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Eric Musselman's Knack For Player Development, Is Proving To Be A Perfect Fit At The College Level

Last season's NBA D-League Head Coach of the Year, Eric Musselman, has found ways to implement his gift of developing players in the college ranks. Currently an assistant coach at Arizona State University, Musselman's vast coaching experience, including enormous success in the NBA D-League, has equipped Musselman with all the necessary tools to impact young players at the college level.

Eric Musselman sharing his immense knowledge, and experience with players as an assistant coach at Arizona State
Eric Musselman sharing his immense knowledge, and experience with players as an assistant coach at Arizona State
Steve Rodriguez

A season ago with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Eric Musselman won Coach of the Year honors while leading the team to an NBA D-League record 38 regular season victories, and their first Western Conference Championship in team history. Musselman also coached eight players to GATORADE Call-Ups, including Gerald Green, Jamario Moon, Jamaal Tinsley, Malcolm Thomas, Courtney Fortson, and Ishmael Smith. To say Musselman simply left his mark in El Segundo, would be an understatement. He ultimately helped the franchise match the success of it's legendary NBA affiliate the Los Angeles Lakers, while also perfecting his craft.

Musselman is apart of head coach Herb Sendek's staff at Arizona State University, and has shared his NBA and minor league coaching experience alongside Larry Greer, who also has NBA coaching experience. The additions of Musselman and Greer have helped the Sun Devils rebound from two straight losing seasons, as the two coaches continue to provide Arizona State players with their invaluable coaching experience, that they attained as coaches in the NBA.

Getting young players in the college ranks ready for the next level, is a process that has Musselman excited. He explained this notion to, adding, "as a former NBA coach, I seem to have instant credibility with players. The reality is, players want to further their career after college. The ability to coach players with potentially a 4-year window excites me as a coach."

Roughly five years ago, Musselman had the opportunity to attend a coaching clinic in Memphis, where he soaked up knowledge and insight from the likes of John Calipari and Larry Brown. Two coaches who have had a distinct eye for NBA talent over their careers. Kentucky head coach John Calipari contacted to share his thoughts about Musselman.

"Eric is one of the best in our sport. Extremely driven and knowledgeable. I've watched and coached against him in the NBA and FIBA games. In most cases, I ended up on the wrong end of the score! He has an uncanny feel for the game, and ability to read where the game is at. More importantly, is his ability to motivate and teach his players what it takes to improve and win. He is as good as it gets." Calipari said.


This season, Musselman has had a hand in the growth of Arizona State players Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix, as they have blossomed into NBA draft prospects. Looking back at Musselman's NBA and NBA D-League coaching career, it's easy to see that developing players is perhaps Musselman's best attribute as a coach. Over the years, Musselman has found a way to increase the total value in his players, notably in the D-League. Now he is applying that skill upon collegiate talent.

In a statement to, Bachynski explained Musselman's impact on the team as a whole. "Coach Muss has instant credibility with the players due to him being a former NBA coach. He inspires us with motivational messages on our chairs, some sports related, and other's are life lessons that have had a huge impact with our team."

Bachynski's teammate Carrick Felix also chimed in on Musselman's impact so far, "Coach Muss has really helped change our identity and style of play, ultimately to mirror what NBA teams do as far as style of play and game planning." said Felix.

Last season with the D-Fenders, Musselman impacted one particular player in general. Gerald Green was on somewhat of a comeback trail, and played for Musselman in 22 games. Green averaged 19.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.6 minutes. Green was also selected as the 2012 NBA D-League All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, and shortly after landed a Call-Up with the New Jersey Nets.

Now a member of the Indiana Pacers, Green has managed to stick in The Association after his Call-Up from the D-Fenders, and is averaging 19.3 minutes for the Pacers this season. Green also spoke with, "If I was a college player and wanted to play at the next level, coach Muss is the guy I would want to play for to help develop my game to be NBA ready. He taught me so much as a player in so many different areas of the game while in L.A."


When Musselman was a head coach for the Golden State Warriors, he worked alongside current Los Angeles Lakers Head Advanced Scout Clay Moser, and nobody has spent more time on the sideline with Musselman than Moser. Along with working together in Golden State, Moser was apart of Musselman's staff in Sacramento, The Dominican Republic, Reno Bighorns and L.A. D-Fenders. Moser spoke about Musselman with and added, "We were breaking barriers in (Golden State, The Dominican Republic, Reno Bighorns and L.A. D-Fenders), setting franchise records, or team records, and renewing energy and competitiveness to each situation." Moser further noted, "I have never feared walking out onto the floor to compete with him against anyone!"

Musselman pointed out how unique and special their impact was with the players in Golden State. "At Golden State we prided ourselves in increasing each player's value. Eric Dampier was close to being an All-Star, Gilbert Arenas, Troy Murphy and Brian Cardinal all increased their overall value as members of our team." said Musselman.

Including Musselman's first season with the Warriors, Dampier earned $27.8 million dollars in 7 years as a player in the NBA. After two seasons with Musselman, Dampier went on to earn roughly $70.1 million in 9 seasons. Dampier's career shifted for the better after time spent under the coach's system, and the same can be said for Gilbert Arenas. Under Musselman's tutelage, Arenas increased his first year averages from 10.9 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.8 rebounds to 18.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in his second year. He went on to earn the NBA's Most Improved Player award playing for Musselman as well. Arenas would ultimately go on and sign a six-year deal worth $60 million dollars with the Washington Wizards, after two years with the Golden State Warriors.


Including his time in the NBA D-League with the Reno Bighorns and Los Angeles D-Fenders, Musselman has exhibited an incredible ability to maximize each player's basketball skills. By placing each player that he's coached in successful situations, Musselman has created profitable futures for a number of talented players.The list of players in which Musselman has had a positive impact upon includes; Jeremy Lin, Gilbert Arenas, Gerald Green, Grevis Vasquez, Kevin Martin, Danny Green, Steve Novak, Jamario Moon, Donald Sloan, Courtney Fortson, and Malcolm Thomas.

Musselman is a prime example of how time spent coaching in the NBA D-League can benefit the longtime career of a coach. Any head coach, or assistant coach for that matter, that has spent time in the NBA D-League can explain how different, and unique it truly is to coach at that level. As he continues his coaching career in the college ranks, Coach Musselman's international coaching experience, combined with his head coaching duties in the NBA D-league and NBA, have set him up for success at the college level.