NBA All-Star Coaching Controversies

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Every season, there are plenty of interesting conversations to be had around this time of year regarding which NBA players do and do not deserve to take part in the All-Star Game. But this season, there already is quite a bit of controversy brewing about who serves as the head coach for both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star squads.

Usually there isn’t really much of a question about who will perform these midseason duties; it’s the responsibility of the coach skippering the team with the best record in his conference, the only exception being that coaches aren’t allowed to take on that job two seasons in a row.

For the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers, that rule wouldn’t have been a problem should they enter the All-Star break still holding onto the best record in the conference, since Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer coached the East team last season. What is a problem, however, is that David Blatt, the man who led the Cavaliers to a 30-11 record before being fired late last week, no longer is coaching the team.

That means Tyronn Lue, who currently has only the one game (a loss) under his belt, will coach the All-Star team, despite the fact that he recently made a public push for Blatt to be given that honor anyway.

“I talked to (broadcaster and former coach) P.J. Carlesimo about it this morning and I told him I think Coach Blatt should coach it,” Lue told the AP’s Tom Withers. “The NBA has been trying to work around some different things for the All-Star Game and he’s done a great job here. We’re first in the East and I think it would be sweet if Coach Blatt could coach the All-Star Game one last time.”

Blatt will not do that, of course, in part because it’s hard to imagine him wanting to, but more importantly because Blatt isn’t currently an employee of any NBA team. True, neither was Magic Johnson when he was written in as an All-Star in 1992, but those were entirely different circumstances supported by the fan vote. Blatt, deserving though he may be, isn’t necessarily someone the fans are dying to see on the sidelines at All-Star weekend. People don’t tune in to analyze the All-Star coach’s strategies and substitution patterns anyway.

Still, the question of who actually coaches these games, especially this season and in the Western Conference, creates some interesting controversy. While the Golden State Warriors are the West’s best team thus far, Steve Kerr can’t coach the All-Star Game because he did it last year. Of course, Steve Kerr hardly has coached the Warriors at all this year as he only returned to the sidelines just this last week after missing considerable time to rehab from back surgery.

In his place, interim head coach Luke Walton has led these legendary Warriors to the best start in league history and has kept them firing on all cylinders in the absence of last season’s title-winning NBA Coach of the Year runner-up.

Could Walton coach the game as a representative of the Warriors? The aforementioned rule applies to individual coaches, not teams, so that alone doesn’t rule out Walton. At the same time, the NBA record book has attributed all of these wins this season to Kerr, not Walton, so it would be interesting to see him get the gig considering all that.

Still, the league office is mulling it over. “We’re reviewing our rules around the West Coach situation to determine what is appropriate,” said NBA spokesman Tim Frank.

Whatever happens, it all amounts to a remarkable amount of controversy for a role in All-Star Weekend that typically doesn’t generate much attention. Lue will run the East if the Cavs hold onto their lead, and as he himself has said the rest of the Cavs’ staff deserves that honor. If it were anybody but Gregg Popovich waiting to find out about Walton, there might be more of a murmur about all of this, but he probably really doesn’t care whether he ends up in Toronto next month or not.

Lue and Walton would be fun, though, and that’s the entire point of this exhibition. Of course, all of this could be put to bed if Toronto or San Antonio make up some ground over the course of the next month, which of course is still entirely possible. Barring that, though, the All-Star coaching news is unseasonably interesting.