Dwight Howard, Coach Pop and compliance


Dec. 18, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy (right) talks with center Dwight Howard (left) during the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Dwight Howard is an immensely talented basketball player. Anyone with any grasp of basketball can’t deny that. Howard’s fatal flaw his not his ability; it’s his inability to comply with his superiors. That defiance generally stems from ethereal ability and a weak organization.

Dwight certainly has the ability, with his abominable free throw shooting his notable blemish. Perhaps Orlando’s adherence to Dwight’s every whim led to his insatiable desire to get what he wants, when we wants. They may have created a monster just like premature fame created the entire LeBron James fiasco.

Compliance is an imperative factor in how San Antonio runs their organization. Compliance with the general manager and owners come first, naturally. Compliance with Gregg Popovich comes second. Players know where they fall on the hierarchy; Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are the stars and are expected to take the brunt of criticism and adulation.

The rest of the team falls in line with each player providing the team with their defined skills. San Antonio rarely deals with frustrated players because they find people who are willing to comply with a model that has a proven track record for success. If the player wants to stray from his niche and affect the team, then he won’t be a Spur for long.

Most organizations don’t operate like that. They operate in fear that they’ll lose their superstar if they make a slight miscalculation. They compensate their power to comply with their player, a stark difference from San Antonio’s model. The hierarchy is essentially flipped upside down and, with the control in the hands of one player, the situation will likely not end well.

Yes, the Spurs have been blessed with Tim Duncan. He’s an all-time great and one of the most willing superstars ever. Duncan’s ascetic nature was the perfect building block for an exemplary franchise. Everything stems from his fortitude in the face of Popovich’s wrath; Duncan takes criticism remarkably well given his talent. And Coach Pop rightly distributes his anger to every player regardless of talent or standing. That creates an environment devoid of bias. That environment is healthy because every player is willing to receive criticism. A coach is, simply, allowed to coach. You’ve seen the dividends of this approach firsthand.

Dwight couldn’t handle criticism. (Hence his silent petitions to get rid of Stan Van Gundy.) Van Gundy was a notoriously critical coach and it worked for him. He was also one of the most cognizant coaches in the NBA, utilizing the 3-point line more extensively because it’s more efficient than long 2-pointers.

Van Gundy built a successful team despite a lack of talent behind Dwight. His defense, anchored by average defenders, continually outperformed their expectation because of his defensive philosophy and, of course, Dwight Howard. Van Gundy is an excellent coach. It’s a shame that Dwight didn’t realize this because he’ll be lucky to find another coach that can make something out of very little.

Dwight never complied with the collective goal. And with a growing amount of teams growing weary of Howard’s volatility, he’ll face the consequences of his actions.

Not everyone gets what they want.