Andrea Bargnani was the first pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, and, to put it simply, he has not lived up to expectations. While other members of that draft class, like Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay have excelled, Bargnani just never turned into the cornerstone piece that the Raptors’ brass had hoped for.
Sam Mitchell, the former Raptors head coach who was fired in 2008, was around for the Italian big’s formative NBA years. He went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto to talk Raptors and Bargnani – a player whom, in his opinion, Raptors management coddled to his own detriment.
Via Sportsnet Ontario:
“‘I wasn’t allowed to coach Andrea the same way I was allowed to coach Jose (Calderon),’ Mitchell told Tim & Sid on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday. ‘I was a hard ass on Jose; I was hard on him, but look at the type of player he turned out to be.
‘I was not allowed to be that tough on Andrea because within the organization we felt 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.'”
Nevermind the numerous assumptions here – that Mitchell is solely responsible for turning Jose Calderon into the productive player that he is, that Mitchell not being a “hard ass” on Bargnani was the difference in his career, that Bargnani and Calderon have the same emotional makeup, or that being a hard ass is a one-size-fits-all strategy for player development. That Raptors management issued a coaching directive, one clearly in conflict with Mitchell’s style, is noteworthy.
Though it feels like Mitchell’s sidestepping the blame a bit, we’re sure he’d characterize it as speaking out to clear his own name in the what-went-wrong second-guessing of Bargnani’s career — and Toronto’s general mediocrity over the last several years. But we’d like to offer another possibility, one that has very little to do with emotion: maybe Andrea Bargnani was just never that good to begin with, and no amount of coaching, coddling, or hard-assing would have done the trick.