Let's say you're an 18-year NBA veteran, you made around $84 million from playing, but now you're out of the game—one year removed from retirement. There might not be a more humbling feeling than being second in command to a high school coach in a high school gym for a basketball game.
That's what Jerry Stackhouse was up to the weekend of April 16 at the 62nd annual Portsmouth Invitational inside Churchland High School. Why? Because he wants to coach in the NBA.
In addition to the tournament hosting Tier-B college players, the event showcased the NBA's Assistant Coaches Program (ACP), which supports retired players who have an interest in coaching by providing training and exposure opportunities. Along with Stackhouse, ex-players Ronald Allen, Michael Bradley, Kiwane Garris, Jaren Jackson, Bo Kimble, Casey Shaw and Vladimir Stepania participated in the program.
"It was great to just be in an environment with basketball people—former coaches, GMs, scouts—and have them observe you in a capacity other than just as a player," Stackhouse said. "It definitely helps to show them that you're willing to work for an opportunity at the entry level."
The ACP is a two-phase program, with the next stop being the D-League's National Tryout in June. On the court, the prospective candidates receive instruction on coaching skills, philosophy and game management by former NBA sideline bosses, such as Paul Silas, who came to speak at Portsmouth. Then they're given the chance to draw up plays, develop and lead practices, and interact with potential NBA players.
Since the program began in 1988, nearly 200 former players have participated—on average they're three to eight years removed from playing in the NBA—and nearly 50 percent of them have found positions in the NBA, D-League or college. Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is the most recent participant to land a head job. Stackhouse, who coaches his own nationally-ranked AAU team based in Atlanta, is determined to join an NBA bench by next season, and is scheduled to meet with New York Knicks president Phil Jackson the week of May 19 to explore assistant coaching and player-personnel jobs.
"I plan to reach out to my former teams and coaches to see if there are openings—not just for staff positions, but maybe just to come in and help with draft workouts, summer league, etc.," said Stackhouse, who last played for the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-13. "I feel what makes me somewhat unique is that I can still play and can be someone that can coach and teach by example, as opposed to just dictating a message. I'm hoping that will give me added value in my quest to break into the coaching ranks."
Bleacher Report asked former NBA coaches Silas, Mike Fratello and Bill Cartwright, as well as former player and the NBA's vice president of player development Rory Sparrow, if there's a blueprint for ex-players to become coaches:
Silas: "I explained to them that former coaches that you know and you have a relationship with, you've got to talk to these guys and see what they would like for you to do. If you can get a job, it's normally with somebody that you knew."
Fratello: "[Utilize] the personal relationships that the individual may have developed with the general manager, with the president, with the owner of the team—they're wiling to take a shot at him."
Cartwight: "The biggest advantage is their own experience from their years playing and their access to coaching. Most coaches coach how they were coached. Coaches have different inputs on how they want to play, how they want to guard, how they want to handle players. A great example of that is Kevin Ollie. Kevin played for 12 teams in 13 years, so you're going to have access to a lot of coaching. That's an advantage."
Sparrow: "You have to have good relationships with general managers and coaches that allow you to parlay that relationship into a job. Once you get a job, you have to really work hard and kind of follow the notion that players, once they get to that level, don't want to put the time in because they feel like they know it all. So really you have to humble yourself to learn a whole new craft, spend time watching video and learning philosophies and developing your philosophy."
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Melo back in the lab
After a postseason vacation with his wife, La La, and son, Kiyan, to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he caught a shark, Carmelo Anthony has returned to New York City, where he's back to work with his boxing trainer, Hino Ehikhamenor, at a local gym.
Ehikhamenor, a former professional boxer, met Anthony through La La's producer for her VH1 show "Full Court Life." Last year, Anthony and Ehikhamenor, who also works out La La, boxed atop the Madison Square Garden marquee for a promotional campaign. Their work together is now in its fourth straight summer. The Knicks star has taken up the sport in an effort to sharpen his quickness, conditioning and eye-hand coordination.
"He loves boxing," Ehikhamenor said. "I could tell in his attendance and in his ability to want to learn everything, from his footwork to mastering his form. I see his frustration when he does something wrong. I just simply tell him that this sport takes time, but he'll get there. He's the ultimate pro."
Insights into the NBA's social equality initiatives
After the Donald Sterling fiasco, it seems appropriate to ask what programs the NBA and players' association have that address social acceptance between management and players—where there is major racial divide—and for all parties to better understand each other's cultural backgrounds and upbringing. There appears to be three main avenues.
NBA's Rookie Transition Program
It includes a session on respect and inclusion that covers all issues and variations of diversity—race, ethnicity, orientation, etc. For the past several years, the league has partnered in the session with Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports through educating athletes and encouraging them to take a stand.
The group discusses the importance of language and works to show players how to be allies with people from different backgrounds and orientations. If any of them disagree with the beliefs or practices of another, the training teaches them how not to be offensive or perpetuate bias and bigotry.
"When they come into the league, these are the first things they understand," said Kevin Carr, the NBA's vice president of social responsibility and player programs. "When they're part of an organization, they learn to have respect for diversity and inclusion, and treating people fairly—covering the workplace, sexual orientation, race, color, age, gender, all that."
Collaboration with the NBPA
The league and the players' association organize workshops, often at a team's request, focusing on social equality. Other areas of discussion have included social media, personal and life coaching, obligations to the NBA business, dealing with relationships with the opposite sex and management of a player's media and communication skills.
Some take a more proactive approach and direct players to their overall mission, speaking to the importance of workplace sensitivity and respecting their community as a whole. Carr said these kinds of seminars are infrequent, but usually happen once a year.
Beyond those three programs, NBA veteran Roger Mason Jr., who's also the first-vice president of the union, said "everything is on the table after Sterling," and the notion of racial tension might need to be addressed in a sit-down setting.
"I don't think we've ever seen a situation quite like what Sterling said and the reaction that's happened from it," he said. "[Racial issues] haven't been something that we thought was needed in 2014, but I think now it's a time where it's certainly something we're going to look into, for sure."
Mason Jr. said the union's priority at this point is to find a new executive director by the start of next season.
"This is going to be a high-level executive—somebody who can look directly across from Adam Silver and be just as smart, just as innovative and bring more to the table than even him," he said. "This is somebody who's got a lot of experience."
But Mason Jr. warned that Sterling is the more pressing problem—and it could lead to as big of a logjam as the 2011 lockout. And that means not playing if the Los Angeles Clippers don't have a new owner.
"We could definitely boycott if that happens," Mason Jr. said. "I could see not only Clippers players, but the league banding together."
The one-of-a-kind Doris Burke
Doris Burke's big break, becoming the NBA's only female announcer for a major TV network, came by accident in 2008. A colleague's passport had expired, so he couldn't make it to Toronto to cover a playoff game.
"At the last minute, they needed to replace him and they sent me," Burke said. "I'll never forget it and I'll tell you why. Bill Walton was working for ESPN and he sent me an email. He basically said, 'I was blown away by the job that you did and I hope that you have an opportunity to do more NBA games.' It meant a great deal to me."
Since then, Burke, who started playing basketball at 7 years old, said NBA coaches and players have done "nothing but show me respect and welcomed me with open arms." While she's aware of the web of negativity—"It can be a very ugly place on social media for women"—she credited those same coaches and players for giving her confidence in her color analyst role. Even while covering a recent Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs playoff game, a referee told her, "We have the utmost respect for the job that you do, and I just thought it's important for you to hear that."
NBA officials aren't the only ones who come up to Burke at games. Young women who aspire to follow in her career path also make a point of meeting her. Burke invites some of them to shadow her at games to get a taste of the game-day production process. Overall, she called the growth of women in sports "phenomenal"—and this year's playoff coverage features several on the sidelines, including Heather Cox, Jaime Maggio, Rachel Nichols, Lisa Salters, Molly Sullivan and Tracy Wolfson.
"It's really neat for me to see strong, smart, competent professional women being embraced, and being given different opportunities to cover something that they love," Burke said. "When I was a kid, I lived next to a park and I remember spending countless hours dribbling the ball and dreaming of playing at a high level. I've been really lucky to be honest with you."
Cope-ing with pressure
Everyone has their own opinion of the Indiana Pacers these days. So Bleacher Report turned to someone on the inside, Chris Copeland, to get the scoop on the most puzzling team in the playoffs. Cope is a pro's pro who, dating back to his days with the Knicks, has always been optimistic yet honest. "The media tried to beat us up that last round as far as why we struggled, but we can't be in a better situation," he said.
Here are a few interesting nuggets from the Pacers forward:
On the Pacers' chemistry
"We don't have any locker room problems, man. OK, there was a scuffle, but I mean that happens everywhere. We're the No. 1 seed in the East, a lot of people picked us to win the championship, so [the scuffle] got highlighted a little bit more. People get tangled up in practice, it happens. We're all extremely competitive on this team and guys want to win in practice, everybody wants to go hard. But everybody is cool with each other. It's all good in our locker room."
On Frank Vogel
"Every player in the league would love to play for a guy that has that much confidence in his guys, and that much belief from 1 to 15. He pays attention to everybody; it's a testament to his character. A lot of coaches pay more attention to their rotation of guys. Woody [Mike Woodson] was definitely like that. But Vogel does an exceptional job of making sure everybody's mind is right through good times and bad times, when you're playing and when you're not playing.
"That's important because you never know who you're going to need, and he keeps everybody in a strong mind state. It's good to look to the side and see that. You don't see a coach that's rattled, you don't see a coach that's stressed out or succumbing to any pressure, even though this is a high-pressure situation for everybody."
On being ready off the bench
"As a competitor, you always want to play, but right now I'm glad to say I've chipped in on this playoff run, which I think is big for me. And as long as we win the championship, that's what it's about. As far as playing or what not, I never know. I just have to stay ready. I have the utmost confidence in the guys that play ahead of me and I think they do a great job."
On the keys to knocking off the Washington Wizards
"The top key is defense—getting back in transition. John Wall and the team as a whole really push the ball well and find shooters. Two, getting back and getting matched up early on defense. And three, moving the ball on offense as far as we're concerned and not getting rattled. Stay the course."
"The Hoops Whisperer" opens up
His Twitter profile reads like this: "Trainer, Coach, Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Dreamer, Author."
The last title reflects the fact that Idan Ravin, a renowned trainer to NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, released his first book two weeks ago called "The Hoops Whisperer." It's a memoir that goes inside his unique background—his only coaching experience prior to training was leading a successful middle school YMCA team while unhappily practicing law—and offers intimate reflections from consulting with his clients.
"I hope the book offers even a sliver of inspiration for people to do what they always wanted," Ravin said. "Many of us don't have the conventional resume and experience, but that shouldn't be the reason we don't take small steps forward in the direction of what we love."
Ravin unveils the uniqueness of each player, such as Durant, the NBA's newly-crowned MVP: "It's not enough that he's nearly seven-feet tall with limbs as long as tree branches; he also moves with the deft precision of a luxury sports car, shoots the ball with the accuracy of an army sniper, has a devotion to his craft that borders on religious, is as humble as a Tibetan monk and generous as a cross between Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy." Ravin also delves into how he applies his unorthodox methods that involve psychological tactics and spontaneous drills, some even utilizing tennis balls for quick-reaction development.
"The book shows how the great become greater, and the importance of faith and forging your own path in life despite the skepticism and resistance from others," he said. "I hope people see beyond the bright lights, big paychecks and fame. These athletes are human—they laugh, cry, struggle and stumble. We are all a work in progress."
A superstar was born in the playoffs ...
... and his name is DeMar DeRozan. While the Raptors are off to an early vacation, the 24-year-old shooting guard showed playoff audiences on national TV—a first for the Raptors all season—that he's the real deal. His stat line against the Nets read as follows: 23.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game, while averaging 10.1 makes from the foul line on nearly 90 percent shooting. With the NBA's starting shooting guard position lacking consistency, DeRozan is a unique premium in the league.
"He just used to come off screens and shoot it, but now he's making plays off the dribble," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after Game 6. "He's making plays, teams are trying to double team him and he's still making the pass. He's getting used to the playoff physicality and he's guarding the best offensive player. He's taking that assignment now. His growth from the last three years has been unbelievable and the sky's the limit for him."
Jack Armstrong, Raptors TV color analyst for TSN, recalls the local criticism he heard over the hefty four-year, $40 million contract extension DeRozan signed in Nov. 2012. But Armstrong, who calls DeRozan "Double D" during broadcasts, felt the deal was worth it.
"I'll be honest with you, [former GM] Bryan Colangelo nailed it on that contract," Armstrong said. "The Raptors are getting every penny's worth from him. And here's the other thing: he doesn't cheat the game. He doesn't cheat you as a fan, he doesn't cheat his coaches, he doesn't cheat his teammates. He's a man's man, he works, he loves it, he puts the time in."
One difficult move he's begun to perfect: a spin into a fadeaway while cleverly using pump fakes if necessary—very Kobe-esque—and then being able to get the call.
"That's repetition and just adding something new to your game every time you're in the gym," DeRozan said. "Kobe is one of my favorite players. I watched him when I was a kid, especially being an L.A. kid. You don't see too many players use the pump fake as much as I do. It's a very effective move, especially if you knock down a couple jump shots. You can go toward that and draw fouls, get to the free throw line."
This week, Bleacher Report caught up with DeRozan's trainer since 2009, Chris Farr, who's now an assistant and the player development coach for the Denver Nuggets, on what areas he'll work on with the emerging star this summer.
"I'm from Oakland, so I grew up under the school of Gary Payton. DeMar needs to become more of a defensive stopper; it's going to happen. He has a lot of pride. He's straight out of Compton, so he has it in him. It's just you've got to keep pulling it out. We'll do defense to offense drills. So you're doing defensive slides, but you're coming back into a shot, into a real game situation. Everything triggers off of defense. Gary might work with him a bit, too."
"I want him to get to the rim and go strong, which he does and elevates, but in fewer dribbles. So if he can take one dribble from the three-point line and be all the way to the paint, and get to the rim and take the contact and finish, he would improve his game that much more."
"Now they're running more people at him, so we're going to look at some tape. The better his team moves the ball, the better he'll become—and the game will become easier for him. I told him this: When he sees the game in slow motion, that's when he starts to get better."
In an earlier version of this story, we listed here some of the playlists that some of the stars are listening to as they prepare for games during the playoffs. We've moved the item into its own article, where you can listen to the tunes.
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