College - Wheaton '55
From The World’s Most Famous Arena to the Great Wall of China, Dick Helm’s coaching itinerary has included virtually every port of call in the basketball world.
Now is his 16th season as an NBA assistant coach, Helm joined the Knickerbockers on Jan. 16, 2004. In his second year in New York, Dick’s assignments include an emphasis on quality control, the defensive game plan and mapping out practice sessions throughout the season. After joining the Knicks in mid-season last year, he recognizes the advantages of guiding a team from the first day of training camp in 2004-05.
“It’s very, very difficult for any coach to come in mid-season because you’re coming into a situation where you’re immediately playing games with very little practice time,” says the 71-year old Helm. “This year, the thing that excites us is that we’re able to implement what our philosophy is, a philosophy that obviously you’re going to feel comfortable about because it’s yours. You can build all your training and coaching and drills around that, and you already know what your expectations are going to be. So that’s the exciting part and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
A veteran of more than 40 years of coaching, Dick is with his fifth team as an assistant alongside Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens. He also served next to Wilkens with the Seattle SuperSonics (1984-85), Cleveland Cavaliers (1986-87 through 1992-93), Atlanta Hawks (1993-94 through 1997-98) and Toronto Raptors (2002-03). Helm also scouted both the NBA and college ball for the Miami Heat from 1998-99 through 2001-02.
“The thing I love about Dick is that I talk about things, I see things, things are popping in my mind. He’s listening, and the next thing I know he’s got it all written down, and then I’ll look at it and make adjustments,” says Wilkens. “We’ll sit together every day and go over the outlines for practice, for games. I like doing that with him because he’s a guy I can bounce things off.
“Dick helps with the administrative stuff, getting practice outlined and making sure that I don’t forget something. He knows me so well and he’ll go over all these things and we’ll critique it and stuff like that. He’s like my right hand. I’m good because he helps me be good.”
“I think the big thing is, from the first time we met, I would be the guy who helps fill in all the days between the game days,” says Helm of Wilkens. “All the preparation, doing a lot of the organizational work, getting things ready so the practices run smoothly, all of that type of thing that would free him up to concentrate on the coaching. I think this is where we’ve really clicked. He’s given me a lot of leeway in that area of developing everything that takes place.”
In the summer of 2004, Helm spent nearly two weeks in China as part of the inaugural NBA-CBA Coaches Camp, presented by McDonald’s and conducted in cooperation with the China Basketball Association. He joined fellow NBA coaches Don Casey, Dean Cooper and former Knick Rolando Blackman in instructing 150 Junior Olympic coaches. For Helm, who has also conducted hoop clinics in Australia (in 1990 and 1991), Argentina (1996), Greece and Spain, the China trip was an unforgettable experience.
“With all the teams and clinics I’ve run, usually there’s a lot of dialogue between the coaches, and then you sit around afterwards,” says Helm. “The way in which they operate (in China), they look at the coach as the authority figure and so they’re basically listening to what you have to say and taking that rather than dialoguing. So that was a surprise to me.”
“They were very gracious to my wife and she got to go places every day while I was in the clinics,” continues Dick. “We took a trip outside the city to the Great Wall, and also some of the tombs of all the Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall was just an unbelievable thing to see. You can’t conceive how they could build this strictly following along the mountaintop ridges. The people were very gracious to us, very hospitable. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and one which I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to again.”
Helm began his coaching career at Wheaton (IL) Central HS. After serving for 14 years as a high school coach and administrator, he logged three years as head basketball coach and athletic director at Judson College in Elgin, IL In 1975-76, Helm began an eight-year tenure as head coach at his alma mater, Wheaton College.
In 1983-84, Helm joined North Central College in Naperville, IL, as assistant basketball coach, and at the same time began his NBA career as a scout for the SuperSonics.
Dick has written columns for Letterman magazine and for the National Association of Basketball Coaches journal. He is an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was honored by the FCA in 1990 as the association’s Ohio Sportsman of the Year. In 2001, Helm assisted with the Lenny Wilkens Legacy Series of instructional videos.
A 1955 graduate of Illinois’ Wheaton College, Dick served as class president, was a letterman in basketball, football and track, and is a member of the school’s “Hall of Honor”. He earned a Master’s degree in administration of education with a minor in physical education from Michigan State before serving two years in the Army. Helm is a member of the Illinois High School Hall of Fame for athletics and is also enshrined in the Athletic Hall of Fame of his alma mater, Tuscola HS in Illinois. A longtime member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Executive Committee, he is currently the organization’s treasurer.
Born on Feb. 9, 1933, Helm and his wife Andrea have seven children and 17 grandchildren.