Relaxed: Dressed-down look is making NBA coaches happy
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Going shopping was a top priority for Taylor Jenkins when he was first hired as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The man needed suits.
NBA sidelines tend to look like fashion runways these days, with coaches in tailored suits, sharp ties and polished dress shoes, so Jenkins went out and bought appropriately for his first chance at being a head coach.
But at the restart of the season at Walt Disney World, the dress code has been relaxed to allow polos, slacks, even sneakers — and coaches are thankful.
Jenkins is among them, though he notes that spending spree doesn’t help him much now.
“I spent quite a bit of money picking out my wardrobe, first-time head coach, so I’ve invested quite a bit there to quote-unquote look good on the sidelines,” Jenkins said.
At least he’ll be saving on dry cleaning for the foreseeable future.
By league rule, male “coaches and assistant coaches must wear a sport coat or suit coat” during games.
That rule, however, was ditched for the restart, where there are no fans in the stands and games are played at the Walt Disney World resort near Orlando — where midday temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.22 degrees Celsius) are not uncommon at this time of year.
Coaches are mixing it up: short-sleeved polos, long-sleeved polos, some in team colors, some in bright colors. When Toronto beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night, Raptors coach Nick Nurse was wearing a thin hoodie with a message printed on the front encouraging people to vote.
“I love it,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “I hope that someday we adopt these dress code rules. Although I look very good in a suit and tie, I will admit, I’m also very, very comfortable wearing a Nuggets polo and a pair of TravisMathew athletic leisure wear pants. I think I’ve done a very good job with the look.”
The looks for football coaches is all over the map; some over the years have worn coats and ties, while New England’s Bill Belichick seems most comfortable in a hoodie with the sleeves mostly cut off. Baseball managers are in uniforms — the pants, anyway; not all wear jerseys.
In the NBA, the dress code got ramped up considerably thanks to Miami Heat president Pat Riley and the late Chuck Daly. Riley, when he coached, roamed the sideline in snazzy Armani; Daly’s suits were Hugo Boss, and his shoes were so good that his friends coveted them. After Daly died, Rollie Massimino raided his friend’s shoe collection and wore them for the remainder of his own coaching career.
Riley is still among the sharpest of dressers, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is not afraid to follow in those footsteps with his own wardrobe. But for this trip, Spoelstra didn’t pack a single tie.
He’s not afraid to say that he wouldn’t mind if this became a permanent switch.
“It takes a little bit more thought when you have to wear suits,” said Spoelstra, who is coaching at Disney in black shirts, black slacks, black dress socks and upscale black sneakers. “I can speak for our coaching staff — we’ve enjoyed it.”
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t bring any suits but said after a scrimmage at Disney last month that he’d wear one if and only if his team was in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Boston coach Brad Stevens has even skipped wearing ties in regular circumstances, so he wouldn’t figure to have an issue with the polos-and-khakis look.
“I don’t know why we still wear suits,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said last summer, when he was coaching USA Basketball’s team at the World Cup in China. “Somebody, please, tell me why we do that.”
Popovich wore polos, sneakers and sweats to coach in that tournament and raved about the comfort level. He repeated the refrain a few times earlier this season, and the Disney dress code is right in line with what he’d like to see happen when “normalcy” returns.
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan, when he was coaching the Florida Gators, was mandated to arrive in a suit and tie. The suit jacket, however, rarely was still on for tipoff — and, as one might expect, he’s part of the chorus of coaches raving about needing to wear only polos these days.
“Ask all coaches,” Donovan said. “What we’re dressing in is pretty comfortable.”
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