Coach Karl’s Corner: The mind games of a head coach on display

Nov 14, 2022, 4:21 PM

Michael Malone...

Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Coaching professional athletes is one of the hardest professions ever. Recently, I’ve been critical of Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett. I’m a fan of the Broncos and I’ve been disappointed by the Broncos inability to produce on offense and show meaningful progress and connection as a team.

Looking elsewhere in Denver sports, Michael Malone has a developed understanding of his team and they look good. I am seeing strong glimpses of what the Nuggets can be. But it’s in the early NBA season; Malone is experimenting with his young guys in hopes of preparing them for the long haul. It is at this point in the season where coaches play calculated mind games to test their team and experiment.

In my career, I’ve used many tactics in an attempt to elevate my team’s performance. Not only can these tactics be used as motivation on an individual level, but it can also be used as an exercise on team chemistry. Now, I can’t expose all my secrets, but what I am seeing from Malone is one of the many motivational tactics that coaches use in an attempt to get his best players mentally tougher and more engaged with the game.

Everyone knows that I believe young players should earn their minutes. That doesn’t happen a lot nowadays in the NBA. Young players come in and are simply given their minutes, ensured that they will at the very least see the floor.

In some recent games, we’ve seen Bruce Brown’s role seemingly elevate. In the last 10 games, he’s averaging close to 30 minutes per game. He is already the emergency starter and arguably one of the best defenders on the team. When he gets minutes in crucial moments over a player of Michael Porter Jr.’s caliber, that subliminally says to guys like MPJ or even a first-round pick like Christian Braun that a guy like Bruce Brown is just as good and just as meaningful to the team’s success.

The Nuggets are a proficient team on the offensive side of the floor. Almost too good. I can sense a bit of cockiness because they can score with ease, but in times when it is needed, their defense is lacking which is where Bruce Brown shines. You have to be locked in on that side of the floor if you want to play at a championship level.

These are the tests you present to a young player to get them mentally tougher and increase engagement to the game. As a coach, you hope that will inspire the team to have confidence in one another.

I’ve seen what Michael Porter Jr. can do. I’ve also seen what Bruce Brown can do. This team has enough depth to make a legitimate run come April. So early in the season, Michael Malone will need to delicately and thoughtfully maneuver the pieces to continue getting the best from this group.


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