Since the days that George Mikan manned the middle in Minneapolis, the "Laker Way" has been the motto and way of life for one of the most successful franchises in sports history. Despite the recent issues that the organization has faced, the proud legacy is still strong after nearly 70 years since its inception.
To help keep that strong legacy going, the Lakers franchise and their D-League affiliate (LA D-Fenders) hired NBADL veteran coach Bob MacKinnon to help revitalize the team after a rough 2012-13 season. Previously, MacKinnon was the head coach of the Springfield Armor (affilate for the Brooklyn Nets) and the Colorado 14ers who went on to the win the D-League title during his lone season with the team.
Before his debut season with the D-Fenders, RidiculousUpside.com had the opportunity to interview Coach MacKinnon to discuss the team's relationship with the Lakers, future of the D-League and his hopes and aspirations as the team enters the 2013-14 season.
Ridiculous Upside: Last season with Springfield you had the opportunity to work with NBA players like Toko Shengalia and Tyshawn Taylor. Describe the importance of NBA assignees to a team and explain how you will be able to utilize those players into your roster.
Bob MacKinnon: Well, I think you see there's a growing trend in the NBA now and the more familiar the NBA has become and comfortable with our league (NBADL) - there was an all-time high number of assignees last year (184 assignments during the 2012-13 season) and four players assigned to D-League training camps and possibly more on the way. We are becoming a crucial place for NBA teams with direct affiliates (17 going into the upcoming season) and I think that they're still learning about how to utilize the NBADL for the growth and development of their players.
Ridiculous Upside: From a coaching point of view, how are you able to handle the various roster movements that happen on a day-to-day basis in the D-League?
Bob MacKinnon: That's one of the great things about our league because you have to be flexible as a coach. If you like to teach, I think the D-League is one of the best leagues to coach in because there is a lot of roster movement and a lot of change, so you're always in the teaching move. So as a teacher, it's a great league to be in.
Ridiculous Upside: There seems to be some kind of movement of younger players like Aquille Carr or Norvell Pelle going to Delaware. Players who kind of moved passed the college system to get more experience in the D-League.
Bob MacKinnon: That's one of the great things is that we're always hands-on with our players and we usually don't have the time restraints that college coaches have. If guys want to work on their game and are serious about their basketball careers, then it's a great league.
Ridiculous Upside: What will your relationship be with new player development coach Luke Walton?
Bob MacKinnon: I'm excited that Luke has jumped on board with us. Luke is a consummate professional and his presence and being in the locker room will help teach these players about being a pro and the work that it takes to advance your career.
Ridiculous Upside: When you look back at your prior relationship with Springfield/Brooklyn, how are the systems similar between the two teams when it comes to playcalling on the court to help the assignees transition from the NBA system to the D-League?
Bob MacKinnon: The great thing in being here (L.A.) this fall is that I had the opportunity to be in Lakers training camp with coach D'Antoni. He gave me great access to coaches meetings and being on the court in training camp to help learn his system. So we will utilize his system with the D-Fenders so that it will make player movement between the two teams easier for those players. The terminology and system will be same so all we have to be concerned about is becoming a better team.
Ridiculous Upside: How involved were you in the complete setup of the roster (i.e draft, tryouts, etc.)?
Bob MacKinnon: It was a great team effort. Obviously Nick Mazzella (D-Fenders GM) was the leader of the group alongside Lakers scout Jesse Buss and assistant coaches Casey Owens and Thomas Scott. It was a collaborative effort where we watched film and graded the players, which helped us come up with our draft board. Because of that team effort, we feel like we had a very good draft.
Ridiculous Upside: What is the biggest asset about directly working and being affiliated with an NBA team?
Bob MacKinnon: The biggest thing is that your players know that the way things are done are the "Lakers Way". We're trying to be a mini-model of the Lakers and I think that's attractive for players who want to achieve their dreams.