According to the esteemed Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, Ed Pinckney has stepped down as lead assistant for the Denver Nuggets.
#Nuggets assistant coach Ed Pinckney has resigned from the staff. Wes Unseld has been promoted to lead assistant.— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) July 13, 2016
Ed Pinckney resigning from the Nuggets coaching staff is startling. Was a big get for Michael Malone last season— Jeff Morton (@KingOfThornton) July 13, 2016
That marks the second time this offseason that Denver has lost a lead assistant. Their offensive lead assistant, Chris Fleming, departed earlier in the offseason to join the Brooklyn Nets on the staff of his college teammate Kenny Atkinson. The timing of that made sense, while this is more strange. Pinckney did not leave to join Tom Thibodeau earlier this summer, but obviously something changed.
I don't have anything against Wes Unseld Jr, nor against Micah Nori for that matter. But Chris Fleming was a championship head coach in Europe and the coach of the German national team, while Pinckney came from his time with Thibs as a highly recommended key figure in turning Denver's defensive woes around for his new defensive-minded head coach.
The Nuggets were not good on defense last year but I don't know how any team with the youth and injuries Denver had could have been. Denver was not always coherent on offense either, but again with a 19 year old rookie running the show and 5 first or second year players in the rotation that's also tough.
Both lead assistants leaving within a season is either a strange coincidence... or most definitely not a coincidence at all. It's not as if Denver replaced them with outside voices with more pedigree. The resumes on the new lead assistants - again, with no offense intended - do not match the resumes of those who left.
I know Michael Malone looks like a steamboat captain circa 1907, but he's really a young head coach who is still finding his footing as the man at the helm in this league. Maybe Malone found that the voices he wanted to listen to didn't come from his leads. Maybe Nori and Unseld are the next great minds that will help Denver match up with San Antonio, Golden State and the legion of up-and-comers. Perhaps the personnel decisions have helped shape the coaching roster as well.
But as with Chris Fleming's departure, I'm not sure whether the Nuggets have a better coaching staff today than yesterday. It took a while to get Jordi Fernandez onto the staff and he seems to be a good get as a player development guy and budding coaching star. We'll see who the next assistant added to the staff will be in the coming days, but I'm very curious to see if Denver's philosophy on offense or defense changes next year as a result of these coaching changes.
That will be an interesting thread to follow in the coming weeks.