Last season, the likes of James Posey (Canton Charge), Zendon Hamilton (Idaho Stampede), and Sean Rooks (Sioux Falls Skyforce) were among those former NBA players to wet their coaching whistles (both figuratively and literally speaking, of course) through assistant posts in the D-League. Such exposure and experience for all involved worked out quite well.
This offseason, there will surely be a handful of other former veterans who will look to follow the same path. But for NBA champion Jaren Jackson, such a journey has already begun. The wheels are already turning. Following a twelve-year career in The Association (in addition to stints in other related leagues as well), Jackson went on to serve as head coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and most recently, was a head coach in the NBL of Canada.
But as the D-League has continued to evolve and more teams catch on to the increasingly popular train of operating a single affiliate, Jackson, too, has made strides as a coach. Taking this all into consideration, the journeyman feels as though it's time to return to the D-League space once again.
Given all of his experience to date as a player and coach, Jackson could warrant some consideration for a head coaching post in the NBADL for the coming season. The veteran took some time out to speak with RidiculousUpside.com about what he's been up to lately, his hopes for a potential D-League return, and the types of things he learned from Coach Gregg Popovich.
Continue reading below for more.
Q: Most recently, you've been coaching in the NBL of Canada. How was that experience, and what motivated you to give it a try?
A: That experience was great. After coaching in the D-League for a few years, that same opportunity was no longer there. But then this new league came about. My friend Ian McCarthy was telling me about the NBL starting up in Canada. It sounded like a competitive league, and I was excited just to keep my name in the mix. I was able to stay involved in minor league basketball and coached there for two years. It was great, and I hope that league continues to grow. That opportunity reminded me of my playing days in the minor leagues before the NBA.
Q: Last month, you were included in a group of former players who participated in a program geared towards preparing such guys for an assistant coaching post in the NBA. Is that what's next for you, or could we see you in the D-League again?
A: I've always reached out to colleges, too. I look for different opportunities and am open to various things. Given my background and the way I've gone through my journey, one would think that the D-League, or any level in which one has to work harder to get their shot in the NBA, would also be their level of coaching. That's the case for me. If the NBA comes, that will be great too. But I've always considered myself a leader, so I'm trying to gravitate towards an opportunity that allows me to lead, develop, and build a team throughout the year. But I'm open to growing, whether that be at either level as a head or assistant coach. It's a grind similar to what I went through as a player. I'm not going anywhere, so I'll be ready when someone comes to appreciate what I can bring to the table.
Q: So in a sense, it sounds like you could probably relate well to D-League players. You're a great example of a guy who triumphed through a similar path (in the CBA), and emerged to play a prominent role for a championship winning Spurs team.
A: Absolutely. I can relate. My time with the Spurs was just awesome. I played with Hall of Famers, as well as many guys who are in the coaching ranks now. I'm hoping and expecting that my time with the Spurs will translate into success on the coaching front, much like it has for many others. I enjoyed my time and met some great folks. Hopefully it'll continue to work out for me, just like it has for those who have come through that organization.
Q: We can argue that you sparked a trend of minor league guys stepping up in big ways for San Antonio. The likes of Danny Green and Patty Mills have followed suit most recently. Coach Gregg Popovich appears to reward guys like that. What did you learn from him, that you'll continue to carry with you as a coach?
A: Pop is a guy who takes on pride on both ends of the floor, but his overall message is just awesome. He wants players to share the ball, play unselfishly, and play to their own strengths. Most importantly, for me as a player, Coach provided a comfort level for those guys looking for opportunities to succeed at the NBA that would not have been looked at in the same light otherwise. I'm talking about guys who went undrafted or those who just needed someone to appreciate their special skill set. Pop does that better than anybody. That's something that I want to do when I coach, and I've done that so far. It's about making sure each guy is appreciated, from the stars to the last guy on the bench. That's an important key to putting together a winning team. Year after year, you see guys just pop up and contribute on that Spurs team more than people believe. I understood that, because I was one of those guys. I want to provide players with similar NBA opportunities.