By Frank McLean
He’s only halfway through his first season as a head coach in professional basketball, but already Jerry Stackhouse is getting recognition for the job he has done with the NBA Development League (NBDL) Raptors 905.
After beating Canton 118-88, Stackhouse has the 905 sitting in first place in the Central Division with a 24-9 record, the second best in the league overall, just behind the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Defenders who are 26-8. So he got the honor of coaching the NBDL’s Eastern Conference All-Stars as part of the NBA All-Star festivities in New Orleans.
Coby Karl who is the head coach of the Defenders will be Western Conference coach, and if the surname sounds familiar it is. Coby is the son of legendary NBA coach George Karl who has over a thousand wins as an NBA bench boss.
After spending last year as an assistant on Dwane Casey’s staff with the big club over at the Air Canada Centre, Casey and team president Masai Ujiri thought he would perfect fit to replace Jesse Mermuys with the 905 who had taken a job as an assistant coach on Luke Walton’s Los Angeles Lakers staff.
Being a head coach in the NBDL presents a whole different set of dynamics than it does in the NBA, and Stackhouse has handled it with no problems.
You have a roster full of players who are trying to get to an NBA roster as well as having players sent down from the parent club who need minutes to develop which they can’t get on the NBA squad. When young players like Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright or veterans like Jared Sullinger on an injury rehab assignment are sent to Mississauga for playing time those non-Raptors players end up on the bench or not dressing for the game at all.
“He wants us to do every detail, to be perfect,” Caboclo told Pro Bball Report earlier this season. “Basketball is a game of mistakes and with him, (he wants) less. He works us very hard every day.”
“The 905 is like everybody is family. Everybody helps each other, the coach too.”
Balancing egos and keeping player agents happy are a big part of your job description. Fortunately, managing people is something Stackhouse is comfortable with.
“Managing people, managing the players, managing the different personalities not so much the basketball part of it is something I have been doing all my life and I feel comfortable with it,” Stackhouse said. “I think I’m a little bit father figure, little bit big brother. These guys are real young. Some of these guys I got they are kids aged 19-20. I’m a father figure to them but at the same time I have to forge a relationship with them so they can talk to me about things.”
One of the things Stackhouse and his coaching staff do every day at practice is run a drill where the coaches take on the players. At 41 Stackhouse is still in great shape and he will tell you he thinks he could still give some minutes in an NBA game if called upon. He can ball when he gets a chance to go one-on-one with his players.
But, Stackhouse will tell you his real joy is to get players to the NBA.
“It would be great to win the D-League championship, but my job is to try and help them (the players) get to the next level,” Stackhouse said. “If we get 10 of these guys called up, man that would be the best thing to happen to me this season.”
Stackhouse earned his moment in the limelight at All-Star weekend as a coach and the work he has done so far has proved Casey and Ujiri right when they tapped him for the Raptors 905 job.