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.

Comments (10)

  1. The body position issue is as much a help defense issue as a man issue. Taking a straight-up body position also affects your help defense because you have better court awareness; if you take an angled position to force your man baseline, you are turning your back to more of the court. (If you don’t see it, try it in the living room; pick a place for the baseline, guard the lamp and see what the positioning does to your vision of the room.)

    I think it’s a very helpful approach to defensive fundamentals in several respects.

    This was a great video, thanks!

    • Very good points. And no problem on the video, I figured Raptors die-hards would be interested in it. It’s also a nice change of pace from the usual drivel that comes out of daily scrums.

  2. You’ll see more fouls. That is one thing I see in coaching younger players, anyway; encouraging an aggressive side-to-side movement, and occupying space, does result in more fouls. (Fouls are bad, but a high-foul defense isn’t always a bad one). It’s always good for a defender’s balance, though, to encourage them as much as possible not to go backwards.

  3. Can’t wait to see the Raptors in action. They’re going to surprise you. I see Toronto either making or challenging for a playoff spot.

    • I am excited to see this young “building” team play a different style, but I can’t say I agree with you on challenging for a playoff spot. I think they could shock some teams with their youth/energy and athleticism alone, but I just don’t think there is enough there for a top-eight finish. Though if they get some bounces, and everything goes their way, I guess it is possible to flirt with .500 and finish eighth.

      If I had to pick one or the other though, I’d put money on them finishing 15th before I put money on them finishing eighth.

      If you’re right, it would be an exciting story (though probably not a good one for the Big Picture).

    • There’s no chance of that happening.

      The east is improving and you need to win at least 46-50 percent of your games to grab the 8th spot so that means the Raptors would have to win 29+ games to even be in the same neighbourhood as the playoffs.

      Young teams that have no great/elite talent like this Raptors squad get eaten alive in the NBA.

      • You underestimate the Raptors my friend. Believe me, they will challenge for a playoff spot. Why? because to be a successful team in any sport, you have to follow the four Cs and from my observations, the Raptors already have two of them.

        The first is chemistry and judging from last season the raptors had excellent chemistry especially on the offensive end, The other is aCcountability and if you heard the apologetic way they spoke after every loss you can see that they hold themselves accountable. There’s no finger pointing or blaming. everyone on that team takes responsibility from themselves and each other.

        The two other Cs that the Raptors are missing are Consistency and confidence. The Raptors have enough talent and depth to take on any team in the NBA. If you compare the Raptors depth to other team via depth charts, you can see that to be true. And they need being consistent and play with the same energy every night.

        Hopefully Dwayne Casey will bring out the two other Cs tghus making Toronto a viable playoff team.

  4. Would it be worth it to go after Samuel Dalenbert this off season

    • I don’t think so. First, the Raptors already have a full 15-man roster, which consists of six bigs. Second, I think Sammy D would want more money and longer than a one-year commitment, something that wouldn’t make sense for a rebuilding team.

  5. The 8th Spot is going to be hard fought. The Pacers made a big step last year and will be looking to continue that upward trend. Charlotte, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee are a bust so that leaves Washington, Philly and New Jersey fighting for the 8th spot. The questions is are we better then those three teams? I think we are right there.

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