It’s safe to say that Kim Hughes isn’t the coach to lead the Clippers into the future. While there’s very little evidence that he’ll ever be a transformative figure as an NBA coach, he’s incredibly honest and likable. With regard to temperament and candor, he’s the coach you always hoped you’d cover if you were ever on a beat.
From my post at TrueHoop:
In the NBA, very little of substance is spoken on the record. Even when you’re fishing for nothing more than a little education about the game, answers are often doled out in neatly wrapped platitudes. That’s not the case with Hughes, whose flat midwestern accent conveyed things you rarely hear from NBA coaches — things like self-doubt, nuance and re-evaluation.
After the Clippers’ horrendous 98-81 loss to San Antonio in Hughes’ first game, I asked him whether the team had enough playmakers and ball handlers to truly execute the running game he pledged to orchestrate as coach.
“Perhaps not,” Hughes said. “That was somewhat exposed tonight.”
Here was a coach, who had hours earlier vocally expressed an imperative to run, confessing that his initial appraisal of his team might’ve been off.
Throughout his 10-week tenure as head coach, Hughes conveyed a combination of basketball truth-telling and gallows humor. Ask him what went wrong with a defensive game plan and he offered a litany of specifics: “It was a chronic situation of our bigs not showing up top on the pick and roll,” or “We let George Hill gets loose on the weak side too many times.” When you asked him prior to a game against Portland what it’s like watching film of Camby as a Trail Blazer, Hughes delivered a one-word reply in deadpan fashion: “Sickening.”
Prior to taking over as head coach, Hughes worked as the Clippers’ big man whisperer. Among his primary tasks was the development of Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan, the two players he evaluated most critically in public. Prior to his first game, I asked Hughes if he’d spoken to Chris Kaman about how the new running attack might impact the center’s preference for a structured half-court game.
Hughes responded, “Let me preface this by saying that Chris is retarded, okay? He’s really not, but he is emotionally handicapped.”
Last night, Hughes bluntly stated that Jordan’s work ethic wasn’t diligent enough and that the Clippers are unlikely to be successful long-term with Kaman as a first option — even as Hughes disclaimed that he loves Kaman.
In the closing moments of his final press conference, Hughes took emotional inventory of his stint as head coach. “I didn’t know if I could do it,” Hughes said. “I’m speaking from my heart. I really didn’t know. I’d heard the horror stories about moving one seat over. George Karl told me at the All-Star Game that when you move those 18 inches over, it truly changes your life. He’s right.”