I’m going to tell you something that I’ve learned over many years covering sports:
The media doesn’t get coaches fired and fans don’t get coaches fired. Sometimes coaches don’t even do anything to get themselves fired. But you know what — players can get their own coaches fired.
And while I watched the Trail Blazers’ pathetic effort Friday night in Washington against the Wizards, it crossed my mind what I’ve written here previously — are the Blazer players trying to get their coach fired?
It sure looks like it.
I mean, the effort was horrible. And the execution was just, well, as bad as you’d ever want to see it. Washington came into the game as the second-worst defensive field-goal percentage team in the league. Opponents shoot 49 percent against the Wiz.
Portland made 33.3 percent of its field goals. I mean, really? That’s not just a bad shooting night — that’s a team not even attempting to get good shots against another team that normally allows a lot of layups and wide-open looks.
Sometimes, players just tire of hearing the same messages from their coach. At some unconscious (usually) level, they work toward an outcome that they’d like to see — the departure of their coach. It certainly looks as if the Blazers, on some level, have chosen this course.
Afterward, Nate McMillan confessed that it appears, even to him, that his team isn’t responding to him:
“Evidently, they’re not responding to me, because all these games look similar,” McMillan said. “So I asked them: ‘Is it clear what we’re asking you to do?’”
His words were met with blank states and silence.
“They didn’t say anything,” McMillan said. “The thing is, they didn’t have to say anything. I think the games show that. We’re not getting it done.”
A lot of guys get fired — immediately — when there’s any appearance that the team isn’t responding to them. This is a coach admitting that it appears his players aren’t responding. So what does that leave an owner or general manager to do?
In most cases, it leads directly to a coach being fired. If McMillan isn’t due that fate soon, he’s certainly setting the stage for it. And if the Blazers were going to do such a thing, I cannot imagine a better time than the present — with the Civil War stealing all the attention.
No major Trail Blazer move goes under the radar, but a move done this weekend has the best chance to be passed over quickly. It would not shock me at all to see this happen — particularly after McMillan’s admission after the game that his players aren’t responding to him.
How can you coach a team when it doesn’t respond to you?