Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A former coach, Hornets' Bower helps build team into winner

There was a genuinely insightful article in USA Today yesterday about Hornets GM Jeff Bower, who has quietly helped build the team into one of the NBA's best clubs.

To win while at the same time being successful financially is one of the hardest feats to accomplish in professional sports.  After working in both the CBA and USBL, where we managed to lead the league in attendance almost every year, I can appreciate the pressure that GMs in every sport are under as they try to balance winning with being financially responsible.

Bower, who began his career as a college assistant, worked his way up through the Hornets organization of a dozen years.   His relationship with Hornets coach Byron Scott is one reason for the team's success as the two share a vision.   When a GM and his coach share a vision, it's almost a guarantee that they'll be successful.

Thanks to his background as a coach, Bower understands the importance of bringing in players who can play the staff's style -- both in terms of attitude and skill -- something I've written about frequently on this blog in the past.   

As Hubie Brown points out in the article, "It sounds easy, but it's not done enough."

And Bower is focusing on the entire roster, not just superstars and starters, but role players and "high quality players to bolster his bench and fit in with the team."  A team's 11th and 12th men are often overlooked by the media and fans, but these guys can have a big impact on a club's practices and culture with their work ethic and personality.

I think Bowers' coaching background has helped him build a relationship with Coach Scott because he really understands what a coach goes through.  I also think it's one reason why Garry St. Jean, a former coach, and I got along so well in Golden State.  

Danny Ainge and Jerry West are two other exceptional GMs who have coaching experience -- Ainge with the Suns (in the late 1990s) and West with the Lakers (in the late 1970s).  They understand that they're responsible for stocking a roster with players who fit with their coach.

As my friend and longtime NFL personnel executive Michael Lombardi says, "Scouting is from the inside out, not the outside in."  

Clearly, Bower agrees.