Price Gaining Valuable Coaching Experience
By John Denton
July 12, 2012
ORLANDO – Working as a head coach at the NBA level for the first time, Mark Price furiously installed several plays and defensive concepts for the Orlando Magic in the three days leading up to the summer league.
Much to Price’s dismay, however, his Magic went out earlier this week and missed 14 free throws in what turned out to be a five-point loss to the Detroit Pistons in the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League.
Maybe it was only natural for Price – the NBA’s all-time leader in free throw percentage for the regular season and postseason – to assume that his team had the art of shooting from the stripe down pat. It gave him just a taste of the sometimes confounding nature of being a head coach.
``You have no idea how frustrating that is as a coach. I’ve been working on plays and everything and I haven’t been able to work with their free throw shooting,’’ said Price, who led the NBA in free throw percentage three times in his career and shot at least 90 percent from the line seven times in 12 seasons. ``Goodness, gracious.’’
A head coach for the first time since working in Australia 2006, Price is back stalking the sidelines this week as he directs a Magic summer league squad. Whereas most of the eight teams in Orlando this week have a couple of players with NBA experience, Orlando’s squad is filled with mostly rookies, undrafted free agents and second-year players with little-to-no meaningful NBA experience.
None of that seems to matter to Price, who is simply delighted to get the chance to prove his chops as a head coach. After serving as the Magic’s player development coach for a season, Price was asked to coach the summer league squad after Stan Van Gundy and his staff were dismissed following the season. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has continued to interview prospective coaches for the Magic’s top job, but asked Price to guide the summer league in the interim.
``It’s a lot of fun. I love the game and I love to teach. To get to do this, I’m very appreciative to the staff for allowing me to do this,’’ Price said. ``I’m getting to do things kind of the way I wanted. I’ve been able to work under a lot of great coaches through the years and I’m taking things from this guy and that guy and trying to create my own way of doing things. I’m having a great time and I’m relishing the opportunity to help these guys get better.’’
One such player that Price has helped is power forward Andrew Nicholson, the Magic’s first-round pick in the recent NBA Draft. With the Magic and Nets tied at 86 on Monday, Price called timeout and drew up a play to free Nicholson on the post. His advice to the rookie was to attack the defense and make the referees make a call. As it turns out, Nicholson not only made the right-handed jump hook as he was fouled, but he also buried the free throw that provided the winning points for the Magic.
``He looks very comfortable with the ball in his hands and he knows how to score the basketball,’’ Price said of Nicholson, the 19th overall pick of the draft. ``It doesn’t matter if it’s left hand or right hand or little hooks inside because he’s got deceptive size. He’s got extremely long arms and when he extends up, it’s tough for people to get to it. And for a kid his age, he’s got extremely good footwork. He has a lot of upside and he hasn’t even figured everything out yet.’’
Price, 47, had things figured out when he was a player, becoming one of his generation’s elite point guards while playing in Cleveland, Washington, Golden State and Orlando (1997-98). He averaged 15.2 points and 6.7 assists while making four NBA All-Star teams. He is Cleveland’s all-time leader in assists (4,206), ranks 19th in NBA history in 3-point percentage (40.2) and had his number retired by the Cavaliers.
As for the free throws, no one in history was better. He once made 77 straight while playing for the Cavs, one short of the NBA record. And during the 1992-93 season, Price made 289 of 305 free throws – just one more miss than the Magic had in Tuesday’s summer league game. His 90.4 percent career free throw shooting percentage ranks him first all time just ahead of new Laker point guard Steve Nash, whose percentage dipped to 90.351 last season.
``It’s me right now (in the lead) because Nash kind of had a subpar year at about 89 percent,’’ joked Price, who closely monitors Nash’s success at the free throw line.
``I’m hoping he has another subpar year again next year and I can keep the lead a little bit longer.’’
And Price wouldn’t mind staying on the sidelines a little longer after a week of summer league action. His goal is to serve as a NBA coach this season, and quite possibly even as a head coach.
``They asked me to coach the team and I’m just the kind of person to focus on the task at hand,’’ said Price, whose younger brother, Brent, is one of his assistants this week with the Magic. ``I want to do as good a job as a can coaching this team for the summer. And hopefully somebody out there takes notice that I might know what I’m doing a little bit.’’
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