Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| January 24, 2006
When the Seattle SuperSonics had an opening on their coaching staff after Bob Hill
was promoted to head coach earlier this month, former Sonics All-Star Detlef Schrempf
was an obvious choice.
Before deciding to hire Schrempf, Hill wanted an opportunity to contact close friend and former Sonics assistant Tom Newell to discuss the job. But the ties to Schrempf simply made too much sense. Hill coached Schrempf during his four seasons (two and a half as head coach) with the Indiana Pacers. Schrempf, meanwhile, had been looking to get back into coaching, and had helped the Sonics on a volunteer basis during training camp.
"He's familiar with the players, he understands my system because he played for me. I feel confident that he can help."
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
It all came together last Friday, when the Sonics named Schrempf an assistant coach.
"He's familiar with the players, he understands my system because he played for me and I thought it made sense to give him half a season to see if this is what he wants to do," Hill said before the Sonics played host to the Toronto Raptors Friday. "I feel confident that he can help."
"I'm looking forward to it," Schrempf said. "I was at training camp, and it was fun working with the guys. You hope this is a situation where you turn the team around and become competitive. It's fun. It's a good group of guys, and I look forward to it."
Schrempf will not travel with the Sonics, focusing on working with the team on the court during home practices and sitting behind the bench during home games and participating in the team's huddles. Schrempf will also be available to work out injured players who stay behind in Seattle during road trips. In a sense, the second half of the season will serve as an opportunity for Schrempf to try out the life of an assistant coach and see if it is the right fit for him.
"It's a window of opportunity," Schrempf explained. "I've been interested for over a year and I let the Sonics know, but nothing ever materialized. This is an opportunity where it's a short period - half the season, three months-plus. It gives me a good idea of what it's like and them a good idea of what I can do and what I can't do."
Schrempf points out he has been coaching for some time, dating back to international clinics he led for adidas during his playing days. Schrempf continued to hold clinics as part of his Detlef Schrempf Foundation after retiring.
"I've always enjoyed that part," he said during training camp. "It's obviously a little bit different at the NBA level because of the time commitment and travel and such, but I enjoy working with the guys on the court. We'll go from there."
Schrempf first talked with the Sonics about a coaching position this summer, when the team was looking for three assistants. At that time, the team went with more experience in Hill and Ralph Lewis, who spent three seasons as a head coach in the NBA Development League. After helping out during training camp, Schrempf told the team to give him a call if a more permanent position opened up.
"I said, 'I'm not a college kid,'" Schrempf recalled. "'I'm not 20 years old and can hang out five, six hours in the gym. I have a job, I have a family, I have a foundation, so I'm pretty busy. If that's something you guys want me to do, it's got to make sense. I've got to have a role, something you want me to do, not just, 'Show up whenever you want to.' When you're ready, you have my number.'"
Because of his family, Schrempf wasn't interested in coaching with anyone but the Sonics.
"There were opportunities elsewhere, but I want to see my kids through high school, so moving or anything like that is not an option," he said.
Schrempf played some of the best basketball of his career when paired with Hill in Indiana. He won the NBA's Sixth Man Award in Hill's first two seasons as head coach, then moved into the starting lineup and made his All-Star debut in Hill's final season with the Pacers. After that year, Schrempf was traded to the Seattle, where he led the Sonics to the 1996 NBA Finals and made two more All-Star appearances.
"I enjoyed playing for him," Schrempf said. "We practiced hard and we played hard. You played hard and smart; it didn't matter if you won or lost. You put the time in; sometimes it didn't work it. I enjoyed it. He's very structured, very detail-oriented and it was pretty simple."
Schrempf is excited about the opportunity to make use of what he learned during his 16-year playing career now that he is in a coaching role.
"Obviously, we're struggling right now," he said. "But I think this is a good group of guys. I think they are talented. The young guys are coming around. But the bottom line is, if you don't play well, you have to make some changes. Bob has really instilled some discipline. They're working hard; there's been some hard practices and learning a new offense and a different defense. The last few practices have been pretty good. I think we're definitely going in the right direction."
Schrempf will be focusing his efforts on the Sonics forwards. He's worked in the past with Rashard Lewis as part of his development into an All-Star, and now Nick Collison and particularly Vladimir Radmanovic - to whom Schrempf has often been compared - should benefit from his tutelage.
"He came in as a shooter, while I became a shooter," contrasted Schrempf. "We're trying to make him more of a driver. He's got huge potential, obviously."