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Get To Know New Springfield Armor Coach Bob MacKinnon

McKinnon won a D-League title in his first-ever year of coaching in the league, when he steered the Colorado 14ers to a championship in 2009. Now, he becomes a central part of an organization looking to make waves in the NBA.

Just after Bob MacKinnon, Jr. was introduced as the brand-new head coach of the NBADL's Springfield Armor on Wednesday, MacKinnon sat down with's Kevin Scheitrum to talk about how he got here; where he, the Nets, the Armor and the D-League plan to be; and just about everything in-between. At this point in your career, what made Springfield the right fit?

MacKinnon: I think the fact that theyíre a hybrid partner with the Nets makes it one of the most attractive -- if not the most attractive -- team in the D-League.

To have the opportunity not only work with people like [Nets GM] Billy King, [Nets coach] Avery Johnson, [GM of Minor League Operations] Milton Lee and [Nets assistant GM] Bobby Marks and the rest of the Nets franchise, along with the people in Springfield, that's what makes it really attractive.

What makes that hybrid model so attractive, as you say, more so than shared ownership?

Because you are one-on-one with an NBA team. Youíre gonna run their stuff, you're gonna be in their system. I'm a big believer in 'If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It."

Minor League Baseballís been doing this for a long time now, so you want to stick with what works.
Bob MacKinnon
Minor League Baseballís been doing this for a long time now, so you want to stick with what works.

Do you see the D-League as something that, in 5-10 years or so, will be fully one-to-one?

I think thatís the goal. I think itíd be fantastic if that were to take effect. The D-League would be a great league, even much more than it is now. If we ever get to be one-on-one with every team, I think youíd see a lot more quality in terms of every aspect, from playing to coaching to officiating to managing. Itíd all roll pretty well.

You came into the league in the 2008-09 season [when MacKinnon coached the Colorado 14ers (now the Texas Legends) to a D-League title]. Even in the two years since then, how much have you seen the league evolve?

The evolution of it is coming through in terms of things like hybrids, in the things the Nets are doing, and thatís where the great strides in the D-League are taking place. For a franchise like Springfield, for a franchise like the Nets itís a tremendous thing.

Take me through the process of getting to Springfield. What brought you there?

I heard there was an opening. I sent my stuff in, they contacted me, I interviewed with Milton Lee and Bobby Marks, and a week and a half ago, they brought me up and I sat down with coach Johnson. It was less like an interview and more like a coaching clinic. It was a lot of fun.

To talk X's and O's with Avery Johnson was a great opportunity. Whether I got the job or not, it was a great day.

Youíve got coaching in your blood, with your dad a big name in the region and in NBA history [Bob MacKinnon, Sr. was a GM and coach of the Nets in the 80's]. When did you realize that you wanted to make your own name in coaching?

To be honest with you, I always wanted to be an NBA player. My dad was a coach, and I was around basketball, thatís what we did.

To talk X's and O's with Avery Johnson was a great opportunity. Whether I got the job or not, it was a great day.
Bob MacKinnon
But in 6th grade I was in a car accident, and the doctor told me Iíd never walk again without a limp, and Iíd have trouble playing competitive sports. Then my goal was to be a college player and coach, and I achieved both [MacKinnon played at King's College, in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. and coached at a number of universities, including North Carolina]. Itís been very rewarding being in basketball my whole life.

There are always a ton of applicants for coaching jobs. What was your sales pitch to the Nets? What got you in the door?

I was just myself, and I represented myself as I am. My father always told me that if was gonna coach, to put my heart and soul into it, and thatís the way Iíve approached it every day. Thatís part of what's helped me -- I have a passion for the game.

Youíve always played a fast-paced style in the league. Can we expect more of that in Springfield?

Iím gonna sit down and learn how coach Johnson wants it done. Iím gonna follow his lead. Whatever his lead is, is the way you want to play. There are so many different ways to play this game, and it comes down to how you have to be able to pass, dribble, shoot, defend and rebound. As long as you're solid fundamentally, if you play fast, slow or in-between, youíll be good

In a hybrid system, your approach is a little different than that of a coach running a shared team. Maybe youíre playing more according to the system of the pro team, instead of letting players just show their stuff. Is that a challenge youíre looking forward to?

People in this league, they come out and watch, they realize this is the second-best basketball league in the world.
Bob MacKinnon
Itís a good challenge. Being one-and-one, it gives your players a little more direction, a little more focusÖthe one thing with every player in this league Iíve found is that he players are extremely motivated. Getting them to play hard has not been a problem. Itís a great level to coach, and thatís why I enjoy it so much -- the players in this league play hard.

How similar is that to your college coaching experience?

College coaches have different motivations that they have to use. For us, the motivations for players is getting to the next level, getting to the next thing, and you're helping them to get to the next thing. Thatís why the D-League is a great players' league. People in this league, they come out and watch, they realize this is the second-best basketball league in the world.

Given that there are some people in, say, Spain whoíd beg to differ, why do you think that is?

I just think night-in and night-out, they really do play hard because they know theyíre being looked at.

Do you feel, as a D-League coach, like you have to be more than just a coach? That you have to be part mentor, part tutor, as you help people grow into NBA-ready players?

You have to be a great teacher in this league, as well as motivator, as well as mentor. You have to be a good manager of people and managing relationships. I'll be honest with you, I did my Master's in education because I wanted to be a better teacher, which would make me a better basketball coach.

Did it work?

I do draw on things I learn from my Master's program, especially people's different learning styles.

In this league, your goal is to lose your best 1-2-3 players.
Bob MacKinnon
In the past, you've been able to send a number of guys into the NBA. Of course, as far as winning's concerned, that's a double-edged sword. Is it tough to strike the balance between a good record and losing your best one, two, even three players every year?

[Laughs] In this league, your goal is to lose your best 1-2-3 players.

Baseball's had that system around for 100 years, and thatís what the D-League is for -- to give people more opportunities. If the players feel you have their best interest at heart, theyíll want to play for you.

Weíve seen the Nets undergo a lot of changes recently. From some real tough years, to new ownership, to a new arena while they wait for another one to be built, theyíre a team on the move. How does being part of a team in transition affect this position?

I think itís a great time to be a part of the Springfield Armor because it's a great time to be part of the Nets.

When you talk to the guys that hired you, do you see a team thatís got a plan for the next five to 10 years?

These people have a plan, theyíre working their plan, itís exciting to be part of their family.

Playing in Springfield has a special significance, with the Hall of Fame next door and the birthplace of basketball just down the road. How much does that sweeten the pot?

That's the other great thing. Being in Springfield, with the basketball community you have automatic name recognition. Anywhere you go, if itís a basketball person, Springfield, Mass, means -- boom-boom-boom -- Basketball Hall of Fame. Itís nice to be part of that basketball community.

Itís a great day for me, it's a great opportunity to be a part of an exciting time in the Springfield Armor history, and to be a part of the Nets basketball family is a great opportunity.