Former HBCU Student Lindsey Hunter Signs on as Interim Head Coach of Phoenix Suns
Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Thursday, 28 February 2013 17:14
Lindsey Hunter is in select company as interim head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
The former Jackson State point guard is just the sixth HBCU product to be head coach of an NBA team, joining Earl Lloyd (West Virginia State), Willis Reed (Grambling State), Al Attles (North Carolina A&T), Bob Hopkins (Grambling State) and Avery Johnson (Southern).
Hunter brings a ton of playing experience to his new position, having played 17 seasons in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago before retiring two years ago, but no previous coaching experience. He was a player development assistant for the Bulls during the 2010-11 season. The Suns hired him as assistant head coach for player development last August, and tabbed him to replace Alvin Gentry on Jan. 20.
Hunter says becoming a coach was a natural next step for him.
“Ever since I was a player," he says, “and being a point guard, I always felt that I had that instinctive feeling about teaching, directing and being responsible for a team. That’s just part of my makeup. Being obsessed with basketball the way that I am, it’s natural for me to be on this road. I said a long time ago that even if I hadn’t been an NBA player, I probably would be teaching school and coaching. I love to teach, and I love to be in the gym. That’s why God created me and sent me this way.’’
A lot of eyebrows were raised around the NBA when they hired Hunter, who was a finalist last summer for the Orlando Magic but had no coaching experience. Some of the most successful coaches in NBA history learned their craft through on the job training similar to what Hunter will go through.
Don Nelson, No. 1 among NBA coaches with 1,335 career victories, started with the Milwaukee Bucks a year after finishing his 13-year playing career. Lenny Wilkens, second to Nelson in career victories, began as a player-coach. Bill Russell led the Boston Celtics to back-to-back NBA titles as player coach; Doc Rivers was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2000, his first season on the bench with the Orlando Magic after going into broadcasting following his playing career, and he coached the Celtics to their 17th NBA crown in 2008, and Larry Bird moved from the Celtics’ front office to the Indiana Pacers’ bench as coach in 1997, and in three season he led them to three playoffs berths. His teams reached the Eastern Conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once. The Pacers set a franchise record when they finished 58-24 in Bird’s first season, and he was named NBA Coach of the Year.
Hunter says being a finalist for the Orlando job “showed me that what I believe in and what I stand for holds true.’’ He sees no reason that he can’t have similar success to Bird, Russell, Wilkens and Nelson in spite of his lack of success given the knowledge of the game that he gained during his 17-year playing career.
“I get that all the time,’’ Hunter says of his lack of coaching experience. “I’ve been around basketball my entire life. This is what I’ve lived. It’s what I’ve been around. I consider it my personal experience. People may say, "You still haven’t coached. But it’s still my personal experience. It’s what I’ve been around. ’’
Hunter says his situation is no different than anyone else in any other profession who is entering the work force.
“For some players, it might not have been this way,’’ he says. “But for me it was just like going to college. You go to college, and you study to be in the field of communications. But until you have worked at it, you still have no experience. Still, it’s what you studied.’’
Indiana Pacers president Donnie Walsh has often said that playing 10 or more years in the NBA is like getting a PhD in another field. Hunter concurs with that school of thought.
“I look at it that way and even more so now with the way the league is trending with the young players,’’ he says, “and the way basketball is evolving with the young players. It helps me to be not so far removed from the guys so I can understand and relate where they are coming from and realize that the things we take for granted that should know, they don’t really know. It’s more of a teaching environment now than it’s ever been.’’
NBATV analyst Sam Mitchell, a former NBA Coach of the Year for the Toronto Raptors, is one who appreciates the challenges that Hunter will face. Mitchell became coach of the Raptors after just two seasons as an assistant coach.
“That’s a huge leap,’’ Mitchell says of Hunter’s transition from working with players to develop their skills and not having any responsibilities in regard to game strategy. Mitchell says Hunter’s assistant coaches will be critical to his success.
“The question is going to be is he secure enough and confident in what he wants to do. Sometimes you surround yourself with older coaches who can teach you. But you have to be careful in delegating responsibilities. Players gravitate to whoever makes the most sense. You’ve got to solicit advice. You got to listen. But you got to have a idea of what you want to do when you walk in the room. If you don’t, they will tune you out.’’
Hunter was a three-year starter for Jackson State, where he averaged 20.1 points after transferring from Alcorn State. He averaged 26.7 points his senior season. His big moment came in the first round of the 1993 NIT against UConn. Hunter scored 34 points in the second half against the Huskies and finished with 39 as Jackson State 90-88 won in overtime. Hunter scored eight of the Tigers’ 10 points in the overtime period.
The Detroit Pistons chose Hunter with the 10th pick in the first round of the 1993 NBA Draft. He was a member of their 2004 championship team that Larry Brown coached. He was also member of the 2002 Lakers’ 2002 title team. He says he increased his basketball knowledge immensely while playing for those Hall of Fame coaches, particularly Brown.
“The experience that I had with Larry Brown taught me that you stick to your values,’’ Hunter says. “You stick to your beliefs; you stick to your principles, and you go with it. You teach it, and you get guys to buy into what you’re trying to get them to do. You stick with what‘s right. That’s not just basketball principles; that’s life principles.’’
Andy Stoglin, a basketball consultant at Mid-South Community College in Memphis, Tenn., who coached Hunter at Jackson State, says Hunter’s eagerness to learn from Brown, Jackson and the other coaches he played for and his work ethic will make him a top-flight coach.
“He pays attention,’’ Stoglin says. “He wasn’t just out there. He learned that stuff. To me, Lindsey was a very average point guard when he played for me. He was a shooter. He learned to be a point guard in the NBA."
Stoglin says Hunter weighed about 165 pounds when he transferred to Jackson State. He bulked up to 195 because of his work in the weight room. He also says Hunter developed his left hand because his father tied his right hand behind his back and had him dribble for a half mile.
“He did the work,’’ Stoglin says.
Hunter was known as one of the most tenacious on-the-ball defenders in the NBA during his career, and he says he wants the Suns to develop a defensive mentality.
“The identity we’re trying to build,’’ he says. “That’s tough. For years, when [you] said Phoenix Suns, what did you think? You’d think offense. Me coming with a whole different mindset, it’s going to be a challenge. I’m positive and confident we’re going to get there. I see sounds every day. I’m going to keep pounding and grinding and keep working until that vision comes to pass.’’
The Suns got off to a hot start under Hunter, winning their first two games with him at the helm. They beat the Sacramento Kings 106-96 in his debut, and they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, the Pacific Division leaders, 93-88 the next night. They have also beaten the Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies since Hunter took over, giving them wins against four teams that are likely to make the playoffs.
However, those were the Suns’ only wins in their first 10 games under Hunter, who has had precious little practice time since taking over. Eight of the Suns’ first nine games were back-to-back contests.
”I take it for what it’s worth,’’ he says. “I try to impart as much as I possibly can whether that’s at shoot around or off days when I get young guys in the gym. I’m there with them trying to impart all of the things I want to instill in our team. Every opportunity is a teaching opportunity. In this case we have to take advantage of them.’’
The Suns entered the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1968. They have fourth-best all-time winning percentage in league history and have made 29 playoff appearances in their 45-year history without winning the championship. They have missed the absent from the postseason the past two seasons and three of the last four. Hunter’s says his goal isn’t to just get the Suns back into the playoffs.
“We have a bigger goal than just to be competitive,’’ he says. “We have a bigger goal than to be a good team. We want to be mentioned with San Antonio and all those organizations that have maintained a level of excellence for a period of time. The reason they have been able to do that is because their foundation has been so solidified that it’s almost like a factory. That’s what we want to create. I’m asking a lot. To reach the level we want to reach, we have to expect excellence in every thing. They have to learn what excellence is in every area. It’s my responsibility to hold them accountable.’’
Michael vs. LeBron? It's a Match Made For Video
Written by Andrew Seligman, AP Sports Writer Wednesday, 15 August 2012 16:19
Michael and Magic versus Kobe and LeBron?
Sounds like a dream matchup, and it could be coming to a video game console near you.
With USA Basketball and 2K Sports forming a partnership, fans can see what happens when the amazing 1992 Dream Team goes up against this year's Olympic gold medal winner once NBA 2K13 hits the shelves this fall.
Never mind that it's not quite the real thing, more fuel is about to be added to the debate. Not that there really is a debate in Michael Jordan's mind.
"We'll never know, but let's talk about it," Jordan said on a conference call. "I know Kobe (Bryant) said some things early on and I responded to those. The '92 Dream Team, I felt, was a more well-rounded basketball team."
It's hard to argue, considering the 1992 Dream Team had Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird leading a group that is widely considered the greatest collection of talent ever assembled. That team included 11 future Hall of Famers, won its six Olympic games by an average of more than 43 points en route to the gold medal and never was challenged the way this year's team was by Spain in the gold medal game, with the Americans squeezing out a 107-100 victory.
Then again, that's a testament to the global growth of the sport that the 1992 team spurred, leading to an influx of foreign talent in the NBA.
The '92 team boasted arguably the greatest player of all time in Jordan and greatest point guard in Magic Johnson, not to mention Larry Bird and dominant centers in Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. If the most recent group had a weakness, it was in the middle, with Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin sitting out with injuries. Throw in the fact that Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose missed the games, too, and the Americans weren't quite fully loaded.
Still, they brought plenty of ammunition to London, with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Bryant leading the way. And even with some stars missing, there still was talk that this year's team could be as good as the one that stormed through Barcelona two decades earlier. Bryant fueled the debate when he told reporters during training in Las Vegas they could take a game from the 1992 team if they met in their primes.
Even though Bryant didn't say the current stars would win a series, the comment drew sharp replies from members of the 1992 team. Jordan told The Associated Press back then that he "absolutely laughed" and said there's "no comparison" which team is better.
This time, he wasn't quite as blunt.
"I just felt like we had enough size that we could contend with the 2012 team," Jordan said. "I think one of the things the 2012 team lacked was size. We probably would have attacked them from inside and outside, and our defense would have been pretty much solidified with the shot-blockers as well as perimeter defensive players.
"I think those guys were much more athletic than maybe we were at that particular point, but I would like to think we were a little bit smarter and well-groomed about playing at that level of basketball. Honestly, I don't think we would have had problems with them as much as they probably would have had (with us). I think our team would have been a lot better in terms of all-around basketball."
There's no way to know for sure, of course. There's no time machine that can transport the 1992 team to today or the 2012 team back 20 years, so the video game might be the next best thing. If nothing else, it'll give the debate another platform once the game is released on Oct. 2.
The idea of seeing Jordan going against Kobe or James should intrigue fans, even if they're the ones at the controls and the players are in graphic form. Right?
The numbers indicate they would. Jason Argent, 2K Sports' vice president of marketing, said he didn't have the online statistics but the company sold about 5.5 million units of the 2K11 game, and another 4 million units for the 2K12 game, which was impacted by last season's NBA lockout lockout.
Even so, the company wasn't planning to include the 1992 and 2012 U.S. teams.
He said Jay-Z provided the push.
The rapper and part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets is serving as the game's executive producer, and he insisted in a meeting that those Olympic teams be included. He also helped get Charles Barkley to sign on and be included.
"He put in a call to Charles, himself, and helped us work an agreement to use him in the game," Argent said.
One player who won't be represented in the game is Scottie Pippen. Argent said they simply couldn't reach an agreement.
As for which team was better — 1992 or 2012? Jordan thinks it's just beginning.
"The only way it can end is to lace them back up and play against them in 2012, but I don't think that's going to happen," Jordan said, laughing. "Just let the debate begin."
Former NBA Star Dennis Rodman Finally Meets Father
Written by Oliver Teves, Associated Press Thursday, 19 July 2012 15:00
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has finally met his estranged father after 42 years of separation, following an exhibition game in the Philippines.
Philander Rodman Jr., who has acknowledged fathering 29 children by 16 mothers, says he was happy and surprised that his son agreed to meet him late Wednesday. He tried to meet the basketball Hall of Famer during another game in Manila in 2006.
"It was great," he said Thursday of the first time he held his son's hands since they last met in December 1969.
"I've been trying to meet him for years. And then last night, boom, I met him. I was really, really happy and very surprised," he told The Associated Press.
The NBA "Alumni" team, which also included Scott Pippen, Horace Grant, and Mitch Richmond, played against former top professional Philippine Basketball Association players in the All-Star Challenge. The Alumni won.
Philander, who has been living in the Philippines for nearly 50 years, said he wanted to explain to his son that he didn't abandon his family in the United States, but they only had time for greetings and handshakes.
He said he spent only about three minutes with his son, who was also busy signing autographs.
"I really, really felt good," he said. "It's the beginning of something new."
He gave his number to his son who promised to call.
He said his son did not even want to talk about him six years ago, but he was encouraged to try again to meet him after Tuesday's press conference where the former Pistons and Bulls star invited him to watch Wednesday's game.
"I don't hate the guy that brought me into this world," Dennis Rodman told reporters. "The fact is, if I saw him, I'll just tell him, 'You know, you're a friend of mine.'"
During a break, with seconds left to the end of the game, Dennis Rodman grabbed a microphone acknowledged his father's presence and pointed to him in the arena.
The crowd applauded as the elder Rodman stood up wearing a red baseball cap that said "Yes, Dennis Rodman is my son."
The 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran now operates the Rodman's Rainbow Obamaburger restaurant in northern Angeles City.
He said his restaurant menu includes burgers with red, yellow and green colored buns and fries, colors associated with his flamboyant son.
Knicks Ponder Lin Decision
Written by Chris Duncan, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, 17 July 2012 14:55
Time to make a decision, New York.
Keep Jeremy Lin, or let him go?
The Knicks have until 11:59 p.m. EDT Tuesday to match Houston's three-year, $25 million offer sheet or release Lin, who became an international phenomenon during a dazzling February. A person with direct knowledge of the process says the Rockets delivered the offer sheet to the Knicks late Saturday. But the Knicks have never officially acknowledged receiving it, so not even the Rockets were certain if New York planned to honor the deadline.
Lin initially agreed to a four-year offer sheet worth about $28 million. The Rockets threw a curveball at the Knicks by revising the offer and making it three years and including a guaranteed salary of about $15 million in the third year. If the Knicks agreed to that deal, they'd have to pay a hefty luxury tax in 2014-15 — between $30-40 million
One sports consultant said the adjustment to the offer sheet was a stroke of genius by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
"The Rockets deserve a lot of credit for the way they've gone about this," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp. "It was extremely intelligent — with an assassin's touch."
Ganis says the Knicks should swallow the "poison pill" anyway, because of the immeasurable value that Lin, the league's first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA, added to the franchise internationally. He says the Knicks would not directly recoup the luxury-tax hit, but Lin would drive higher television ratings and continue to raise the team's profile in Asia, a prosperous market for the NBA since Yao Ming played for the Rockets.
"The Knicks, as important and as relevant as the Knicks' brand is in New York, it became internationally known by adding Jeremy Lin to it," Ganis said. "I can't speak to whether it's a good basketball decision. But from a marketing standpoint, I'd say it's a very poor decision."
David Schwab, who specializes in matching brands with celebrities as managing director at Octagon First Call, says the Knicks would be gambling by re-signing Lin, who started only 25 games last season before he was sidelined with torn cartilage in his left knee.
"There's a risk he gets hurt, there's a risk he's not a star, there's a risk that he's not at the same level where he was when he played," Schwab said. "Do I think the opportunity is there and have they built good will and do they have the luxury of going to marketplace and figuring that out? Yes. But you also have to believe that for the past six months, that's what they've been doing."
Lin's life has been a whirlwind since last December, when he spent less than two weeks in Rockets' training camp. The Rockets liked what they saw in the undrafted Harvard graduate, but had to waive him because they had Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic on the roster.
The Knicks picked him up and Lin was once again relegated to the bench, behind Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby. Lin was briefly demoted to the developmental league, recalled and finally got his chance when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in with the Knicks floundering at 8-15. Lin scored a career-high 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets and "Linsanity" was born.
Lin had slept on teammate Landry Fields' couch the night before, still refusing to get his own place as he headed into that week, knowing the Knicks would have to decide whether to cut him or guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
But Lin proved more than just an overnight sensation — he had 28 and 23 points in his first two NBA starts, then scored a career-high 38 in a 92-85 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The stock price for Madison Square Garden Inc. surged on the production and popularity of the team's international star. Lin also made the Sports Illustrated cover in consecutive weeks, only the 12th athlete to hold that distinction since 1990. On Tuesday, Lin had more than 829,000 followers on Twitter.
The more opponents saw Lin, though, the more they seemed to figure him out as the season wore on. He went 1-for-11 with eight turnovers in a humbling, nationally televised loss in Miami and the Knicks dropped their first six games in March.
D'Antoni resigned in mid-March and Lin hurt his left knee less than two weeks later. The Knicks revealed on April 1 that Lin needed surgery to repair a meniscus tear and would miss six weeks.
The Knicks made the playoffs behind surging Carmelo Anthony, but bowed out to Miami in the first round. The Rockets, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the third straight year and have spent the offseason completely rebuilding their roster.
Houston has been trying to put together a package of assets and draft picks to offer Orlando in exchange for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard. In the process, the Rockets lost the unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, then traded Lowry to Toronto in exchange for a future first-round pick with lottery protection.
With no true point guard left on the roster, the Rockets turned back to Lin. The Knicks may have shown their hand when they brought back Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland. Felton averaged 17 points and nine assists in 54 games for New York in 2010-11, before he was traded to Denver as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal in February 2011.
Houston, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to reacquire their popularity in China, where Yao became a larger-than-life figure. Many Rockets landed lucrative shoe contracts with Chinese companies on Yao's coattails and Rockets' games drew massive television ratings there.
While Lin is an American success story, Schwab thinks he would reopen in-roads the team established during Yao's eight seasons (2002-11).
"Teams base their decisions on wins and losses, because wins and losses ultimately affect ticket sales, sponsorships," Schwab said. "I still think it's a win-loss decision, but I think, in their case, it's weighed more as a marketing decision. They've got more to gain right now, with a decade of Yao and companies they've done business with. They've got kind of the next frontier there."
NY Knicks' Kidd Arrested on DWI Charge in Hamptons
Written by The Associated Press Sunday, 15 July 2012 17:39
New York Knicks point guard Jason Kidd was arrested on a drunken-driving charge after police said he crashed his SUV into a telephone pole in the Hamptons on Sunday, days after signing with the Knicks.
Treated at a hospital for minor injuries after the crash, Kidd was arraigned on a misdemeanor driving-while-intoxicated charge and released without bail, Southampton Town police said.
Kidd's agent didn't immediately respond to phone or email messages. The Knicks, who signed the 10-time All-Star in free agency this week, had no immediate comment.
Kidd, 39, was alone in the 2010 Cadillac Escalade when it hit a pole and veered into the woods around 2 a.m. in Water Mill, police said. Water Mill is a serene, mainly residential community east of Southampton Village.
Kidd's next court date wasn't immediate available. The DWI charge carries the potential for up to a year in jail.
The Knicks signed Kidd away from the Dallas Mavericks this week in a deal that will pay him about $3 million a year. Kidd had played in New Jersey, leading the Nets to two NBA Finals appearances, before being traded to Dallas and remains fond of the New York City area, where his children continued to live.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been in trouble with the law before. While playing with Phoenix in 2001, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge, acknowledging that he struck his former wife.
Kidd is second on the NBA's career list in assists and steals. The Knicks believe Kidd, who helped the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA championship, would be a good mentor to point guard Jeremy Lin if the team opts to keep him.
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