strong here, blowing out Drew by a hefty margin.
The result makes sense, as Jackson is younger, had a more distinguished playing career and is sneakily one of the better one-on-one players in the field. He's probably best known for ranking third on the NBA's all-time assists list, but that deliberate post game is murder on opponents—especially with no chance of a double-team coming.
Mama, there goes that man.
No. 5 Brian Shaw (30) defeats No. 12 Mike Woodson (6)
Woodson is on the wrong end of a blowout here. But on the bright side, nobody will be upset with him for sticking strictly to isolation sets in a one-on-one game.
Unfortunately, the predictable strategy that doesn't work for the New York Knicks also doesn't work for Woodson against Shaw. So far, we've had nothing but decisive victories in this round.
No. 2 Jeff Hornacek (36) defeats No. 15 Dwane Casey (0)
Jeff Hornacek, our No. 2 seed and the other man whose skills earned him a first-round bye, completely obliterates Casey in the second round.
Per B/R's Zach Buckley: "Make it, take it rules? Hornacek may not ever miss a shot."
Hornacek was one of the greatest shooters to ever lace up sneakers, and even though he's already 50 years old, the pure outside stroke is often the last thing to go. There's no shame for Casey in this result; Hornacek is a serious threat to win this whole thing.
No. 7 Doc Rivers (24) defeats No. 10 Scott Brooks (9)
Rivers takes this matchup by a comfortable margin, but there were plenty of dissenting votes.
B/R's Martin Telleria pointed to the noticeable difference in, shall we say, "fitness" between Rivers and Brooks when casting his vote:
Maybe the biggest surprise of all was the realization that Doc is only 52 years old. He looks much older. Brooks on the other hand appears to have held up pretty well over the years. I'll give the edge to the guy that I'm sure would be able to actually play the full game.
A valid position, but not one shared by enough voters to help Brooks stand up against Doc.
No. 3 Monty Williams (32) defeats No. 19 Erik Spoelstra (1)
Spoelstra gets his comeuppance for his first-round upset of Wittman in the form of a thorough beating from Williams.
B/R's Josh Martin summed up the collective thoughts of the 32 voters who opted for the New Orleans Hornets coach: "Bigger, younger AND he played in the Association? How could you NOT give Monty the edge in this one?"
No. 6 Jacque Vaughn (23) defeats No. 11 Maurice Cheeks (10)
Goodnight, sweet Cheeks, and flights of angles sing thee to thy rest.
Shakespeare might be a little too melodramatic, but it's hard not to feel sentimental for Cheeks. Vaughn stomps him out of this bracket and the four-time All-Star is out of a job. On the bright side, this is a fictional tournament, so Cheeks probably isn't hurting too badly.
I'm starting to wonder if Cheeks is actually the big winner here.
Round 3: Serious Business
No. 1 Jason Kidd (26) defeats No. 8 Kevin McHale (8)
The greatest post game in history could only take McHale so far.
Perhaps this outcome would have been different if not for the rule that allows Kidd, the higher seed, to get the ball first. But the rules are what they are, and McHale is going to have an awfully hard time stopping the much quicker guard on defense.
Remember: Kidd is 40 years old, while McHale is a painfully immobile 56. The former Celtics star had a good run, though.
No. 4 Mark Jackson (21) defeats No. 5 Brian Shaw (13)
Many voters cited Shaw's two-inch height advantage as a potentially determinative advantage. Shaw's backers were in the minority, though. For the most part, Jackson's guile and ball-handling skills were the difference here.
Apparently, nobody was concerned that the post-basket shimmy dances Jackson would break out after every score would lead to fatigue.
We'll have to see if that hurts him in later rounds.
No. 2 Jeff Hornacek (26) defeats No. 7 Doc Rivers (8)
Hornacek's shooting prowess proved decisive in this matchup of one-time All-Star guards.
Dan Favale voiced the argument of the 26 voters who favored the Phoenix Suns head coach, saying, "Tough choice, but I'm inclined to go with the younger, more deadly shooter here in Hornacek."
Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Goran Dragic might have given his coach a few pointers. Tips from a crafty, Euro-stepping left-hander are always helpful in one-on-one battles. Rivers will never expect sneaky moves like those from such a by-the-book guard as Hornacek.
No. 3 Monty Williams (21) defeats No. 6 Jacque Vaughn (13)
Mouse in the house!
Williams is just too big for Vaughn, and his seven-inch height advantage makes it entirely too easy to do work on the block. And even if Vaughn were able to force a miss or two, Williams would simply clean up the glass en route to plenty of second-chance points.
The guards had been dominating matchups to this point, but Williams' comfortable win over Vaughn strikes a blow for the wings.
No. 1 Jason Kidd (30) defeats No. 4 Mark Jackson (3)
Maybe it seems excessive Kidd so soundly whipped Jackson in the first Final Four matchup. Keep in mind, though, that the Brooklyn Nets coach is younger, bigger, quicker and a heck of a lot closer to his playing days than the Dubs' signal-caller is.
And for what it's worth, we can actually see how these two fared in 19 head-to-head tilts during their careers.
Per Basketball-Reference.com, Kidd won 12 of those matchups while soundly outproducing Jackson in the process. Kidd averaged 15.6 points, 9.8 assists and shot 39.9 percent from the field. Jackson countered with averages of eight points and 6.4 assists on 42 percent shooting.
If there's any argument for Jackson, it's that he was a better shooter than Kidd, hitting 40 percent of his triples in those 19 head-to-head games.
That didn't persuade the voters, though. Kidd advances to the finals with yet another convincing win.
No. 3 Monty Williams (20) defeats No. 2 Jeff Hornacek (13)
We can call this one a minor upset, as Hornacek was technically the higher seed and had been enjoying comfortable victories to this point.
But Williams' size and youth have been key in building his momentum, and he used both to advance past Hornacek.
As Josh Martin noted, Williams' advantages were determinative: "I love Jeff Hornacek's sharpshooting, but I can't imagine him getting his shot off quickly enough against the younger, taller Monty Williams."
Will Monty be the man to stop Kidd's ongoing dominance? He's all that stands between a the No. 1 seed and a perfect tournament run.
Finals: Monty Tries His Best
No. 1 Jason Kidd (17) defeats No. 3 Monty Williams (7)
In the end, nobody could deny Kidd the title.
Williams managed to secure about 30 percent of the vote in the final round, but it was clear Kidd's youth and Hall of Fame credentials were too much for the ballot-casters to ignore.
We said from the outset we weren't considering how good these guys where in their primes, and the only thing voters were supposed to consider was each coach's current skill. Kidd's advantage throughout the tournament was clearly related to the fact he was closer to his prime than anyone else, though.
It's hard to get around the fact he's the only coach in the entire pool who could conceivably suit up and ball right now.
And really, the only thing that could have prevented Kidd from prevailing against Williams was a daily report filled with bad advice from exiled assistant Lawrence Frank. Clearly, no such sabotage ever took place.
The ultimate lesson: In this tournament, winners can spill all the soda they want and formal neckwear isn't required.
Kidd's quickness, smarts and recent playing career were more than enough to overpower any concerns about his ability to create his own shot. He's the winner of B/R's Ultimate One-on-One Tournament, Head Coach Edition.
He'll surely put the clipboard-shaped trophy on his mantle right next to his championship ring.