I know what you’re first question is: Who the heck is Tom Sterner, and why should anyone reading RaptorBlog care?
Here’s why. He’s one of the Raptors’ new assistant coaches (followed Dwane Casey from Dallas), and on the surface, appears to be unlike many coaches we’ve seen before. He’s colourful, animated, entertaining to watch and listen to, and actually seems like a great teacher of the game.
Watch this six-minute clip of him with some of Toronto’s media on Thursday. Tell me it’s not one of the most understandable basketball conversations you’ve ever heard an NBA coach engage in on camera.
Aside from a seemingly fun, likeable personality, Sterner has a pretty impressive background. He has an undergraduate degree in elementary education and masters degrees in sports administration and computers. He then turned that computers background into a 10-year reign as the chairman of the NBA Technology and Scouting Committee. In short, he basically helped develop some of the software NBA teams are now using for scouting purposes.
Also impressive: According to his NBA.com profile, Sterner is 55-years-old. The man in the video above does not look like he is five years away from 60.
From a Raptors’ perspective, Sterner’s scrum is probably one of the only interesting/valuable things you will watch out of the countless videos coming out of training camp. Sterner starts the scrum discussing his thoughts on Jerryd Bayless’ abilities as a point guard, but it’s the latter part of the video that really intrigued me as a basketball junkie.
Sterner goes into more detail than Casey or any other coaches have on camera about the ins and outs of the Raptors’ new defensive schemes.
One thing I found interesting is his determination that a new NBA penchant for trying to force players baseline, and therefore causing the defensive player to angle his feet and body when defending players on the ball, is what’s causing these untouched, straight-line drives through the heart of the defence and right to the basket.
Sterner says that Toronto’s on-ball defence will be based on squaring opposing offensive players up and playing them “head-up,” rather than angling them to one side. Also, Raptors’ defenders will be asked to slide side-to-side rather than taking a step back, a philosophy Sterner calls guarding a yard.
Could simple alterations to the team’s defensive fundamentals really turn things around on that end of the floor? Could a slight change in body position really be the difference between another point guard blowing by Jose Calderon and a much-needed stop? Is clapping your hands in the offensive player’s face going to be a key component of “guard-a-yard” defence?
These are all questions that will be answered over the course of this 66-game season of change in Toronto.
For now though, all we can hope for is that the accredited media at the ACC finds time to talk to Sterner more often.