Tony Barone: "If we go 29-1, I might be back"
Which role do you prefer, coaching or scouting talent?
Tony Barone: Depends on how much they pay me for coaching. I love to coach, but I think realistically the best move for me is to get back into the player personnel and maybe get into the general manager role or that type of thing.
Is this more of a favor to Jerry West or is this something you are really passionate about?
TB: Oh no, I love to coach. And we were in a position where we needed to do something and when Jerry asked me to do it, I said I’d do it.
Did you find yourself missing coaching while you were director of player personnel?
TB: I really didn’t miss it that much. I missed it earlier, but I just immersed myself into the other job and I was fine.
Is it an advantage for you to coach players that you scouted?
TB: Well, I know them probably better than a lot of people, but I don’t know them simply because I scouted them. I don’t know them because you don’t know them until they are on the court. It’s a much different knowledge of them on the court than there is sitting up in the stands. Huge difference.
So what’s the difference between coaching on the college level and the NBA?
TB: You’re coaching the best players in the world on the NBA level. So the level of intensity and the level of play is so much higher. You’re amazed at what (NBA players) do most of the time.
How was your relationship with Mike Fratello, and how difficult was his departure?
TB: He’s a very good friend of mine. Of course it was hard. It was a terrible situation for him. Any time a coach is moved out, for whatever the reasons are, it’s a very difficult situation. It happened to me at (Texas A&M). I thought I was doing a great job with that program. One day the (athletics director) just came in and said, "Hey, we’re gonna make a change." So I said fine. Adios. But Mike will resurface in the NBA. No question about it. He’ll be back in the NBA.
How is your coaching style different from his?
TB: I don’t know. He’s had his style that he developed over the years and it’s been very successful. Look how many wins he has as a coach. So his style has won for him. I would like to see us move the ball up the court a little bit quicker. That’s what I would like. I think you create more opportunities for yourself if you are running the basketball and you’re scoring. Just to run to run makes absolutely no sense. That’s not a smart thing to do. You have to run to score, so that’s what we’re going to try to do.
I know this is early in the game for you but talk about the transition with the players and the assistant coaches?
TB: Well, the assistant coaches have been absolutely phenomenal. They’ve made the transition easy because they’re all very knowledgeable, and they all have good basketball minds and they’re all working very hard to make this successful. That hasn’t been a problem at all. I think the players are feeling everything out. They’re trying to figure me out to see if I have any clue about what I’m doing. And that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that.
In your first game against Toronto, those guys were making a serious run at you. And you guys were in the huddle during the timeout laughing and smiling. What’s that all about?
TB: You just have to be somewhat loose in pressure situations. If you’re not loose in pressure situations and you are tight, you can’t perform. So I try to keep loose in those situations and not get bogged down in nine-thousand different little details, but make it pretty simple as what we have to do. Toronto took the lead and they were looking over at me because they thought we were going to take a time out and we didn’t. We pushed the ball and (Mike Miller) hit a three. That was as good as anything I could have said during the timeout. That’s the way I look at it.
At the end of the season what do you want to say the team accomplished?
TB: That they competed every game and that they were in every game. They gave the fans their money's worth and they feel good about themselves. That’s all.
And there’s not a chance, regardless of the success you guys have, that you’ll want to return as the team’s coach next season?
TB: If we go 29-1, I might be back. But other than that, no.
Jamie Griffin covers the Grizzlies with WPTY/WLMT in Memphis
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