By DWIGHT JAYNES (@dwightjaynes)
I'm not really sure what the public perception of Neil Olshey was off Tuesday afternoon's news conference. I'd assume most people were highly impressed by his straight-forward manner, confidence and ability to talk.
I would guess most people figure he won the press conference. Easily. The media would probably say the same thing but for one thing.
I believe those of us in that room -- the ones who watched the team closely over the last part of the season -- were astounded by his over-the-top endorsement of Kaleb Canales.
This is a sensitive thing to write about and I don't think too many media people in town will even touch it because Kaleb is so popular. He's one of the coolest guys I've ever come across in the NBA -- hard working, polite, smart, positive.
But ready to be a head coach in the NBA? Whoa. Let's talk about that.
Now I realize Olshey and Canales share an agent, many mutual friends and a long-time friendship. That's all well and good. But Olshey went WAY past what he needed to say about Canales as a coach:
Ifyou're asking me to handicap it, I'll say he's (Canales) the in-housefavorite right now...But at the end of the day, I don't see anyonebringing more to the table than Kaleb Canales. But we're going tofollow a process to see how it works out, Olshey said.
I'm sorry, but I have to call him on the whole idea that nobody out there could "bring more to the table" than Kaleb. I mean, think about that for a moment... Jerry Sloan, Mike D'Antoni, Stan Van Gundy, Mike Dunleavy, Brian Shaw, Mike Malone -- none of those guys has what Canales has?
I'm not sure whether to just laugh that away or demand Olshey be given a drug test.
Kaleb Canales is a good man who will someday make a good coach. But folks, he's never even been a No. 1 assistant. He's 33 years old and most of his coaching career consists of sitting behind the bench, as third or fourth assistant, rather than actually on it.
There are a couple of things that might be going on here. First, it's possible that the decision has been made -- with Portland's suddenly crowded front office soaking up a lot of payroll the next couple of years and the team not expected to be all that good, anyway -- that they may as well stick with Canales. He's cheap and he's a developmental guy and it will help all the young players expected to be added to the roster.
Or it just might be agent Warren LeGarie doing what he does best -- getting one of his guys into a job and making sure that guy's immediate priority is adding as many other LeGarie clients as he can. Canales, remember, is also a LeGarie client.
I watched Canales coach down the stretch of last season and was very impressed with his rapport with his players. They played hard for him. And his work ethic is sensational. But in light of what I heard yesterday from the team's new general manager (who may or may not have watched Canales actually coach a game) about Canales I must speak out:
-- He made a lot of mistakes with his personnel. He was caught with the wrong people on the floor at key times, at least one of which may have cost the team a game.
-- He threw timeouts around like they were soiled towels and often, very often, didn't have any left when he needed them late in games.
-- He didn't seem to have a great grasp of some of the league's rules.
-- I'm not so sure the love-fest with his players would last as long as a lot of people think. Veteran players tend to lose patience with young, unproven head coaches pretty fast if the team doesn't win. And I'm not all that sure this team is going to win for a while if it keeps those draft picks and adds two rookies who need playing time.
-- He was as bad communicating with the media as any coach I've ever seen. And if you think this is no big deal, you're wrong. (And trust me, this is difficult stuff for me to write. Kaleb willingly was a guest on my "Posting Up" show during the first week he had the job and I'll always be indebted to him for that.) But he was a walking cliche who seemed unable to communicate any solid information before or after games. It was embarrassing and he's too smart to let that situation continue much longer.
I think what would be best for Canales' continued improvement as a coach would be for him to take the natural next step, which is to become the No. 1 assistant for whomever is named the next head coach. That would allow him to fine-tune his abilities and smooth out the rough spots.
There is no disgrace in saying he needs just a tad bit more experience.
And by the way, Olshey was really good at the news conference. But he was over the top with just one other quote, too. I had to restrain myself from breaking up when he asserted that "this is an organization to be feared."
Do even hardcore Blazer fans buy into that at this point?
Fear them? The cynic inside me could not resist thinking, "Only if you're a young center who has been drafted by them early in the first round."