Coach Joe Prunty to go with the flow
By Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel
St. Francis — Joe Prunty is getting his first extended chance to direct an NBA team with Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd recovering from hip surgery.
So even the 46-year-old Prunty is wondering exactly what his game-coaching style will be. It's apparent he's not a pacer or a screamer, but he knows the ups and downs of competition will bring out his emotions.
"We'll reserve on the screaming part," Prunty said. "There's always some sort of trigger mechanism for everything, right?
"Some things make you laugh; some things make you cry. Some things make you mad. Sometimes they're all the same thing. The game has a flow to it. You don't want to overindulge yourself in the game. If the game has a nice flow to it, let the game continue to flow that way.
"If there needs to be an adjustment, either defensively or offensively or something goes wrong and we need to address something in a certain manner, then we'll do that. Some of that responsibility obviously falls on me."
Prunty got off to a good start Wednesday as the Bucks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 113-100, in his first game as interim coach. It's uncertain how long he will be leading the team, but Kidd's recovery period after undergoing surgery Monday could be in the range of four to six weeks.
The Bucks coaching staff is intact for the second year under Kidd, and assistants Prunty, Sean Sweeney and Eric Hughes also worked with Kidd during his first season as an NBA coach in Brooklyn during the 2013-'14 season.
"These are the same coaches we've been working with the whole season, so it's not like it's that much different," center Greg Monroe said. "Jason Kidd is the head coach, but these guys have plenty of input.
"It's not a big change for us. The best team in the world right now (Golden State) is 27-1 without their head coach. They're playing the same way.
"These guys do a lot of research for every game, so they have all the information we need. We just have to continue to come out and do our jobs the best we can."
Monroe referred to interim coach Luke Walton taking over for Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who is recovering from off-season back surgery. The Warriors hope Kerr will be able to return in a few weeks, but in the meantime Walton has handled the job well, with Golden State's only defeat coming to the Bucks in Milwaukee on Dec. 12.
Prunty said he was part of a similar situation when he was on the Portland Trail Blazers coaching staff and Nate McMillan was sidelined. McMillan was practicing with the team and ruptured his Achilles tendon, requiring surgery.
"Monty Williams eventually did a lot of work there, and we all kind of stepped up our roles doing what needed to be done while he (McMillan) was gone," Prunty said.
Prunty has benefited from working with several NBA head coaches, starting out as an assistant video coordinator with the San Antonio Spurs in 1996 and working his way up to be an assistant coach and advance scout under Gregg Popovich.
"He taught me so much not only about the NBA game but the NBA lifestyle, how you have to balance all the things that go on," Prunty said of the veteran Spurs coach. "I was very fortunate to be with him. (Spurs general manager) R.C. Buford was incredible as well.
"I was also fortunate to be around a lot of veteran players."
Prunty served as an assistant under McMillan in Portland from 2008-'10 after coaching under Avery Johnson in Dallas from 2005-'08. Then Prunty was on Byron Scott's staff in Cleveland for three seasons before joining Kidd in Brooklyn.
The Sunnyvale, Calif., native was part of teams that made 13 playoff appearances and had two league MVPs — Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.
Prunty also has taken on the job of coaching Great Britain's national team since 2010. Great Britain was unable to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil but will play in some tournaments this summer, Prunty said.
"The guys over there are professional basketball players, too," Prunty said. "They're competitive and they want to win."
Kidd surprised the Bucks players when he told them after the team's comeback victory in Phoenix on Sunday that he would be sidelined for an indefinite period. But the team has gained confidence recently with its play in two games against the Warriors and putting together back-to-back victories over the Suns and 76ers.
The Bucks will try to carry it over against tougher teams in the weeks ahead, including a Saturday matinee at home against Toronto and four road games next week, starting with a back-to-back set against Dallas and Oklahoma City.
"This is an adjustment," Prunty said. "You can go through little details like managing the game. When do you take timeouts; when do you sub? It's plays that you draw up and defensive schemes.
"But it's also stuff that we've all done. So we need to continue what we've been doing. The coaches will provide their input in timeouts and the meetings."
Guard Michael Carter-Williams said he expects the transition to go smoothly.
"It's really not that much different," Carter-Williams said. "Coach Kidd not being here, the assistant coaches are so involved that it's just a little weird having a missing person.
"Joe is great. We really listen to him. We're focused in and we're ready to just keep moving forward.
"It's always a challenge when somebody is out, no matter if it's a coach or a player. We've got to stick together and stay as a team."