When Kevin Garnett arrived on the NBA stage it was Sam Mitchell who took him under his wing, serving the role of a mentor.
While Mitchell was in Toronto, he was able to convince the Raptors brass to let him coach Jose Calderon the way he wanted to. Calderon has gone on to become the franchise’s all-time leader in assists and a role model for the team’s younger players.
However, the same cannot be said for former number one pick Andrea Bargnani.
“I was not allowed to be that tough on Andrea because within the organization we felt that he couldn’t take it. And my whole thing was if he can’t take it then we can’t build around him. And no one thought Jose could take it, and Jose did.”
Mitchell raises two incredibly valid points here: Why would you use the first pick in the draft to select someone who cannot be coached the way you would like and a player you do not expect to develop into one of the team’s leaders?
Secondly, it is absolutely worth the gamble to let Mitchell coach Bargnani the way he would have preferred. They were skeptical about letting him do it with Calderon, who it worked out great for. He also had a proven track record, working with Garnett.
Now, Toronto is looking to move Bargnani and his large contract (3 years, $32 million) at the deadline.
The Raptors have won eight of their last nine games without Bargnani, who has also caused problems within the locker room this season.