PORTLAND — Terry Stotts says there a lot of good coaches who don’t have good records, and he hopes to show Portland Trail Blazers fans that he’s one of them.
Stotts was 115-168 as coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks before spending the past four seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, where he won a championship. He was an assistant under George Karl before he got first head coaching opportunity.
“George Karl, who I was with for over 10 years in the NBA, didn’t have a winning record after his first four years and he’s going to be a Hall of Fame coach,” Stotts said at his introductory press conference Wednesday. “I think you got to keep learning, you got to keep improving and — you do that — good things are going to happen.”
General manager Neil Olshey said he’s “absolutely confident” the team found the right coach and Stotts will improve the team’s offense.
Stotts inherits a team that missed the playoffs with a 28-38 record last season and heads into the new campaign with a roster primarily rebuilt with rookies rather veterans.
Olshey said he spoke with every general manager and head coach that Stotts has worked for, and also talked to players who have been coached by him — from stars such as Dirk Nowitzki to role players.
“Everybody kept talking about how Terry has a plan,” he said. “He understands process. He has a long-term outlook for the franchise. He makes guys better.”
Because the team will rely so heavily on unproven players, Olshey said it’s impossible to set expectations for the coming season, other than the expectation the team gets better every day.
The 54-year-old Stotts replaces Kaleb Canales, who went 8-15 in an interim role after Nate McMillan was fired.
Stotts and Canales emerged as the finalists for the permanent job, and the men interviewed with owner Paul Allen on Friday at the London Olympics. Canales, a Trail Blazers employee since 2005, will remain with the club as an assistant. Olshey said it was not a prerequisite for Stotts to get the job.
Stotts said he hopes to make the playoffs, but his primary objective is to make sure the young players are better in April than October. On offense, he plans to speed up the Trail Blazers’ often-stagnant pace and emphasize the extra pass and the 3-point shot.
“Obviously, LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud,” Stotts said about the All-Star forward. “Hopefully I’ll be able to use him in a lot of similar ways that we used Dirk Nowitzki.”
Rookie Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the draft, is expected to start at point guard after his good showing in the Las Vegas summer league. Stotts said the rookie will provide the team with a pick-and-roll game it has lacked.
Stotts is known for an easygoing approach that will help him deal with the highs-and-lows of young players.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “People say I’m easygoing, even-keeled or something like that. You know, I have my moments.”
Stotts coached Atlanta to a 52-85 record after replacing Lon Kruger in December 2002. Stotts was an assistant with Golden State before getting his second chance as a head coach with Milwaukee in 2005. He led the Bucks to the playoffs in 2006, but was fired toward the end of the following season.
Before becoming a head coach, Stotts was an assistant under Karl for six years in Seattle and four with Milwaukee.