Lakers New Assistants: What They’ve Done And What They Can Offer

On Friday the Lakers announced the hirings of Eddie Jordan, Steve Clifford and Bernie Bickerstaff as assistant coaches for the 2012-13 season. The new trio will be joining returning assistants Darvin Ham and Chuck Person to complete Mike Brown’s coaching staff.

John Kuester, Brown’s top assistant from 2011-12, has made a move to the team’s scouting department. Quin Snyder and Ettore Messina will be taking their coaching talents to CSKA Moscow after spending last season serving as Laker assistants.

It’s hard to get too excited over assistant coaches being hired. Most of the time it happens very unceremoniously, but it’s hard to not be impressed with the new hires the team has made this off-season.

Let’s take a look at where each of the new coaches has been and what they all bring to the table.

Steve Clifford: Steve Clifford has spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic. Before his role with the Magic, Clifford was an assistant with the Knicks (2000 to 2003) and the Rockets (2003-2007).

In case you haven’t put two and two together, after looking at Clifford’s bio, he has spent the majority of his career as an assistant serving under the Van Gundy brothers (Jeff in New York and Houston, Stan in Orlando).

Clifford’s time with the Van Gundy brothers can mean only one thing: he knows how to coach defense.

Mike Brown may have just found his new most valuable and favorite assistant, given his own reputation as a great defensive mind.

Clifford’s time spent with Dwight Howard in Orlando could prove to be invaluable as well. This is not saying Howard is too fragile to handle the move to Los Angeles, but having a familiar face around certainly won’t hurt.

Here is what Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated had to say in regards to Clifford joining Howard in Los Angeles:

“For all the buzz about Jordan bringing the Princeton offense, the addition of Clifford is the most underreported part of this shake-up. He is held in very high regard around the league and has a very good relationship with Dwight Howard from their time together with the Magic. Considering how sour things were at the end between Dwight and the entire Magic organization, it’s safe to say Clifford – who was in the running for Portland’s head coaching job this summer that went to Terry Stotts – wouldn’t be in LA if Dwight hadn’t given some sort of thumbs up.”

Bernie Bickerstaff: Bernie Bickerstaff’s coaching career began in 1973, when he served as an assistant in Washington. Since then, Bickerstaff has had stints as the head coach in Seattle, Denver, Washington and Charlotte. The Kentucky native also worked as general manager in Denver (1990-1997) and in Charlotte (2004-2007).

Bickerstaff spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Having nearly 40 years of NBA experience on your bench is beneficial to any NBA team, even one as loaded as the Lakers. I can picture Kobe on the bench picking Bernie’s mind in an effort to gain valuable nuggets of information.

Bickerstaff shouldn’t have any problems hitting things off with Coach Brown, either. Both spent their college days at the University of San Diego.

Eddie Jordan: Of all the team’s new coaching hires, Eddie Jordan will be playing the biggest role next season. The main reason, if not the only reason, he was sought out by the organization was his knowledge of the Princeton offense. It was announced earlier this summer the Lakers would be running a variation of this offense in 2012-13.

Jordan, who adopted the offense while coaching in Sacramento with Pete Carril, the man who is most famous for running the Princeton offense, has implemented it to varying degrees of success since then.

In his five full seasons coaching the Washington Wizards, Jordan guided the team to the playoffs four times. On the other hand, in his lone season coaching the 76ers in 2009-10, the team finished with a 27-55 record. Of course none of those squads had the physically and mentally gifted players this current Lakers team does.

Many think the team running the Princeton offense is a good thing. I tend to agree with this.

Last season the Lakers ran the majority of their offense from set plays. The Princeton offense is more system based, relying on constant motion from all five players, which is more similar to the Triangle offense Kobe and Pau mastered under Phil Jackson.

Given the uncertainty of the offense and the expectations surrounding the Lakers next season, Jordan is under the microscope a little more than assistants usually are. But even if the Lakers don’t succeed running the Princeton, it doesn’t mean they will completely fall apart on offense (have you seen that starting lineup?!), and at the very least, will have a solid assistant in Jordan.

Jordan was the assistant to Byron Scott in New Jersey during the team’s appearances in back-to-back NBA Finals (2002 and 2003).

Check out the video below of Jordan explaining the Princeton offense to members of the NBA TV crew.


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