Still, in the NFL and MLB, the path to a head-coaching job is usually paved with years of toil as an assistant. Why is it that, in the NBA, inexperienced coaches can step in and succeed right away? (First-time coach Avery Johnson was named the NBA's coach of the year in his second season on the job; newbie Doc Rivers won it after his first.) Berri's contention is that an NBA coach's record is determined almost entirely by the quality of his players. The claim makes sense: In comparison with football and baseball, NBA statistics vary little from year to year. The job of an NBA coach, then, may be less about coaxing better performances out of athletes than about getting their skills and personalities to fit together. By the time a player has moved through the basketball machine to the NBA, he's a relatively finished product. Despite Mike D'Antoni's best efforts, the plodding center Eddy Curry is doomed to be himself. "Think about it," says Berri. "What is a coach going to say that will get Eddy Curry to rebound?"
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