With open tryouts taking place and NBA teams dishing out training camp invites, the start of the NBA and D-League season is near. In the meantime, I present to you a breakdown of this offseason's newly hired head coaches throughout the D-League (subject to change due to a few teams still searching for a head coach).
Joel Abelson - Sioux Falls Skyforce
The baby face out of this group and the entire league at his new position, Abelson will look to install what he has learned over his coaching and basketball related gigs since 2007. Most recently, Abelson was the associate head coach for Randy Livingston with the Idaho Stampede. It should be expected that Abelson will bring a fresh perspective to the coaching ranks at the D-League level, partly because of his age, but also because of his varied experience within the league. Sioux Falls will bring an exciting brand of basketball to the league this year, and will be one of the most fun and interesting teams to watch.
Taylor Jenkins - Austin Toros
After four seasons as an assistant, Jenkins is more than ready to succeed in his new opportunity. With Jenkins at the helm next season, the Toros will continue business as usual. As the single affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs, much of the success that the Toros have enjoyed can be related to a "system" approach that is adopted from their NBA affiliate. Coming off a championship season, the expectations will be high for Jenkins and his staff, but Austin has proven in the last three seasons that they are a playoff fixture and look to be for the foreseeable future.
Eduardo Najera - Texas Legends
The splashiest hire over the off season, the Dallas Mavericks' affiliate made a historic coaching hire when they brought in Najera for the upcoming season. The first Mexican-born head coach within the NBA's parameters, Najera will look to implement his recent playing skills and knowledge into a Legends team that will look to improve upon a barely sub .500 season last year. The former player, who started his NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks, has the approval of Texas Legends owner Donnie Nelson, that in itself speaks volumes to what should be expected from Najera's upcoming tenure with the ball club.
Michael Peck - Idaho Stampede
With the most "outside the box" hire this off season, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to hire Peck as their head coach for their newly established hybrid affliate the Idaho Stampede. Peck had impressive success from his coaching career with the Findlay College Prep Program which is located just outside of Las Vegas. Peck helped mold players such as Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Corey Joseph, and Louis Amundson into NBA caliber players. Peck obviously understands what it takes to "develop" players, but can he utilize his knack for player development at the D-League level? The Blazers sure seem to think so. Stay tuned.
Mike Taylor - Maine Red Claws
Taylor was selected by the Boston Celtics to be the guy in charge this upcoming season for the Red Claws. Like the previously mentioned coaching newbie, Michael Peck, Taylor will be the first coach for Maine under their newly anointed hybrid affiliate status with the Boston Celtics. Taylor's most recent coaching experience was with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers organization as a top assistant coach. Taylor has spent a significant part of his coaching career overseas, most notably in Germany from 2003-2011 and in the summers as an assistant with the Czech Republic National Team from 2010-2012. Taylor has clearly demonstrated his ability to communicate with players via the basketball court judging from his success overseas, "Crustacean Nation" will hope he can do so for the Red Claws as well.
Duane Ticknor - Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Ticknor brings his well established coaching career into Fort Wayne for the 2012-2013 season, the savvy coach will look to bring the Mad Ant faithful their first winning season since they've been in existence. The Mad Ants hiring of Ticknor took place shortly after the season last year, a year in which the Mad Ants would like to forget. Fort Wayne finished about the bottom of the D-League overall standings. However, with the coaching experience that the 57-year-old Ticknor will bring to the club this season, a hard working, blue collar approach to the game could be just the type of mentality that is needed to get Fort Wayne back to winning ball games.