NBA Summer League not only serves as a proving ground for the players hitting the hardwood, but for the coaches drawing up plays on the sidelines as well. Much like G League athletes relish this chance to shine, some minor league coaches are also given the shot to flex their X and O prowess in Las Vegas.
It’s more common for big league teams to instill their trust in a big league assistant already on the staff. Plenty of NBA assistants set to run the show for their respective teams in Sin City (shout out to Jordi Fernandez of the Denver Nuggets and Pat Delany of the Orlando Magic, among others) already boast experience as G League head coaches. A few teams, however, are taking the chance to roll the dice on a minor league coach a step further, however. The Knicks (Mike Miller), the Clippers (Casey Hill), and the Pacers (Steve Gansey) are among the teams who will allow their affiliate’s head coach to lead the way during NBA Summer League.
Such a strategy shouldn’t be considered much of a stretch. Coach Miller is coming off a campaign in which he earned “Coach of the Year” honors. Five players on the Knicks’ roster have previous experience with the coach, having played in Westchester as full-time prospects or while on assignment from New York. Who better than someone with existing rapport with a handful of the players, to lead them into battle? In addition, this opportunity gives Miller the chance to begin building a relationship with some of the new faces set to be in Westchester next season.
As for Coach Hill, he’s more than earned the opportunity to flex his coaching muscles with those at the next level. He coached the Santa Cruz Warriors to the G League Finals (once as an assistant and two as a head coach) three straight seasons, winning a title in 2015. He amassed an 114-86 record in Santa Cruz, and this past season, played a key role in helping assemble an expansion team for the Clippers. Having joined the Los Angeles umbrella approximately a year ago, this opportunity will give the big league team a greater chance to see what Hill can do up close.
Coach Gansey is another individual who has more than put in his time at the G League level to earn this valuable opportunity. He’s long been a member of the Pacers’ family, serving as an assistant with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants when the club hosted multiple affiliates back in the day. With Indiana as one of the affiliates, Gansey developed camaraderie with those at the big league level, making him a well deserving candidate to take over as head coach three seasons ago. Leading the way in Fort Wayne, Gansey boasts a 79-71 record. His team won the Central Division title this past campaign, and it’s clear Indiana values this opportunity to reward Gansey for his continued efforts, all while doing what they can to aid his own development.
The players may be front and center at NBA Summer League, but there’s plenty of development going on behind the scenes as well. For coaches like Mike Miller, Casey Hill, and Steve Gansey, this opportunity to coach in Las Vegas is just as crucial to securing their own path to the next level.