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What it Takes to Be an NBA Head Coach


ORLANDO, Fla. — Justin Anderson was about to begin his presentation at a white board in a mostly empty basketball gym when John Lucas III interrupted him.

“Can I make a suggestion?” said Lucas, who spent the past 12 months as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. “You going to respect a coach with a backwards hat on?”

“I mean, yeah. That’s me, right?” Anderson said, drawing a murmur of chuckles from the eight people gathered in folding chairs. Anderson, wearing a dark blue baseball cap, said he wasn’t attempting to be funny.

“Have you ever ever seen your coach wear a hat in practice?” Lucas said.

“Nah, you right,” said Anderson, 28, a six-season N.B.A. veteran. He took off the hat.

He turned back to the white board and began his presentation: a mock breakdown of the Phoenix Suns.

At first, he seemed nervous.

“We’ve got Phoenix tonight, fellas,” Anderson began, alternating between shuffling his hands and pointing on the white board, which had notes organized into sections like “Keys To Win.” “We don’t know what the status is of Chris Paul. He’s been out. If he’s out tonight, they’re going to probably insert Cam Payne. He’s been averaging, I think, 16 during the last five.”

Inside the subsequent couple of hours, Anderson and a gaggle of current and former N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. players could be coaching the country’s best boys’ highschool players at an annual camp run by the N.B.A. players’ union. For many years, this weeklong camp has served a dual purpose: to place a highlight on top teenage prospects for scouts and to supply a training program for players eyeing coaching as a future profession.

Boston Celtics Coach Ime Udoka, Latest Orleans Pelicans Coach Willie Green and Jerry Stackhouse, who coaches the Vanderbilt University men’s basketball team, have attended the camp.

This 12 months’s coaching group included one player from the W.N.B.A.:Marie Ferdinand-Harris, a retired three-time All-Star. The N.B.A. players ranged from those that had temporary careers, like Peyton Siva, who appeared in 24 games for the Orlando Magic in 2013-14, to the more established, comparable to Rodney Hood, who has been within the N.B.A. since 2014.

“I just know that I can’t play endlessly. I handled a serious injury after I tore my Achilles’,” Hood, 29, said, referring to a 2019 tendon injury. “Just understanding that, I did a number of desirous about what I’m going to do after basketball, and I would like to remain involved with the sport.”

For Ferdinand-Harris, 43, the camp was a test drive to see if she enjoyed coaching.

“Straight away, the move is more women involvement, and never just in the ladies’s side of basketball but in addition in the lads’s side,” she said. “They’re searching for qualified women to step into roles.”

The camp began the night before Anderson’s whiteboard presentation. Lucas, who played for six N.B.A. teams, has run the coaching program for the last three years after participating as a player for eight. His father, John Lucas Jr., has held coaching roles within the N.B.A. for the reason that early Nineties and helps scout players for this camp. The younger Lucas, 39, assigned each coaching attendee a team to scout and discuss. There also was a video conference call with David Fizdale, who has experience as an assistant and head coach within the N.B.A.

A core tenet of skilled coaching, Lucas said, is “having the ability to cope with egos.” Find out how to handle a superstar player who demands that you just use a challenge. The importance of constructing eye contact when addressing your team. When to make use of profanity. When to not.

“You will have to have the ability to cope with everybody on that team that has been the person on their team before — their whole lives,” he said. “How are you going to get these 15 guys to purchase right into a system and to work as a unit?”

Anderson took note of the teachings about superstars.

“I’ve been across the humblest of superstars like Dirk Nowitzki,” he said. “I’ve been around a number of guys who’re possibly a bit bit more needy. But I believe the largest thing that stuck out to me was when you’re done being a player, it starts all another time. It goes back to level one and you have got to almost construct your résumé up again.”

The N.B.A. has long been criticized for a way few Black coaches it often has, despite having mostly Black players. The tally fluctuates, but currently 15 of the 30 head coaches are Black — essentially the most ever — and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is of Filipino descent. Two years ago, the variety of nonwhite coaches was only seven. The coaching camp may also help Black players particularly get noticed for jobs, but it surely’s no guarantee.

Often, former players are hired as player development coaches — in the event that they’re hired in any respect — and don’t get to have significant input on tactics.

“I began as a player development coach,” Lucas said. “And I used to be put in those positions: ‘Go discuss with this person. Go discuss with that person. What’s occurring? Why is he acting like this? Oh, can you continue to play? Jump on the court. Now we’d like you five on five. Three on three. 4 on 4.’ In order that they still see you as a player, but it surely’s on you to take yourself out of that.”

Lucas talked to the camp group about ascending the coaching ranks.

“Would you are taking a $25,000 job?” Lucas said. “Because that’s what video guys get.”

“So, why do they arrive at us with that?” said Jawad Williams, who played abroad and in 90 N.B.A. games with Cleveland from 2008 to 2011.

“Since it’s their way of being like, ‘Do you really need it?’” Lucas said. “You see what I’m saying? Like, you only got done probably making $500,000.”

“I’ve gotten multiple calls like that,” Williams, 39, said. “I’m not doing that. I can do it.”

Williams said he had been a scout for several N.B.A. teams. “But they still come at you: ‘We’ve got this entry level video coordinator or internship,’” he said.

“That’s their way of hazing you,” Lucas said, as several players nodded. “You begin throughout.”

Lucas said players should consider money and team culture when deciding whether to take a job. Then a number of the players offered their insight. Siva, who played under Rick Pitino on the University of Louisville, said that Pitino could be the last coach he would call for a job.

“I do know his system. I can tell anybody who plays for him. I can let you know every thing he’s going to say,” Siva said. “But as a culture, I do know me as an individual. I wouldn’t handle it now as an worker of his. I do know what hours he wants his coaches in. I do know the work he expects.”

Lucas also talked in regards to the importance of being honest with players. He asked Hood if a degree guard he had played with had an ego. Hood said the guard was teammate.

“I do know that’s your boy,” Lucas said. “You’re a coach now. I caught you. You don’t need to throw anybody under the bus. You’re still a player. See how I got you?”

Hood acknowledged that this teammate occasionally did “dumb stuff,” using a distinct word than “stuff.”

At the tip of the camp, Lucas leads mock interviews, acting as a head coach hiring assistants. The transition to educate from player could be difficult in some ways, but Lucas offered a straightforward piece of recommendation.

“Just be you,” Lucas said. “The worst thing I see in coaches is they fight to mimic any person else.” He added, “Where’s your voice at?”

Just don’t wear a baseball cap.

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