After leading the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the NBA D-League championship this past spring, Nick Nurse went on to earn himself an assistant coaching gig with the Toronto Raptors this offseason.
Though he led the Colorado 14ers to the same title in 2009, NBADL coach Bob MacKinnon's own journey has taken him on a different path. Even more invested in the benefits of the D-League and what the league stands for, the coach also runs the annual NBADL Elite Mini-Camp and plays a key role in the league's national tryout(s) each year as well.
Over the past two seasons, MacKinnon and his Springfield Armor squad's relationship with their NBA affiliated Brooklyn Nets proved to be a true testament to what the D-League is trying to do with all of its teams league-wide. In constant communication with Brooklyn brass, MacKinnon's key focus was developing players for potential call-ups, perhaps most notably, to the Nets.
But with a new season steadily approaching, MacKinnon will now venture out west. Accepting the head coaching job of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the veteran leader is poised to embrace the culture and history that comes along with joining such an organization.
"It's very exciting," he told RidiculousUpside.com in a recent interview. "The D-Fenders have a long history as far as the D-League goes, being one of the first teams in the league to be a single affiliate with their parent club. The Lakers were one of the first NBA organizations to buy, control, and operate their own D-League franchise. As much of a fan as I am of the D-League, and as much as I think of it, it's a great honor."
Coach MacKinnon asserted that he was excited to get out to Los Angeles and begin learning from Lakers' head coach Mike D'Antoni. As fate would have it, however, the two already stand to serve as quite the complementary pairing. With a natural run and gun style to his offense, MacKinnon has coincidentally drawn D-League related comparisons to D'Antoni in the past.
"It's a great honor to be compared to a guy like Mike D'Antoni," MacKinnon added. "I consider him to be one of the great coaches in our profession. If I'm being compared to him, it's nothing but an honor."
The new D-Fenders' coach has hopes of implementing similar things that D'Antoni and his staff do with the Lakers into the minor league squad's culture as well. Building a strong foundation for ongoing communication won't be a difficult thing to accomplish for the two clubs, given the oh so close proximity they have to one another.
MacKinnon said, "The D-Fenders are the only D-League team that practices in their NBA affiliate's facility. My feeling is that our players will get as good of a look as anybody in the world from the NBA."
He continued, "Coming into our league is a great opportunity for players to be seen. It's not simply about people seeing them now, but also the potential they have to develop. Since I've been involved in the D-League over the last five years, the league has done a great job of not only developing players, but others all across the board. There are coaches too. There have been referees that started in the D-League. There have been public relations guys and trainers. Every aspect of the NBA is being touched by the D-League, and that's why it's such an honor for me to still be a part of it."
Still, as many pros as there are to donning an NBADL uniform for aspiring big league players, MacKinnon acknowledged each one has a road ahead when it comes to eventually breaking into the NBA. He said, "Our league is the league of opportunity. What the league provides our guys with is the opportunity to improve their basketball resumes while staying in people's sights and eyes."
With such a commitment to developing young talent with a focus on helping each one progress and mature, respectively, it's safe to say the D-Fenders reeled themselves in a coach who is the epitome of everything the D-League stands for.
Addressing his involvement and presence in what the minor league tries to accomplish as a whole, the 2009 NBADL champion said, "I've had good fortune through the years. Guys like Chris Alpert, Dan Reed, and other people around the D-League have instilled trust in me to run the Elite Mini-Camp over the years. I've really enjoyed that. To help out and run the national tryout camp, I just love the D-League. I think it's a players' league. It's been a lot of fun for me to be involved with and coach in the league."