Coaching in the NBA Developmental League has been a dream come true so far. When I was playing for the Lakers I asked Kurt Rambis the question: “Kurt, what do you like more between playing and coaching.” Kurt told me that the two were just very different. He explained that in coaching, you cannot actually get onto the court to have a physical impact on the game. But he talked about the impact that coaches can and do exert on games and practices. Now that I’ve been in the coaching world for the past four months, let me share a few of my own experiences.
1. There are a lot (and I mean a lot) of players in the “D-League” who are good enough to play in the NBA right now as a contributor or as a 14th or 15th man.
2. There is a shooting coach (the NBDL calls him a shooting consultant) named Bruce Kreutzer who travels to all of the NBDL teams and helps players with their shooting. Where was Bruce when I was playing!! Maybe he could have helped my FT percentage!!! Because the guy knows his stuff and he’s definitely helped guys on our team improve their shooting!
3. Traveling on Southwest is different than the NBA team charter. But to be honest, as long as I get either a window seat or an aisle, the legroom is not an issue. One of our players, Luke Nevill (7’2″ Australian) has found a way around the Southwest Airlines seating issue. He goes to the counter and says, “I am the tallest person in the entire airport. I really need an exit row today.” It seems to work every trip!
4. Our head coach Brad Jones brought in a psychological expert to meet with our team when we played in Bakersfield two weeks ago. The guy was awesome. To be honest, he reminded me a little bit of George Mumford who was Phil Jackson’s trusted team psychologist for a number of years for the Bulls and the LA Lakers.
5. One of the great things about the D-League is that Sundiata Gaines can go from scoring 30 points against our D-League team one night, to hitting a game winning 3 point shot against Lebron James after being called up to the Utah Jazz: Click Here
I hope to see some of you fans at a D-League game in the coming weeks and months. Right now we’re a few games above .500 and we are trying to gear up for a playoff push. The Lakers have a D-League team called the LA Defenders. In fact, they have a deadly shooter on their team named Ryan Forehan-Kelly who I used to play against in college. He went to UC Berkeley. Well, after our game against the D-Fenders at the Staples Center, the Lakers had a game against the New Orleans Hornets. I caught up with Phil Jackson for a little while in the coaching office at Staples before their game. I asked him what he liked better between playing and coaching. He laughed and said, “Well, I can barely remember what it was like to play.” Then he said that as a player you really have to be mentally in tune and physically “keyed up” to do your job. But as a coach, you really have to be mentally tuned in all the time in order to have the impact you need to have.
I just signed a one year contract to be an assistant coach with the Utah Flash, located in Orem Utah…..and I’m excited to start coaching! One week ago I went to a Timberwolves game and it was surreal to be up in the stands watching my old teammates and friends, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Gomes, Cardinal and the entire crew! I had the chance to go to NBA training camp and a firm offer in Greece, but the NBA opportunity was a long shot to make the team, and as much as I would love to go to Greece, the timing wasn’t quite right.
I thought to myself: “Well, i can wait, stay in shape, and hope for a great NBA opportunity with a team where a big guy gets hurt, or I can jump on this opportunity.” Ultimately it was an easy decision because I’ve always thought that I would like to coach, and you never really know when NBA playing opportunities come. I also just kind of thought it would be too boring to workout on my own while waiting for the right NBA opportunity which might come and might not.
Then when I spoke to Brad Jones, head coach of the Utah Flash and he shared with me his philosophy and some of the responsibilities he would entrust me with, it seemed like a great fit. (Brad Jones is also the nephew of utah Jazz head coach, Jerry Sloan). And then on top of it, The Flash owner Brandt Andersen reminds me a little bit of Glen Taylor (Timberwolves owner) in his commitment and passion for the game. In fact, I had heard about the Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell challenge, and then I realized it was Brandt Andersen who came up with the idea.
Even though I am a native Californian, I do have some family ties in Utah and in the Provo/Orem area. So ultimately I do feel it will be a nice fit. I’m grateful to Brandt Andersen and Coach Brad Jones for the opportunity and promise to work very hard and try to make the team better. I will be keeping my home in Minnesota and look forward to getting back out to Eden Prairie this summer to enjoy all of what Minnesota has to offer. Thanks for all of the positive feedback on Twitter and FB and I hope to see some of you at some Utah Flash games this season!!
Tonight we play against the Miami Heat once again here at home. They key to beating Miami is trying to find a way to slow down Shaq. I use the term “slow down” because there’s no way to stop Shaq from having an impact on the game. He is too talented of a player. Tonight you can expect us to double Shaq a lot with our smaller guards to make him throw it out and put someone else in a Miami uniform in a position to try to beat us.
Our last two games have left us with a bitter taste in our mouth. From blowing a huge lead against Seattle to losing in Utah, we really felt like we were in both of those games. We should have won against Seattle, and we had a real shot at spoiling Jerry Sloan’s 65th birthday when we played Utah a few nights ago.
If the MVP ballotiing were today and if I had a vote, I would have to go with Dirk Nowitzki. He’s just done so much this season and the Dallas Mavericks are the best team in the NBA. Although you have to give Kobe and Steve a look too. To me, no one else in the league has been as outstanding as those two. If you had to look at an impact player though, Chris Webber has been maybe the biggest difference maker in the league when he signed with the Pistons a few months ago. Chris Webber is one of the most skilled passers to ever put on a uniform in this league. When you play against him, he’s like Garnett. He boxes you out with his hands. Both those guys have the strength to hold people off with one hand and then be there for the rebounds.