Livingston Has Seen It All in Professional Career
Former Stampede Player, Assistant Coach Now at the Helm

By Travis Tate

Idaho Stampede Head Coach Randy Livingston is ready.

He is ready to get the season underway as the team’s eighth coach in franchise history – he is the team’s third coach since joining the NBA Development League in 2006-07.

Livingston is ready to be back in familiar territory – he holds the Stampede franchise record for games played with 158, playing in spurts from 2000-2008, and with over 1,400 assists. Livingston was also the D-League MVP in 2006-07 and as the team captain of the D-League champions in 2008. His No. 32 jersey hangs in the rafters as the only retired number in the franchise’s history.

More than anything else though, Livingston is ready to accept yet another challenge – his life in basketball has been filled with them.

“This is what I do,” Livingston said. “When I wake up, when I go to sleep, when I’m having lunch, when I’m working out, I’m always thinking about how to get better as a coach.”

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Livingston is coming off of a two-year stint as an assistant coach in the D-League – the first, 2008-09, was under legendary Stampede coach Bryan Gates in Boise. Then, last season, Livingston latched on with the Maine Red Claws – some connections were immediately made while in the northeast.

“The biggest, most special thing is I got to be a part of the Celtics brass,” Livingston said of working with the team whose affiliates are the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats. “[Red Claws Head Coach] Austin Ainge and his dad (Celtics GM Danny) talked every day; I did the draft last year because Austin was sick – Danny came by. The Celtics welcomed with me with open arms. Talked a lot of with Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeaux, watched them practice, went to three of the Finals games. It was a great experience; it was a good way for me to broaden that horizon.”

Hooking up with the Red Claws gave Livingston the chance to be around one of the most legendary franchises in professional sports – but in dealing with the Bobcats, Livingston also got to work with Head Coach Larry Brown, one of basketball’s most legendary coaches.

“I got to go down to Charlotte and hang with Larry Brown and actually did some playoff preparation with those guys this past season when they were playing Orlando,” Livingston said. “Then I got to go to summer league with those guys as an intern helping, whatever they needed.

“It was good to get that underneath my belt because Larry Brown is a great coach and respected throughout the basketball world. I kind of took some ideas for sure, in terms of x’s and o’s, that I’ll run here this season in Boise.”

Without the move to Maine, who knows if Livingston would be as equipped to lead a team as he is now. His last few years as a player, Livingston said he was already making the transition to coaching, knowing that it was something he wanted to do after he was done playing. But even with those extra meetings and responsibility while simultaneously playing, Livingston didn’t necessarily deserve – or more importantly, want – to be a head coach right away. The two “buffer” years were a vital part to his development as a coach.

“I certainly didn’t skip any steps,” Livingston said. “I think part of the natural growth and process of coaching is you sit back and you don’t have all the responsibilities thrown on you at once. So, being an assistant for two years gave me a chance to really refine what type of coach I want to be.”

At the very least, simply changing his perspective – working for an expansion franchise, meeting different people in a different community, working with a different set of business and basketball operations staff – allowed Livingston to see more of the D-League.

“It was good to get away. Did I expect to be back here? Not sure,” Livingston said. “In this business you never know what to expect. I kind of thought it would have been best for me to have not left in the beginning, but now when I look back on it, it was probably the best thing to happen. I think things happen for a reason, I got to go away, learn a new way of doing things from the whole business side and the basketball side.

“Sometimes you get spoiled or stale staying in one place, being around the same people, you take them for granted, you take different things for granted, I think it was good all across the board. It gave me a chance to grow on and off the court, so that was important about that year. Bill (Ilett, Managing Investor) and I remained friends and remained in close contact. When the job came available I was pretty much the first one to call him; it was just a perfect marriage and now it’s great to be a head coach here.”

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Randy Livingston is a known commodity in the basketball world. He was a top-flight, can’t-miss, blue chip prospect coming out of New Orleans’ Isidore Newman High School. When he was at LSU, Livingston could not overcome the injury bug – his talent was still deemed so special as to warrant being selected in the second round of the NBA Draft in 1996.

Livingston played for 10 different NBA teams and never stuck anywhere longer than the 80 games he played in Phoenix for part of two seasons.

This is not a plea for mercy – don’t feel bad because he didn’t make an NBA All-Star team or lead his team to the NBA championship – because at this point in his life, the travels have been an advantage.

An NBA journeyman career begins and ends. The world still turns – and for Livingston, things are now turning in his favor.

“One thing people don’t understand is that throughout all of my journeys, getting cut 20-plus times, I networked to death. Those relationships are good,” Livingston said. “I always did what I was supposed to do: I studied, I was ready to play, I never had a problem with my playbook, and the coaches respect that. I mean, I have a great relationship with (Utah Jazz) coach [Jerry] Sloan, (Portland Trail Blazers coach) Nate McMillan, and not only those people, but the front office people, too.

“My journey – people say, ‘man, I’d never want your career,’ but man, I worked it.”

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He’s never been the head coach before, so what should fans, opposing teams and his own players expect to see from a team coached by Randy Livingston?

“I think we’ll be a little more traditional than we were last year in the sense that we’ll guard and we won’t be as up with as much pace, but we’ll run in transition and try to create easy shots,” Livingston said. “I just think it’ll be more like the time I played here and the time I coached with coach Gates. We were probably top-four in the league when I played and coached in the league, defensively.

“I gave Bill (Ilett) my basketball philosophy. That’s the first thing: defense wins championships. And that will be our hallmark, that will be something we hang our hats on. That’s just part of my make up as a coach; I think that if we can defend, we’ve got a chance. We may not shoot the ball well every night, we may not score a lot of points every night, but if we can score just enough and hold them to a low field goal percentage and be top in the league in defensive rebounding, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

One aspect to team defense is that it is mostly conceptual and based on effort – the same can be said of offensive basketball, but sometimes shots simply don’t go in. This could especially be true of a team that has a roster that is constantly changing.

“The way the D-League travel is and the way players are shuttled in and out, we’re contantly making adjustments offensively,” Livingston said. “It’s going to be ugly sometimes, that’s just how the D-League works. But defense is all about effort; it’s all about cohesiveness and guys willing to sacrifice for each other and I think you can do that every night.

“If you can defend every night, you give yourself a chance and that’s probably something when you look at all the D-League champions in the past four or five years, they were all pretty good defensive teams, regardless of who they had out there.”

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The gains to Livingston’s positivity and work-ethic are already paying off – there are only so many pro basketball head coaching jobs, especially in the NBA or NBA D-League – and he sees the fruits of his labors through a different prism now.

“One thing that I can see as a benefit of what I did go through is you get a lot of former players that want to coach,” Livingston said. “They’ve been out of the league; if you were one of those guys who went out all the time or had a bad rep, it’s hard to get back in. If you know people and you’ve done well – even if you got cut, if you just carry yourself in the right way, in a professional manner, and was a student of the game – from general managers to coaches to assistant coaches, you have those guys, you have those relationships.”

Those hours, days, weeks, months and years as a sort of NBA-outsider – a journeyman relegated to 10-day contracts and minor league basketball – are now the most key reason why Livingston is where he is now.

“It’s hard when I see guys from the outside trying to get in. It’s a hard business to get in,” Livingston said. “Once you get in, you’re pretty good, but it’s a hard way in. Maybe those journeys and all that stuff was worth it after all – I would like to believe so.”