According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has completed the process of hiring assistants. In addition to the highly revered Ed Pinckney as his lead sidekick Malone has also cajoled Chris Fleming, current head coach of the German national team; Wes Unseld Jr., most recently of Jacque Vaughn’s staff in Orlando; Micah Nori, who spent 15 years in the Toronto Raptors organization despite having a baseball background coming out of college; and Ryan Bowen, a former Nugget both as a player and assistant coach under George Karl. Nori and Bowen each held various positions under Malone during his brief tenure in Sacramento.
Though assistant coaches can only play so large a role in the NBA while answering to their superiors, it’s worth noting the somewhat surprising overall direction the Nuggets have gone with their coaching hires this summer. For once in their recent history — or perhaps just history — the Denver Nuggets have committed to defense. For longtime Nuggets fans this unprecedented change of direction should come as quite the shock, especially after hearing Nuggets brass incessantly yearn for the former fastbreak offense employed by George Karl and Doug Moe throughout the team’s coaching search this spring. In Malone, Pinckney and Unseld Jr. the Nuggets have three bona fide defensive basketball specialists. Malone and Pinckney in particular are well renowned for their defensive aptitude around the league, rendering the Nuggets coaching staff one of the more defensive minded from the top down in the entire NBA.
On a more personal note, from a fan’s standpoint, and from the viewpoint of someone who’s watched this team play basketball for the last 12 years, I cannot tell you how floored I am about the Nuggets long overdue acknowledgement of defense. Even if Malone flares out in similar Brian Shaw fashion, even if the Nuggets continue on a downward spiral towards the top of the lottery (not always a bad thing!), the fact they actually decided to place defense before running like a flock of headless chickens on offense makes me absurdly pleased. It should you as well. Because for far too long this team has totally and entirely disregarded one half of the floor — the one side they should have always emphasized first and foremost, just as all title contenders do.
So count me as a member of the camp incredibly thankful of the direction Malone appears to be taking this team. Again, I’m not willing to sit here and play Nostradamus, to predict exactly how many games the Nuggets will win next year or the year after. But what I can say with fair confidence is that your general basketball philosophy and attitude — your personal basketball religion, for lack of better phrasing — says everything about you. Are you the type who recognizes the imperative nature of defense or are you more concerned about selling tickets for pure surface-level entertainment? Often fans can excuse short-term failures if they recognize your heart and commitment to certain sides of the court are in the right place. With the hiring of Malone it appears the Nuggets are finally on the proper side of that equation.
Below are some videos of the Nuggets’ newest assistants. It’s not much but it’s about all the Internet had to offer…