As much as each and every professional sports teams hopes to achieve continued success while developing continuity from year to year, that often proves to be quite the tricky task in the NBA D-League.
There are so many moving parts from one season to the next, often calling for fresh starts and brand new opportunities for many of those involved. This, of course, is by no means a bad thing. The more someone goes on to accomplish, the greater of a chance they have of moving on up to The Association.
This has certainly been the case in recent years for many D-League head coaches, as the likes of Nick Nurse, Chris Finch, Steve Hetzel, and Pat Delany (among others, of course) have emerged from the minor league coaching ranks to assume NBA assistant coaching positions.
Where one door closes, another one opens. When such mentors find opportunities elsewhere, their existent head coaching posts are left vacant for the next qualified individual to step on up and make the most of the chance at hand, hoping, they, too, can capitalize and rise to similar heights as well.
With that in mind, here are five talented D-League assistant coaches who would likely thrive as head coaches, if given the opportunity.
**Editor's note: This is, in no way, necessarily a rankings system of any sort. Surely, a strong enough case to move up could be made for any number of coaches in the league. Here is simply a look at some of those very staffers with success on their side, a strong enough resume to boast, and a desire to continue following such a path**
John Bryant, Delaware 87ers
Coach Bryant knows what advice to give players on their respective journeys and understands all too well they type of grind they're on. After all, he experienced it all himself, too.
The 87ers' assistant made the Bakersfield Jam via the open tryout process and went on to play for the team as well. After hitting the court for Bakersfield, he instead proceeded to don a suit and rose up through the coaching ranks, first as an assistant, then as an Associate Head Coach. He's now in his first season with Delaware as an assistant. Needless to say, he's knowledgeable about the game and compassionate towards what his players go through. See more here.
Gene Cross, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Unlike many of his fellow assistant coaching counterparts, Coach Cross has actually been a head coach in the D-League before. He narrowly missed the playoffs with the Erie BayHawks in 2012-13, but his team still managed to boast a 26-24 record on the campaign. After falling under .500 last season, the head coach was the odd man out once the Knicks moved their affiliate to Westchester.
D-League standings are often quite tight, but despite no playoff appearance, there's no doubt Coach Cross found some success that many fail to at this level. He understands his X's and O's and can convey it in a manner that's easy and enjoyable to comprehend. What's more, he knows how to balance the different personalities that come through the D-League ranks.
Raman Sposato, Santa Cruz Warriors
Coach Sposato unquietly boasts over a decade of experience on the NBA level already. He's served in a variety of roles with teams like the Blazers, Clippers, and Pistons, and is highly regarded for his video coordinator work.
While this is the coach's first year in the D-League, he's arguably amongst the best when it comes to communicating with and/or motivating the young minds of today's game. Like coaches such as Delany and Hetzel, perhaps all Sposato needs now is success as a head coach on the minor league to find his way back and land a steady role in The Association.
Steve Gansey, Canton Charge
Coach Gansey accepted an Associate Head Coach position with his hometown Charge this past offseason, after serving as a key part of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants' first championship last season.
As an assistant to 2013-14 Coach of the Year Conner Henry, Gansey became well known and highly regarded for helping keep players motivated over the course of what can be a trying minor league season, while also playing a role in managing the team's substitutions patterns. Despite being a "younger" assistant, he's already a veteran and has plenty of experience. See more here.
Craig Hodges, Westchester Knicks
Talk about experience. As a player in the NBA for a decade, Hodges won two championships and three 3-Point Contests. He went on to play internationally, and even won two more NBA titles as an assistant under Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before coming to the minor league, he was most recently a head coach in Canada.
Needless to say, he's pretty much done it all, except serve as a D-League head coach, that is. Coach Hodges is a part of Westchester's staff, hoping to help further the Knicks organization's development of younger talent and subsequent understanding of the triangle offense. Someone who is said to have strong rapport with many of the players, it'd be interesting to see what kind of success would translate on the court if he were given the opportunity to lead his own group, in Westchester or elsewhere.