By Frank McLean
After one year as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, NBA great Jerry Stackhouse has taken the next step in the journey to become a head coach in the NBA someday by heading over to Mississauga and taking over as the head coach of the NBDL Raptors 905 in their second season.
The opening at the head coach’s seat came available when Jesse Mermuys, who ran the team in its inaugural season, took a job with the Los Angeles Lakers to be on new head coach Luke Walton’s staff.
In a conversation I had recently with Stackhouse he said that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and team President Masi Ujiri thought that this would be a great opportunity for him.
Stackhouse also picked the brain of another Raptors assistant Nick Nurse who spent six years coaching in the NBDL and he decided to go for it.
“It’s an opportunity to get some coaching reps,” Stackhouse said. “I get a chance to teach these guys (players on the 905) a lot of what I know. I’m learning a lot of different scenarios. I’ve got the first seat and it’s a good experience for me.”
The roster of the 905 this year is going to be able to tap in to a guy who during an 18-year NBA career was a Raptors killer on the court.
His career started in 1995 with Philadelphia and had stops in Detroit, Washington, Dallas, Milwaukee, Miami, Atlanta and Brooklyn.
It’s in Brooklyn in 2012-13 where head coach Avery Johnson used Stackhouse as a player coach and he asked him to join his staff, but that fell through when the Nets decided to fire Johnson.
When I asked him about his coaching style, Stackhouse said he has learnt from all the great coaches he has played for. However, the first name he brings up is that of the late great North Carolina Tar Heel coach Dean Smith who he played for at that university.
“I try to coach the game similar to Smith,” Stackhouse said.
“Doug Collins is one of my favorites too,” Stackhouse added. “He was the best Xs-and-Os coaches I ever played for.”
Being a head coach in the NBDL is more than just coaching basketball and Stackhouse knows that. You are dealing with young players who were drafted by NBA teams and did not make it or were not drafted at all. You have a roster of players who still don’t want to give up the dream of playing in the NBA.
“I’m a little bit of a father figure and a little bit big brother. These guys are really young. Some of these guys, I’ve got kids their age 19-20. Myself, I’m a father figure and I want to forge a relationship with them so they can be open and talk about their game and their goals.”
And what goals does Stackhouse have for the upcoming season.
“My goals would be to win the D-League championship, but my (real) goal is to help the guys get to the next level. If we get 10 of these guys here right now called up to the NBA that would be the best thing that could happen to me this season.”
That in a nutshell is the purpose of the Raptors 905, to get players ready for the NBA.
Last year you saw players like Norman Powell and Delon Wright parlay their time in Mississauga into minutes with the big club downtown. Stackhouse knows that being on the Raptors coaching staff last season and he’s ready to get this year’s crop of 905ers ready for the big show.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.