Former NBA Coach Ready for Challenge in D-League

Stephen DyellCorrespondent INovember 13, 2010

Like father, like son.

Musselman has always been around coaching. His father, Bill, was a coaching legend in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) as he led the Tampa Bay Thrillers to four championships, and earned himself a Coach of the Year award in 1988.

“Since the 7th grade, I always knew I wanted to be a professional basketball coach,” Musselman proclaimed.

“I idolized my dad, and felt that being a head coach at a young age at a minor league level was better preparation than being an assistant at the collegiate or NBA level.”

He followed in his father’s footsteps as he entered his first year as head coach in the CBA at 22, one year younger than his father had been.

He admits it was not easy, stating his first game in Sioux Falls was more nerve racking than his first NBA game, considering he was the youngest coach ever to step on the sidelines of a CBA game.

He coached the Rapid City Thrillers for five more seasons, where he made a record five CBA All-Star Games and became the youngest coach to 100 wins.

Musselman then spent three years switching from the United States Basketball League (USBL) and CBA, posting a record of 128 wins and a mere 36 loses, guiding the Florida Sharks to back-to-back championships.

His coaching dominance in the CBA and USBL raised the eyes of many general managers, and in 2002, he got his first chance in the big league.

Garry St. Jean, the general manager of the Golden State Warriors, hired him to coach a roster full of young potential with names such as Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Antawn Jamison and Troy Murphy. 

For the past five seasons the Warriors had not cracked 22 wins on the season, but Musselman wasn’t shy of a challenge. He managed to put up 38 wins, 17 more than the last season, but unfortunately it was not enough to crack a playoff spot in the West as the Kings, Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks were still huge powerhouses compared to the young roster of the Warriors.

While he missed the playoffs, he wasn’t missed by the NBA as he finished second behind the eventual NBA champion Greg Popovich in Coach of the Year voting.

The off-season was tough on the Warriors as they lost Gilbert Arenas to free agency, while general manager St. Jean traded away Antwan Jamison for veterans Avery Johnson and Nick Van Exel.

Though he had many new faces, and the West was still the dominant conference, the Warriors managed to finished fourth in the Pacific Division with 37 wins but missed the playoffs by three spots. Unfortunately for him, a grenade went off in the front office and heads rolled, including Musselman's.

A mere two years after being runner up for Coach of the Year, he found himself jobless but understood the business, and was not bitter about his release from the Warriors.

“Any time you get an opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA is a privilege no matter how many games you get an opportunity to coach,” Musselman said. “I grew up in the business since my dad was an NBA head coach, and understand that coaches are hired to be fired. In Golden State, there was a change in management, and usually that means a coaching change is soon to follow.”

He earned another shot at the NBA just two years later with the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings were coming off an eight year playoff streak as the fire was slowly fading. Peja Stojakovic was traded for the troubled Ron Artest, and he began his off-court shenanigans distracting the team and added the media’s eye to a once dominant franchise.

The Kings finished the season 33-49 and missed the playoffs, but Musselman had created a star in Kevin Martin as he had finally been giving a chance to shine, putting up 20 points per game. But all management saw was a failed season and let the head coach go after a single season.

Unremarkably, Musselman was still not bitter.

Rumors flew about him entering the college ranks as former Toronto Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill entered the University of Arizona coaching job.

Months passed and Musselman still hadn’t found a job. That was the case until he stepped in a new direction, becoming the coach of the Dominican Republic national basketball team for the 2010 Men’s Centro Basketball Championship.

While he didn’t get the bigger names that had played in 2009, like Francisco Garcia and Al Horford, he was lucky enough to get Charlie Villanueva.

Musselman guided the team to the finals with a 4-0 record, losing to Puerto Rico by eight points, but qualified for the FIBA Americas Championship 2011, which will hopefully  end up in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Two months later, he found himself in a familiar place.

Though he had never coached the Reno Bighorns, his father did while the team was in the Western Basketball Association, where he led them to their first and only appearance in the finals.

Although the pressure is high for him to put on another great performance, Musselman is enjoying his time in the D-League so far.

“It's been great,” he stated.

“The D-League draft was exciting, my family has adjusted well to Reno and the coaching staff has had a lot of fun in preparation for the upcoming season.”

The Reno Bighorns selected Nick Fazekas with the number one overall pick. They also selected Takais Brown, Chavis Holmes and James Florence, putting together the roster for the 2010 season.

“We're looking for guys to fill specific roles, and think we have assembled an excellent squad this season,” he states.

“Every morning starts with the practice plan. Once that is done, we hit the court.  After practice, we review our practice and then review film on upcoming opponent.”

Musselman is entering his fifth coaching challenge that has ranged from international to the CBA, but loves the challenge of working with the young and old as he has produced numerous NBA talents, and has even helped the careers of Arenas and Martin.

“Every league creates different challenges. In the D-League, you have a constant fluctuation of players coming and going and you have to be able to adapt quickly,” he says.

Quickly is the main key as the he looks to continue his dominance in coaching basketball. This time he will look to finish off what his father just came short of—a championship to the city of Reno.


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