Sources close to the NBA indicate Willie Green is a good coach.
Heard the news?
Sources, too, hint that New Orleans may be a basketball town yet.
As the Pelicans play-in dreams were grinding to a full stop in Los Angeles late Good Friday night (an 18-38 quarter will do that), Coach Green reminded the team: we’re not dead yet. As captured by the TNT microphones:
“We took their best punch. It’s a 10-point game going into the fourth quarter. Get your freakin’ heads up. This is what we live for. This is what we worked hard for. Okay? We ain’t giving it up. We are not freakin’ giving this up. You’ve got to freakin’ fight! You gotta fight!”
Sources close to New Orleans landlords say that area walls suddenly have many human-sized holes in them.
Coach Green not only woke us up. On Good Friday, he helped resurrect his team’s season. And it wasn’t the first time he’s done it.
If anything, his 4th quarter pep talk before the 105-101 playoff-securing victory was actually a little out of character. Coach Green has proven himself most capable not as a shouting voice, but as a steadying hand.
Starting 1-12, the Pelicans fell to 3-16 in late November. Missing (and continuing to miss) generational talent Zion Williamson, managing without co-star Brandon Ingram, inheriting a team with mishmash parts and often miserable attitudes, Coach Green had plenty of reasons for the record—as in, plenty of places to send the blame. And at whom did he direct his ire?
Following a cork-popping win over the Wizards November 24th (setting off a 10-6 record to conclude 2021), Coach Green was still reflecting on the 16th loss after the squad’s 4th win: “I just didn’t think we played as hard as we are capable of and I didn’t coach to my ability and that’s a letdown to our organization, to our community, to our team and I spoke to our team about that. I’m proud of the way they responded.”
Take the blame, pass the praise, put it all in context—that’s as good an after-timeout play you can draw up.
And that hard-won November poise might play on into May. After the Pelicans’ 125-114 upset of the #1-seeded Phoenix Suns Tuesday night, the team has the look of a tough out.
Better yet, they have the look of their coach.
During this series, the playoff Pellies have played one terrible half (they shot the first two quarters like they were aiming for a presidential approval rating) and endured two pop-a-shot performances from Suns stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker. By the time Booker left with a third quarter hamstring strain, the Pelicans had proven they could play through an opponent’s highlight tape moment: they trailed only by two after Booker’s 31-point half and were leading as he made his exit.
This team is far from perfect (can we get Zion a decent podiatrist?!), but it’s easy to root for. Because Willie Green is easy to root for.
The Detroit Mercy alum graduated as the Horizon League Player of the Year in 2003 (bonus points if you knew any of those biographical details—bonus point multiplier if you can explain “Horizon League” to me). Little school grad with big forehead scar: Willie Green is a fighter, having turned an improbable 12-year NBA career into a coaching gig at the age of 40.
If we appreciate it, the team gets it even more. Before cutting to Charles and Shaq and Kenny and Ernie, TNT grabbed game-two hero Brandon Ingram for instant reaction. He mentioned how the Suns had delivered a punch they withstood. Just like his coach had told that 4th quarter huddle five days ago.
They’re listening. We’re watching. Everyone’s enjoying.
Sources say the Smoothie King Center will be the site of some earthquake tremors Friday and Sunday nights.
A season-long billet-doux from me to you, Coach Willie Green.
Coach Willie Green is a main reason for these surging Pelicans, but the mid-season trade for C.J. McCollum and Larry Nance, Jr. didn’t hurt. The sharp-shooting McCollum is smooth on and off the court. My theory? He graduated with a degree in journalism. He has his own podcast, owns the NBA’s broadest vocabulary, and knows how to grow the craft. Cheers to C.J.!