Author's note: The headline of this column has changed since its original publication date on March 5. It is clearly my opinion that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be an excellent coach for the Bucks, but in no way has he asked for the job. I apologize to him.
One of the ways you can tell that this edition of the Milwaukee Bucks is capturing some real attention is that people are starting to talk about them and about what they need to do to get better.
If the Bucks were a hopeless cause they would be absent from the sports talk radio airwaves, but the air is full of Bucks talk.
Last week, for example, I listened to almost two straight hours of speculation on who should be the next head coach for the Bucks. The list was full of the usual suspects: fired coaches, retired coaches, assistant coaches, college coaches.
One name I didn’t hear, and one that I think should move to the very head of the line is a man I talked with last week who said he’d jump at the chance to coach the Bucks.
I asked him flat out if he would be willing to be the head coach of the Bucks.
"Of course," he replied.
I think being a head coach in the NBA is a lot more than knowing what plays to run and calling out strategies during a game. At this level, everyone can shoot and run and play defense. They all have the skills. The successful teams are able to maximize the opportunity to use those skills and meld them into a team.
Another big thing in the NBA is that the players have to respect their head coach. There is not much doubt that there would be massive respect for the greatest player in the history of the league.
But besides his reputation, what else would he bring to the Bucks?
"I know how to prepare for a season as an individual and I know what that means in terms of team commitment," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I can get all the right people together that have some chemistry and care about each other and they love the game. That’s where teams are made or not made successful.
"That’s very hard for GM’s to figure out. They know talent when they see it. But that ability to connect with your teammates, that personal chemistry is a hard thing to see in people. I can help players learn how to develop that chemistry. We had Pete Newell out here (in Los Angeles) and he was a master at understanding the personal fire within each player. I’d be a coach who can provide respect and keep the guys on the same page for a whole season."
It’s interesting to hear Abdul-Jabbar talk about a coach providing respect. We hear a lot about how the players don’t respect coaches, but he understands that it is at least equally important, if not more so, that the coach have respect for the players and that he teach his players how to respect each other.
There are a number of other advantages to having Abdul-Jabbar as a coach.
The Bucks have a budding star in center Larry Sanders and having Abdul-Jabbar as a coach could be a tremendous benefit to his development.
Abdul-Jabbar’s off season workouts were the envy of many other athletes and coaches. He clearly had magnificent talent, but he always worked to get the most out of what he had. That kind of ethic will be a great example.
He is also a very smart man who understands the value of being relaxed when you play basketball. The Bucks have had a number of coaches who were wound tight as a drum and the relaxed style of Abdul-Jabbar would most likely be welcomed in the locker room.
And one other thing. Abdul-Jabbar is unmarred by failure. Nothing he has ever done in his life, off or on the court, has been anything but successful.
That kind of record of accomplishment would be a great thing to add to the exciting future that seems to be on the horizon for the Bucks next year.
I hope that John Hammond and Sen. Kohl will try to think outside the box on this one. The Bucks have a chance to develop into something special, and Abdul-Jabbar could well be a big piece of that puzzle.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.