As the NBA D-League becomes more and more prevalent, minor league teams are building and/or forming much closer relationships with big league teams, and vice versa. As that continues, other well-known players and/or staffers from around The Association are beginning to take notice, not only of the league itself, but also the unique opportunities it provides those who decide to jump in and get involved.
Credit first-year Grand Rapids Drive head coach Otis Smith as one of them.
After retiring from the NBA, Smith spent one more season playing abroad. Since, he's gone on to hold a bevy of titles in respective front offices, including General Manager of the Orlando Magic for six years.
Not only does Coach Smith know what it takes to compete and reach high-levels of competition as a player, but also what those in NBA front offices are looking for. This makes him quite the qualified individual to lead such a group of young guns.
It certainly doesn't hurt that he's also working closely with a number of familiar faces. Stan Van Gundy, currently the affiliated Detroit Pistons' President and Head Coach, worked alongside Smith as coach of the Orlando Magic during the previous tenure.
"I think the advantage is having a strong relationship with a lot of people in that circle," the coach told RidiculousUpside.com. "But for me, it's all about these guys and giving them the opportunity to make it to the next level."
For Coach Smith, the goal at hand is easily identified.
"I want these guys to advance. We want to see them at the next level. Whatever that is," he added. "Whether it's a better job somewhere in Europe, or here. This is a short, short window. You can't do this for a long time. You can't eat. It's all about teaching and getting these guys to the right place."
After leading his team to a first game win in this year's Showcase against the Austin Spurs, Smith now has his team sitting pretty at 12-9 in the D-League standings. He added that he's been enjoying the transition into this role, but said, "I'm looking for the same thing," when it comes to his eye for talent.
"This is fun. This is an opportunity. Nothing has changed for me much," the coach concluded. "You know, I've always really enjoyed the teaching side of the business. That's what this is all about."