The old Warriors doghouse, with its graffiti-covered walls and sagging floorboards, has been demolished.
In its place, Keith Smart vows, will be a figurative open-air facility with a literal open-door policy. The idea, Smart implies, is to open minds, free spirits and unleash potential.
Maybe it will help the Warriors fight off comebacks and hang on to close games such as their 115-109 victory over Memphis on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.
Four games into his term as Warriors coach, Smart understands precisely what he has inherited from his predecessor. He was given a pair of guards, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, blessed with prodigious offensive gifts. He received a big man, Andris Biedrins, who can be a functional NBA player, a very athletic mystery man, forward Brandan Wright, and nice role players in Reggie Williams and Vladimir Radmanovic.
The other half of the roster at Smart's disposal stepped on the court as Warriors after the September departure of Don Nelson -- and, thankfully, his infamous mutt hut.
We reference this because a doghouse can be useful, well, for a dog. And because Nelson routinely, as one of his trusted coaching tools, used it to isolate or humiliate a player. And because Smart vows the doghouse will not be in his coaching toolbox.
Though Smart spent four years as an assistant to Nelson, learning an infinite amount about the game from the NBA's all-time coaching wins leader, this is a
Today's athlete, perhaps more than those of yesteryear, requires particular care and cultivation. He wants to feel involved, craves communication. Smart, 46, says he grasps the significance.
"When you have two sons, you had better understand how to talk to them and the importance of talking to them," he said before the game. "I talk to the players in some ways like I talk to my two sons. We need to hear each other. The give-and-take is important.
"Each day before I meet with the team, I've already gone over the previous night. I've already asked myself, 'Who do I have to talk to?' And I do it. I could put it on an assistant, but that's like telling my wife to tell my 14-year-old son exactly what it is that I want to say."
This new-school approach that defies an old-school tradition is gaining popularity around the league. Most of the recent hires have been decidedly youthful, with a grasp of the coach-player dynamic. Understanding the value of this relationship is, like a cell phone or e-mail, a sign of our evolved age of communication.
"I constantly talk to guys. I have to," Smart says. "Maybe if I was Phil Jackson or Pat Riley or Larry Brown or Jerry Sloan -- a coach who has been successful for a long time -- maybe I wouldn't have to. But I think it's important that I do."
Oh, it is important. Numerous times in recent years, I've gone up to a Warriors player who was struggling, asked what kind of advice or counsel he was getting from Nelson and been met with a quizzical glance.
The most common reaction: a shrug of the shoulders.
The most common phrase: "He hasn't said anything to me."
The likely response: Frustration, simmering animosity or a crisis of confidence.
From there, it's a very short trip on a high-speed train to roster-coach friction, player regression, an uncomfortable locker room and two losses for every victory.
Smart says he can't coach as Nelson did, that he must find his own style and effectively deliver his own message. Smart played for Bob Knight at Indiana and has coached under Nelson. They're all very accomplished individuals, all very "old school."
What we don't know is where Smart's Warriors are heading, how good they might be and whether they have a real chance to play meaningful games in March and April.
We don't know when Curry's right-ankle sprain will heal, when David Lee will play like an All-Star or when rookie big man Ekpe Udoh will suit up for the Warriors, much less block his first shot as a pro.
We know, though, the Warriors will have a new owner, probably in the next couple of weeks. We know they'll have a reliable fan base, because they always do, even when they haven't deserved it. We know that, more often than not, they will be fun to watch.
We also know Nellie's old doghouse, if Smart is as good as his word, no longer exists. And that it will not be missed.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.