Following a D-League Showcase championship cup and a competitive postseason run after that, the Phoenix Suns promoted affiliated Bakersfield Jam head coach Nate Bjorkgren to a player development role with the big league club.
Since, the Suns have hired longtime NBA and NCAA assistant coach Chris Jent to be Bjorkgren's successor. Though Jent has served as an interim head coach during different points in his coaching career, the opportunity to steadily take charge and be recognized as the man with the plan is an unique and valuable one for him.
Jent is well regarded as one of the best shooting coaches in all of basketball. He's credited with having quite an impact on LeBron James' form when the two worked together during the star's first stint in Cleveland. What's more, Jent boasts the kind of background most who aspire to break into The Association only dream about. In addition to his extensive coaching experience, Jent was also an NBA and international player for a decade. He arguably relates to the type of grind such minor league athletes are on and the types of daily struggles they face better than anyone. If there's anyone who is able to motivate them from first-hand experience, it's Coach Jent.
Still, Jent and the Jam certainly haven't taken it easy when it comes to filling out the rest of the staff. Instead, they're creating quite a strong group of individuals to stand behind Jent and provide ample support along the way. Among the new additions are D-League coaching veterans Ty Ellis and Tyler Gatlin, RidiculousUpside.com has learned.
Ellis has been hired as lead assistant, and Gatlin will serve as an assistant as well, according to a source.
A D-League and international athlete in his previous career, Ellis is very well regarded by the players he helps mentor. And while he served on the Grand Rapids Drive's bench last season, Ellis' connection with Jent dates back to the gig he had before that. When Jent was serving as assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings, Ellis was an assistant for the affiliated Reno Bighorns in 2013-14. The two came together to help lead the Kings to an NBA Summer League championship that offseason.
Gatlin's experience will also make him a valuable asset on Bakersfield's newly revamped and bolstered staff. With a terrific eye for talent, he's a solid scout with a sound understanding for the game and its fundamentals. He's one of the more passionate coaches one will come across. Still on the younger side, Gatlin is easily one of the game's brightest up and comers.