This last season, Fort Wayne Mad Ants assistant coach Steve Gansey helped the club make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. For Gansey, finishing as the 5th overall seed in the NBADL standings (27-23) was a tremendous accomplishment, and it finally landed the Mad Ants and himself in the NBADL playoffs. The closest Gansey had ever been to the postseason previously, was in his first season where the team finished a .5 game out of the final playoff spot.
In addition to making the playoffs this season, and assisting in the development of players such as 2013 NBA D-League Rookie of the Year Tony Mitchell, Gansey also resumed his familiar position as assistant coach for the Mad Ants. In the 2011-2012 season, Gansey, who was 26-years-old at the time, was hired to be the interim head coach after the team parted ways with Joey Meyer. Gansey was in his third season with the team after beginning his career as a volunteer assistant during the 2009-2010 season.
"Last year (2011-2012) was the biggest learning experience I've ever had. I learned that until you're actually in that seat, it's a lot different than sitting six inches to the right or left. Until the actual pressure is on you in huddles and during the game, you don't know how you're going to react. I knew I was going to make mistakes, but I just focused on not making the same mistake twice."
Before the start of the 2012-2013 season, Fort Wayne hired veteran minor league coach Duane Ticknor to take over the club after Gansey's interim run. The combination of Gansey alongside Ticknor proved to be a winning formula for team president Jeff Potter. Gansey talked about his role and relationship with Ticknor, "Coach Ticknor put me in charge of the defense, he would also let me run huddles on occasions, and coach entire practices while he watched up in the rafters." Gansey said.
Back as an assistant coach this season, Gansey managed to implement strategies that he learned from his head coaching experience the previous season. "I now know what to look for during games, and I think it helped us. Having someone tell you what you're missing out there is important. Working this past season with coach Ticknor in that regard was phenomenal." Gansey added.
Not only did Fort Wayne finish the season with it's first ever playoff berth, but Gansey along with the entire organization assisted in the emergence of Tony Mitchell. Mitchell shined in the second half of the season, especially when Luke Harangody went down with an injury and the team needed a go-to guy. Mitchell averaged 21.7 points per game and won the NBADL Rookie of the Year award.
Gansey reflected on Mitchell's stellar season, "I remember watching Tony in Summer League and thinking that he was an NBA talent. When Mitchell became available in the player pool I was told that we needed to pick him up. He is an unbelievable shooter, and at first I didn't realize that. He became our go-to guy down the stretch and we needed a guy like him after our other guys went down."
It was an entire group effort to help Mitchell reach his potential as Gansey explained, "Tony was in a great situation, he was surrounded by veteran guys and that was huge for his growth from November til the end of the season." The emergence of Mitchell is apart of what makes Gansey so special as a coach, his ability to assist in player's development. "For the first, second, and third year guys the focus is on their development. That's one of my specialties, I love working with these guys."
Despite his young age, Steve Gansey has become one of the premiere coaches in the NBADL, and as he continues to gain valuable firsthand experience, Gansey has positioned himself nicely for a successful career in coaching. "Obviously, I'd love to coach in the NBA but as of right now I'm getting a lot of experience. Coach Ticknor lets me do so many things, and it is allowing me to develop my coaching craft. I truly believe that I'm always learning. I'm enjoying my time and hopefully this summer I can build my basketball knowledge even more so." Gansey concluded.