Catching up with 66ers Head Coach Nate Tibbetts

The Tulsa 66ers advanced to the postseason for the consecutive straight season under head coach Nate Tibbetts in 2010-11. Tallying a 33-17 overall record, the most regular season wins in team history, the 66ers fell short in the D-League semifinals to the Iowa Energy.

Tibbetts noted that continuity within the program allowed the team to be successful for the second straight season.

“I think we had a number of guys that were consistent because we had a number of guys that were in Tulsa all year,” he said. “Marcus Lewis, Ryan Reid, Jerome Dyson, Elijah Millsap, all those guys were there all year. Brandon Brooks, Latavious Williams and Rob Vaden were also in Tulsa all season. We had great continuity and chemistry throughout the season.”

The team gradually improved from the start of the season to the end. While starting the season with an 8-6 overall record, the 66ers reeled off 14-straight victories to cap off an impressive 13-1 record in the month of January.

“I think our guys got used to our mentality of coming to work every day with the goal of getting better,” Tibbetts said. “We had so many new faces, it took a little while, but once we got into the season a little bit, I think everyone got more comfortable.”

Tulsa led the D-League with four GATORADE Call-Ups during the past season. Zabian Dowdell (Phoenix Suns), Larry Owens (San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards) and Robert Vaden (Oklahoma City Thunder) all earned call-ups in 2010-11.

“It was great to see those guys get call-ups during the season,” Tibbetts said. “That is what our league is about. Unfortunately, every team goes through changes during the course of the season. When you have a good team, that means you are going to lose players.

“At our level, sometimes it can come at an inopportune times, but it always happens for the right reasons. Those guys deserve opportunities at the next level and we are there to help them get to where they want to be.”

Since the conclusion of the past season, Tibbetts flew directly from Iowa where the 66ers were defeated in the semifinals to Oklahoma City to join the Thunder coaching staff for the remainder of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

“Basically, I am here to continue to learn and see how things are run here in Oklahoma City so we can continue to have continuity in Tulsa,” Tibbetts said. “Here in Oklahoma City, we have Rob Vaden, Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich who all spent valuable time in Tulsa this past season.

“I am around to help anywhere in practice and be someone who learns, whether on the court or in meetings with the Thunder coaches. I am very thankful for the opportunity Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and (Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager) Sam Presti has given me.”

Tibbetts has quickly caught on to the passion of the Thunder fans and the distinct home-court advantage Oklahoma City has built throughout the season and now into the playoffs.

“They say there's nothing like it and I believe them,” he said. “It's all Sooners and Cowboys fans and they've only got one team to root for here. It's just an amazing buzz. The starting lineups - if you're human, you get goosebumps just because of how loud it is and how in tune they are. It's a great atmosphere for our guys to play in and it makes it a lot of fun.”

As for Tulsa the 66ers, Tibbetts said it is important to continue to bring players to Tulsa with the right attitude and desire to succeed in order to sustain recent success.

“If we can build off of what we did last year and this year, we will have a chance to be successful,” he said. “We have to continue to bring in guys that want to improve every day. I would say our guys really came to work and were a pleasure to work with because they wanted to improve. That has to continue to be our foundation in Tulsa.”