Trail Blazers

5 key reasons that led to departure of Terry Stotts

Trail Blazers

Less than 24 hours after blowing a 14-point lead to lose a first-round series to Denver, the Trail Blazers and Terry Stotts mutually decided to part ways.

Jason Quick of The Athletic reported Stotts and his agent wanted to learn their fate sooner than later to pursue other jobs, but the writing has been on the wall for months. Barring a deep playoff run, Stotts was going to be gone. 

Here are five reasons the Stotts era came to an end. 

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Poor defensive coaching

The top reason the Blazers wanted to move on from Stotts was his struggles coordinating Portland to even a league-average defense.

Since Damian Lillard took over the face of the franchise in the summer of 2015, Stotts has only one defense to be above league average when the 2017-18 Blazers ranked 6th in defensive efficiency. However, even that season, Portland got swept in the postseason in the first round despite having homecourt advantage against New Orleans.

Heading into this past season, Stotts brought in Jim Boylen (one of the worst head coaches in recent memory) to help organize the Blazers defense during training camp. The result was the Blazers giving up a 115.3 defensive rating, good for second-to-last in the NBA and one of the highest allowed in league history. 

 

Here are the defensive ratings for Stotts since LaMarcus Aldridge left in July 2015. 

  • 2015-16: 19th
  • 2016-17: 22nd
  • 2017-18: 6th
  • 2018-19: 16th
  • 2019-20: 27th
  • 2020-21: 29th

If Portland wants to win in the postseason, it needs to get stops. Simple as that and Stotts showed an inability to even be league average on that end. 

Lack of in-game adjustments

It became a running gag among Blazers faithful that the Stotts-coached teams always got dismantled in the third quarter.

Well, it's no coincidence that period came after the opposing coach could spend halftime to adjust based on how the first half went. When the Blazers routinely get outscored in the third quarter, it goes beyond some flukey shooting. 

It stems from a pattern of not making adequate adjustments. 

Last season, when the Clippers trapped Damian Lillard down in Los Angeles play-after-play, Ty Lue's squad was even taunting Dame for his team's inability to adjust mid-game per Jason Quick of The Athletic

Stubborn with his rotation

The Blazers used the midlevel exception on Derrick Jones Jr. this past offseason to give Portland a capable, rim-running, wing defender.

After Neil Olshey traded for Noman Powell, Terry Stotts decided to take Jones Jr. out of the rotation entirely but continued to play Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who was on a 10-day contract and cut by the Timberwolves this season. 

It also appeared difficult for young players to earn playing time under Stotts in favor of veterans, even if the veterans barely performed. It took a 0-3 series deficit for CJ McCollum to see time in the rotation rather than Arron Afflalo in the 2015 Playoffs and Nassir Little was out of the rotation entirely despite showing flashes in his sophomore season. 

Hiring the wrong people as his assistants' backfills

A large part of the Blazers defensive success in 2017-2019, where Portland ranked 6th and 16th in defensive efficiency, was David Vanterpool who oversaw that side of the floor. When Vanterpool accepted the associate head coaching position with Minnesota, the Blazers defense plummeted to 27th and 29th in the NBA. 

Other notable assistant coaching departures included former Raptors head coach Jay Triano and Kim Hughes. 

Triano was heralded for stabilizing the dysfunctional locker room in Phoenix almost immediately after taking over in 2018-19, perhaps his voice could have helped the locker room stay united this past season rather than question Stotts' decisions. 

The Blazers needed to try something different

Beyond the defensive struggles, it was time to move on.

Stotts did a solid job in Portland but it appears another voice was needed to take the Blazers to the next step. Lillard will be 31 next season and his play should begin declining as he advances into his 30s, making a title run less and less likely each passing season.

Portland wants to go all-in next year and moving on from Stotts was step-one in doing so.