With a slew of head coaching positions needing to be filled in the NBA D-League this offseason, it'll be interesting to see who goes where. If one thing is for sure, it's that there are plenty of coaches to choose from, be it in the form of veteran coaches with proven success, or up and coming assistants hoping for the first chance to shine on their own.
Taking this all into consideration, RidiculousUpside.com will review the various openings and offer suggestions here as to who may be the best fit for each respective situation.
Earlier this week, D-League champion and 2013-14 Coach of the Year Conner Henry received that oh so coveted NBA call-up in the form of an assistant coaching post with the Orlando Magic. This came as quite the pleasant surprise, as he had recently made the decision to migrate back closer to home, switching from the Mad Ants to the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
And while the D-Fenders now have an opening again, the Mad Ants still do as well. Of course, the latter team offers quite an unique situation for a coach, for better or for worse. As the minor league's sole remaining independent franchise, the team was forced to maintain relationships with over a dozen non-independently affiliated NBA teams last season.
This is obviously a tricky task, as it means maintaining relationships with all of these respective teams and attempting to keep them happy. That said, what some do not realize is that perhaps expectations from such NBA teams to be accommodated is relatively low, given that there isn't enough motivation from such teams to go out and get their own affiliate to begin with.
Nevertheless, in addition to maintaining such relationships, the Mad Ants also have a commitment to its local community to stay involved, engage fans, and perhaps just as importantly, to win ball games. Development is obviously a key proponent for all teams, but with no NBA parent club to specifically answer to, Fort Wayne has more flexibility to take chances on veteran players who are more prepared to contribute and help a team win, and much less taking time to explore raw projects much like a big league team might want to.
Who might be the best person for the job, to help balance all of these existent priorities? That would be none other than Bob MacKinnon.
Like Henry, MacKinnon is a past D-League championship winning coach. What's more, his players (from youngsters to veterans) absolutely love playing for him. From James Mays and Dennis Horner, to Manny Harris and James Southerland, the list goes on. He's been able to connect with so many players across in the league. What's more, he's quite the motivator. After all, earlier this offseason, MacKinnon was welcomed by the D-League (even after a season away) to return for the sixth time as Camp Director for both the national tryout and the league's Elite Mini-Camp.
As such, he's certainly keen on development. After failing to catch on with a team last fall, Coach MacKinnon spent his time working out talented young guns (and perhaps potential future D-Leaguers) back home in North Carolina.
Someone who plays with an uptempo offense, MacKinnon is sometimes referred to as the Mike D'Antoni of the D-League.
The Mad Ants' job is one that requires and/or provides a bit more independence than other jobs in the D-League. Of course, the head coach reports to and works closely with President Jeff Potter and the rest of the team's operations staff. Still, such a situation is also one that likely provides a coach a little bit more flexibility to put his/her fingerprints on this roster. As mentioned, veteran players are arguably more valuable and/or appreciated in Fort Wayne than anywhere else in the D-League.
MacKinnon's relationships and personable nature would undoubtedly help him in a job like this, both when engaging NBA affiliates, and also recruiting and/or scouting players.
For a veteran and proven coach like MacKinnon, Fort Wayne would appear to be the perfect fit. But for someone with so much love, commitment, and dedication to what the D-League is all about (as evidenced by the minor league's trust and faith in him to continue being a big part of things this offseason), any team would be lucky to have him.