One-on-One with Erie BayHawks Coach John Treloar

Beginning this fall, hoops fans eager to see which ballers might wear the Wine and Gold can take the short trip to Erie, Pa. to check out the Cavaliers new NBDL affiliate – the Erie BayHawks.

The man at the helm of the new Development League club will be Head Coach John Treloar, who brings a wealth of basketball experience to Western Pennsylvania – from the college ranks to the CBA to Germany. It’s hard to imagine a coach more qualified to be on the bench for the BayHawks.

Treloar spent the last two seasons as an assistant with LSU, where he was part of the team that went to the NCAA Championship in 2006. Before that, he served on Bobby Knight and Mike Davis’ staff at Indiana – going to six NCAA Tournaments, including the 2002 Hoosier team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four and finished as the national runner-up

A veteran head coach and GM in the CBA, Treloar’s teams advanced to the playoffs seven out of his eight years. In the CBA, he competed against such recent NBA head coaches as George Karl, Terry Stotts, Eric Musselman and Flip Saunders.

Treloar was just the second coach in league history to win a CBA Championship in his first season as head coach, taking the title with the Wichita Falls Texans in 1991.

Prior to his CBA career, Treloar was the head coach of the Olympic Sports Club in Bremerhaven, Germany, from 1982-86. The following year, he served as the head coach of the Steiner Optik Club in Bayreuth, Germany. He rounded out his international experience with a stint in Venezuela in 1997 – where he joined the team at midseason and went on to guide the club to the league championship finals.

He and his wife, Debra, have two children – Taylor, 9, and Trey, 6.

John Treloar took a moment out of his hectic schedule to talk with about his past experiences, his journey to the current post in Erie, and his goals for the BayHawks inaugural season in the NBDL …

What has the process been like – getting the BayHawks ready for competition this season?John Treloar: Well, in a developmental league situation, it’s not like you have a large staff.

In the NBA, on one side is the coaching staff and on the other side is the scouting staff. In developmental league situations, the coach does most of the scouting and the personnel work himself. And so that’s what I’ve been doing: really trying to catch up and get a base knowledge of all the players out there.

Having been working in the college ranks for the last number of years, I’ve certainly focused on the conference I’ve been in, and I’ve basically focused on the majority of the opponents that we face. So, it’s been somewhat of a “catch-up” time for me this summer.

I started out with Orlando Summer League and I went from there up to Cleveland, spent a couple of days in Cleveland with their Summer League team – practicing up there – and went to Vegas for Cavaliers Summer League and from there, went on to Salt Lake City for the Rocky Mountain Revue.

The difference for me was, we had practice and meetings and so forth and our games with the Cavs, but then I would attend as many of the other games as I could for the other part of my job, which is player evaluation of all these guys out there who might be available.

How did you learn about – and finally land – the job with Erie?Treloar: I had heard, occasionally throughout the past season, that the Cavs were in the process of establishing a developmental team and it was going to be in Erie, but I really didn’t know the particulars of it.

Then, I had a chance to sit down with Danny Ferry and Wes Wilcox in Atlanta during the SEC Tournament, which they were down there scouting. We had a chance to meet there and we spoke briefly about it. And, certainly, I let them know of my interest.

Then, Danny invited me to come to Cleveland right around the time of the first round of the Playoffs. I remember being there for Game 1 of the Wizards series, and that’s when I had a chance to sit down with the principal people in the process – Danny and Lance Blanks and Chris Grant, as well as their business partner in this project, Steve Demetrio.

I spent a couple of days up there with them in kind of a get-to-know-each-other process. And so that’s kind of how it developed. They offered me the job there and right after that, I accepted it.

You were able to coach the Cavaliers final two games in Summer League in Vegas. Obviously, Cavalier fans are curious as to how No. 1 pick, J.J. Hickson looked. What were your impressions?Treloar: He’s a great kid. I think it was big, being able to pick up a young talent like that at the 19th spot.

Athletically, around the rim, he’s very explosive – especially on the offensive glass, coming up with those tough offensive rebounds in traffic. He has a scoring mentality. His shot is not the prettiest-looking shot in the world, but it’s effective. He has scoring ability and he believes he can score from anywhere. And he certainly showed in Vegas League that he can score around the basket.

He’s going to have to learn how he’ll be able to score against better players, and that process will start in Training Camp. But he does have a natural ability to get his points and I think he’ll eventually find what will work for him against the good NBA players.

With your vast array of experience – in the college ranks, internationally and with the CBA – do you think you’re uniquely qualified for the job?Treloar: I’ve done the professional thing before, as a head coach in Europe and, during the time I was in the CBA, it was at its height. A lot of the guys I was going against either are (or were) head coaches in the NBA for a number of years now. I kind of took a different route and went back into the college game for the last 11 years, which has been a great experience.

But this was a unique experience (with Erie), I felt. I think it’s a great model that Danny and his staff (and Steve Demetrios) have set up, because it’s a partnership between Steve and his business expertise kind of merging with Danny and his staff’s basketball expertise. We’re trying to provide a situation that will help the Cavs in regards to if they want to send players down or they feel like there are some guys out there who need a little work to be able to play at the NBA level.

Now they have a place where they have a lot of influence and direction on it, so I think the model that they set up is a good one. For me, I’m elated to be a part of this project.

The Bay Hawks are a team that both the Cavaliers and Sixers will utilize. Have you had any contact with Philadelphia’s front office?Treloar: I have not, up until this point. But for them, they were involved in June – getting ready for the college draft and then summer league – so, here, over the next four to six weeks, is when I’ll have a chance to spend some time with them and offer our assistance.

We’re going to give them an opportunity and we will do anything we can to help in the development of players that they send us as well.

Are there skeptics out there who don’t see the importance of the D-League?Treloar: There are coaches and teams that see the value of it and others don’t. Myself, having come from this background and having personally drafted several guys who have gone on and had long NBA careers coming from the minor league system: I know there are guys out there that we can develop into solid NBA contributors.

That’s what I’m going to try to do and we as an organization are going to try to do.

As a veteran of the old CBA, what do you see as a major difference between that league and the NBDL?Treloar: Well, certainly the biggest thing now is the relationship that the NBA has with this project.

And the biggest thing, for me is that the personnel situation is pretty much controlled from the Developmental League office. They sign all the players to Developmental League contracts, and the one thing that really does is eliminate salaries from getting out of hand. Because what can happen, if each team is independently signing the players to the contracts, is it can escalate. And there are some owners that would spend whatever they had to spend to try to win ballgames.

I remember competing against George Karl for several years, while we were coaching (in the CBA) and they would always wind up with six or eight former NBA guys in the final stretch of the season. They had the financial wherewithal to do that. So, you know, that’s a little different than it is now. And I think that’s a positive because it will help to keep salaries in line with what they need to be with to make this league successful, financially.

Do you see yourself one day on an NBA sideline?Treloar: Certainly, I’m like all coaches who’d like to reach the top level of their profession. There’s no difference for me, there.

The stage that I’m in, though, I want to take advantage of the opportunity that I have to help the young guys that I’m working with, and do the best I can. And if that means I’m there indefinitely, that’s fine with me. I’m looking forward to the situation that I’m currently in and I’m not looking downstream at all.

I just want to take this job and do the best I can with it.