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Crossroads 2017: The Verdict (for now) On Coach Kidd

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After much deliberation, we come to a conclusion on Jason Kidd as Milwaukee’s head coach.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

We’ve talked about what Jason Kidd is good at. We’ve broken down what we think he’s bad at. We even tried to account for the things we have no idea about. Now it’s time to put it all together.

Verdict

In reviewing Parts 1 through 4 of this series, Jason Kidd has one major boon (player development) and one major bane (strategic management). While his schemes have come under fire and his rotations scrutinized, Kidd has also presided over the considerable growth of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as (to a lesser extent) Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, Thon Maker, Tony Snell, and Malcolm Brogdon. Salary implications aside, that is a talented group of players that has youth, length, and energy on their side.

Players can only develop for so long before they hit their peak. Strategies, however, will persist in a dimension parallel to, but separate from, player growth. Schemes can change, while players do change...and sometimes those two things work against one another.


When I take away all of the evidence on both sides and try and remove any personal bias, I am left of my impressions of Jason Kidd as a basketball player to work from. As a player, Kidd was preternaturally gifted when it came to setting up plays for his team, whether it was for himself or a teammate. His ability to see the floor and identify openings before they existed are comparable to the game’s legends, as is his ability to leverage those openings and manufacture success where before only existed resistance.

As a player, this skill is priceless. As a coach, this skill still has its applications, but I wonder how his ability to see what is happening (and what to do about it) stacks up to his ability to say what is happening (and what to do about it). Monitoring the defense and moving the ball into position is much easier to do than to dictate, and a coach is limited only to the latter option during a game.

In a non-game setting, without the deafening noise and frantic activity and adrenalin and pressure and everything else, when the coach can take control of the timeline and go at a more deliberate pace, this is where a coach can excel...but fans can’t see that.

To me, this is the one of the largest dividing factors between Kidd fans and Kidd foes. As a point guard, his talents propelled his teams to success. As a coach, something seems to be missing.


The entire theme of the Brew Hoop “Crossroads 2017” series is to determine the Bucks’ best path forward, from our point of view. This is a big summer, where one wrong move can artificially limit Milwaukee’s eventual ceiling. Important decisions must be made, and in this case, making no decision is still making a decision. Jason Kidd, with his contract extension last year, is locked in as the Bucks’ head coach through the 2019-20 season. He can continue serving as the head coach, and the team would reap the benefits of his leadership.

But the goal was to arrive at a verdict. We have hemmed and hawed, but the Bucks cannot afford to hem or haw any longer; it’s time to move on and try something else.

This is not to take credit away from Jason Kidd. Not only has he been the lead tutor for one of the game’s brightest stars, but he has turned around the culture of the Milwaukee locker room. He has challenged his players, both in practice and in games, and while the record does not indicate it, the Bucks have enjoyed more success in the past three seasons than they have in what seems like ages.

At the same time, the success we have experienced cannot be the high point, and there is not enough evidence that Jason Kidd is equipped to continue pushing the team further along the track to contention. He is an excellent teacher of the game. Can Milwaukee, as their window begins to crack open open, afford to be led by a teacher, knowing that the window could slam shut at any time? Or should the Bucks take their chances on a different coach, with a different approach, who could prop that window open long enough for the Bucks to leap through it and into the championship conversation?

When the stakes are this high, boldness is necessary. With what we know and what we’ve seen so far, it’s time for a change, before it’s too late.