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Coach Weiss brings laid-back attitude to Sonics
Seattle Times staff reporter
The comparison to his predecessor was obvious, so when asked the first question about how his training camp will be different from those directed by Nate McMillan, new Sonics coach Bob Weiss recited a line that seemed as if he had been rehearsing for weeks.
"I'm not going to get fined for practicing twice," he said grinning. "We got that one ironed out and we learned that rule fast."
The joke received a few giggles from the assembled press, but aside from the laughter, it revealed a lot about the man in charge of a team that surprisingly compiled a 52-30 record and won the Northwest Division title last season.
When faced with adversity, Weiss is quick to turn an embarrassing situation into an amusing anecdote. He relies heavily on humor and candor.
By making light of last year's mishap when the Sonics misinterpreted rules changes for training camp and were penalized by the league for practicing too much, Weiss distinguished himself from McMillan.
The new coach is far more lenient than the old one as it pertains to oncourt and off-court behavior. He has modified team rules that will now allow players to use cellphones on bus rides and to wear sweats on team planes.
"It may sound like a small thing, but I think Bob is less concerned about things that don't have to do with basketball," Ray Allen said. "We travel the most probably of any team in the league and to be comfortable is important.
Key dates for the Sonics
Today Practices officially begin.
Oct. 14 First home exhibition, against high-octane Phoenix.
Oct. 31 Rosters cut down to 15 players.
Nov. 2 Regular season opens with Los Angeles Clippers in town.
Dec. 6 Knicks, with Washington product Nate Robinson, visit.
Jan. 30 Ex-Sonics coach Nate McMillan's Trail Blazers come to Seattle.
"I think that's one of the cards that he's given to the players so at the end of the day, we'll have nothing to complain about. This man has already gone to bat for us and made us comfortable in this area, so go out and try to play that much harder for him."
Allen was a staunch supporter of Weiss during the Sonics' coaching search and was surprisingly critical of McMillan after he left for Portland.
At yesterday's media session, the Sonics guard attempted to set the record straight.
"I never said I didn't like Nate because that's the farthest thing from the truth," he said. "I said that Nate never let his guard down. He was always the coach.
"I had a good relationship when I talked to him, but just as far as how he coached the team when he walked out on this [practice] court, sometimes he'd come in and crack a joke and then he'd get serious. Most times, we only saw him one way. With Bob, he tends to let you in a little more."
During Weiss' first practice as Sonics coach, which begins this morning, the format will be slightly different than in the past. He'll place an emphasis on running the fast break and transition defense. He believes in delivering instructions early in the workout and favors 5-on-5 drills as opposed to individual sets.
In perhaps his first personnel decision, Weiss has moved swiftly to disarm what might have been be an explosive situation at training camp involving the battle at power forward. The Sonics coach said he favors Nick Collison and Danny Fortson as reserves and expects Vladimir Radmanovic to compete with Reggie Evans, if he signs with the Sonics, for the starting job.
Evans, a restricted free agent, remained at home yesterday while weighing several options from the Sonics, which include a multi-year deal and a one-year tender. It appears that Radmanovic, who signed a one-year tender and has voiced his displeasure about coming off the bench, will get the first crack at the job.
"We haven't talked about it a lot, but I'd like to play a lot," said Collision, a rookie last season whom many believed was ready to start. "I think people around the league realize that it's more important who's playing at the end and they don't put a lot of stock into who's starting. It's Coach Weiss' decision.
"He's got a lot of pressure on him. ... I do know that part of our success last year was because guys knew what they were supposed to do and Nate held them accountable for that. That is important. So if Coach Weiss is a little bit more laid back, hopefully guys won't take advantage of it and they will be professional and realize they need to do what they're supposed to do."
• The Sonics hired Brendan Malone as a consultant.
• Single-game tickets for the first half of the season go on sale today at 10 a.m. According to the Sonics, the team has achieved a season ticket-holder renewal rate of more than 92 percent, which is the best in the past decade. For ticket information, call 206-283-DUNK.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company