NBA Vets Find A New Place to Develop


A new NBA D-League season will tip off Nov. 22 and that means new draft picks, former NBA D-Leaguers and even NBA veterans will soon be chasing their dreams to make it to the next level. The NBA D-League, however, is not only providing a path to the NBA for its players, it is also proving to be a destination for former NBA players to gain experience in coaching.

This season, there are nearly a dozen former NBA players on NBA D-League coaching staffs. They have landed in the NBA’s official minor league system in hopes of building a foundation to get “called-up” to the NBA in a different capacity.

One NBA veteran, Sean Rooks, is now an assistant coach with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and he has already spent a few years in various coaching roles in the NBA D-League. Over time, he has recognized the learning benefits this league provides when pursuing a coaching career.

“If you’re going to start your coaching [career] or your coaching goal is to be to get back to that highest level…to coach at the D-League is a trampoline to get to the NBA or to be the best coach you can be…The developmental league is exactly what it says, it’s the greatest place to develop for young and up-and-coming professionals,” said the former center who played 12 seasons in the NBA.

Another former NBA player who has landed in the NBA D-League as a coach is Anthony Carter, a newcomer in coaching that ranks that played 12 years in the NBA, including a short stint with the San Antonio Spurs. Carter decided to get into coaching because throughout his career teammates had always looked up to him and saw him as a coach on the floor. So Carter decided to send out his resume to NBA coaches and general managers once he finished his playing career.

Luckily, someone responded. And it just happened to be a future Hall of Famer.

“Pop [Gregg Popovich] called me back,” Carter said.

Carter saw this as a great opportunity to learn as an assistant coach in the NBA D-League with the Spurs’ NBA D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros.

“I’ve just been watching a lot of film of guys and have been hands on as far as sitting in some of the coaches meetings, just listening to how Pop runs things and how he prepares the practices,” said the former guard. “So I’m taking that all in and trying to take it to the D-League level and make my mark out there from learning from his coaching staff and hopefully I get a call-up and become one of the Spurs assistants.”

Newly hired assistant coach of the Canton Charge, James Posey, played 12 seasons in the NBA and is also using the NBA D-League to launch his coaching career.

Sean Rooks
Sean Rooks at a D-League Pre-Draft Camp NBAE/Getty Images
At the NBA D-League National Tryout this past summer, NBADLeague.com caught up with Posey to discuss his goals in the NBA D-League.

“I’m just trying to get my feet wet and trying to become a coach,” he said.

For Rooks and Carter, they are already learning more than expected because they are working with a single-affiliated NBA D-League team.

“Obviously I’ve been around a lot of teams in my day, but that’s [the Miami Heat] a first-rate organization, I was really impressed,” Rooks said. “Everybody works hard and everybody has a lot of basketball knowledge, but to kind of see the purity, to kind of see that everybody has their role, every role everybody respects…I’d put it in simple terms as you have a family.”

Carter also feels that personal family feeling from Austin’s parent team in San Antonio.

“The D-League interacts with the Spurs, they run the same plays, they do the same defensive schemes and it feels like a family,” said Carter. “And just the way that they run the organization, I just felt like it was a great place for me to be to learn from one of the greats of all time in coaching.”

But it does not only benefit these former NBA players to coach in the NBA D-League, these NBA veterans also fill mentoring roles for young players and can teach them what it takes to make it in the NBA.

“I want to teach the guys what I know from my 12-year career, how to be a pro and how to work hard and not expect anything,” said Carter who went undrafted in the 1998 NBA Draft and spent a year in the CBA before making it to the NBA by joining the Miami Heat in 1999.

Recently Luke Walton, who won two NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, has chosen to pursue coaching and was hired as a player development coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders—a position where he can also help mentor players.

In an interview with D-Fenders.com, D-Fenders General Manager Nick Mazzella focused on this point about Walton.

“Having played on two Lakers championship teams, Luke is aware of the hard work and type of culture required to win. He will be a valuable mentor to our players and will dedicate himself to improving their basketball skills and advancing their careers.”

And by helping NBA D-Leaguers advance their careers, these NBA vets are doing the same for themselves.