Though the Armor stand with just a 14-21 thus far, there's still plenty to be optimistic about in Springfield. The team is 6-4 in their last ten games, and has players with NBA experience like Devin Ebanks and Willie Reed leading the way. What's more, the sharpshooting Adonis Thomas was recently called up to the Orlando Magic, further proving the special attention to development going on in town.
Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that Springfield has quite the qualified individual guiding this young core group of prospects in the right direction. Head coach Doug Overton, a veteran himself who bounced around through 11 NBA seasons from 1992-2004, knows all too well the grind his players are on en route to becoming NBA players.
Having played in the NBA, in the minors (CBA), and overseas over the course of his professional playing career, there's no doubt Coach Overton can not only relate to each youngster's respective journey, but is also in a perfect position to give advice and provide guidance along the way.
Ironically enough, Coach Overton's coaching career has put him on a unique path as well. In addition to being a former player, the coach also came to Springfield fresh off a respective tenure as an assistant coach with the affiliated Brooklyn Nets. Needless to say, he brings a seasoned and well-rounded prospective to the D-League.
Coach Overton recently took some time out to speak with RidiculousUpside.com. To see what he had to say about his experience thus far, how he balances winning games and developing talent, as well as his team's relationship with the Nets, continue reading below.
Q: What have been some of your early impressions of the D-League as a first-time head coach?
A: It's been great. I've been really impressed with the league, the talent, and how hard these guys play. They're really competitive and I've really enjoyed coaching. The games have been fun, because like I said, the talent level is really good. You can see that in the number of call-ups, assignments, and all the action that's been going on in the D-League. It's been fun for me. I'm learning and getting better everyday.
Q: After being an assistant coach with the Nets from 2008-2013, was the continued embrace of the D-League by the NBA something that enticed you to get involved yourself?
A: Definitely. It's a great thing for the NBA to have the D-League teams to utilize similarly to minor league baseball. And it's good that they do it. All of the teams are taking it seriously, and are using it to help their guys get better. That includes when teams assign players, or simply when they're using the league to scout talent for future players. I've been impressed with the relationships. I'm happy to see the NBA teams taking advantage of the league. Our players get excited about that, because they see they really do have a chance if they play well.
Q: Developing talent for the future and helping the younger players grow is obviously one of the D-League's top objectives. Does it ever become difficult to balance your priorities, between developing talent and winning ball games, in the minor league? How do you do it?
A: As a coach, of course you want to compete and win games. I think the more you do that, the more attention you'll get for your players. When your team is doing well, it's good for everybody. But the big picture is getting these guys better and developing them. You want to see them get better as the season goes on. That's what I want for our guys. If they can improve from November all the way through the end of the season, maybe they'll set themselves up to play on an NBA Summer League roster. Or maybe they just spend time really working on things they wanted to improve on.
The pressure to win may not be the same as it is in the NBA, but you want to win. You want to compete. You want to go out there and play your hardest. I'm learning as a coach and adjusting to coaching in game situations. I'm finding out what philosophies work well for me. This is also a great league for coaches to develop, so I'm happy to be a part of it.
Q: You seem to have a handle on how players can potentially utilize the D-League over a somewhat longer period as well. How important is that for these players to keep that in prospective, as opposed to getting antsy over earning a ten-day contract or something similar midseason?
A: That's exactly what I try and tell them. Not everyone in the league is going to get a call-up, obviously. You're not going to get all ten guys called up. It's just not going to happen. But these guys can play well enough to set something up for themselves down the road. Of course, you're improving and getting better. These guys are building resumes. That's why I try and tell them. The better they play, the more you improve. If you play a whole season in the D-League, your stock is going to rise. Maybe you'll end up on a Summer League roster. Then you can showcase what you can do. That's a big platform. Or maybe your resume improves for overseas, so that you can put yourself in a good position and make some money.
Our guys understand that. It's not just about getting that call-up, because if you're playing well, your agent is going to be able to build on that and put together a resume for you. That could mean playing in Summer League, playing overseas, or even coming back to the D-League next year and receiving more NBA consideration. That's what we try and [convey] to our guys.
Q: With that in mind, what's the team's relationship like with the Nets?
A: It's good. I was able to spend training camp with the team. We're a part of what they're doing over there. Whether we get a player from them, or not, we work on being on the same page. They support us, and we support them. It's always been good, and hopefully that only continues. Maybe we can continue helping guys improve to the point where [the Nets] want to use them, so it's a win-win for everybody.