Why We Lose: Coaches or Talent?

One of my coworkers, for example, isn’t too happy about the decision. After explaining the implications of the situation to me (I admittedly don’t follow the NBA very closely past the occasional obligatory Warriors game), she shrugged. “It’s wrong, it’s not his fault. It’s so early in the season with a bunch of new players—they don’t know each other yet, how can you expect them to play well?”

One of my running buddies, on the other hand, is staunchly for Brown getting the boot. Rolling his eyes when I told him about my coworker’s opinion, he retorted, “What’s the grace period for them to hit their streak? If the coaching’s bad, they’re gonna lose no matter how buddy-buddy the teammates are. They got rid of the crappy coach, they’re gonna start winning.”

So it seems that the gist of the controversy stems from the question of what contributes more to team success: strong coaching or a tight-knit team? If it’s coaching, then a team’s coach should be considered responsible for its wins and losses (given that the players have talent) — so Brown’s present unemployment is justified. But if success depends more on team bonding, then maybe he, and coaches in general, shouldn’t have to take all the blame.

There’s the camp that believes that a healthy dynamic between teammates is much more important than the strength of the coach, especially among already talented players. A friend, for example, told me of her experiences playing for two soccer teams. One of the teams had a weak dynamic between its players — they didn’t fully know or trust each other, got caught up in petty arguments and generally just didn’t get along. Although the coach was more experienced and skilled than the coach for her other team, she had a lot more success with her second team. There, the players were close-knit, knew each other well and trusted each other. She argued that Brown shouldn’t have gotten so much flack for the Lakers’ sullied record; to her, the fact that the new players probably hadn’t had time to develop trust and get to know their teammates was probably more of a detriment than Brown’s coaching.

However, a member from the other camp, which believes that coaching is the most integral aspect to a pro-level team’s success, quickly interjected. Arguing that different types of teams have different priorities, she contended that an NBA team probably doesn’t care much about inter-player dynamics. She held, “I doubt a bunch of grown men get so caught up in their relationships with their teammates that it affects their gameplay.

Plus, they’re getting paid millions of dollars. They aren’t playing for the love of their teammates; they’re playing for the love of the sport and the money.” She firmly defended Brown’s firing, stating that if a bunch of talented, professional, adult players are failing to win games, the problem has to be coming from the directions they’re being given.

My guess is that both are to blame for the Lakers’ losses. I couldn’t imagine being able to play at my best without fully trusting my teammates and knowing how each one operates. On the other hand, I also couldn’t imagine playing well if my coach wasn’t an effective strategist or leader.

Once a worthy replacement is established and the players get to know each other a little better, here’s hoping—for the sake of Lakers fans—that L.A. will pick itself up and start winning some games.