Rising Stars May Have Produced a Rising Coach in Irving
CHARLOTTE – Kyrie Irving looked like a seasoned coach Friday night, as he paced the sidelines and shouted out advice at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, where he was serving as the honorary coach of Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.
The TNT broadcast took note of his active tutelage and told him when he came on the air early in the fourth quarter that he was giving off “Red Auerbach vibes.”
“Do I? Am I missing the cigar?” Irving joked, playing along with the announcers’ observation. “The legendary cigar, that’s all I’m missing.”
It was clear that Irving was enjoying his role, as he helped guide Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum and Team USA to a 161-144 win over Team World. He admitted the next morning that a future in coaching had not previously been on his radar, but after having the opportunity to spread his basketball wisdom to the next generation of stars, he says it’s now something that he may consider pursuing if the opportunity presents itself down the road.
“Being around the game is something that’s very unique for everybody who has the chance to do it, especially if you have those relationships in the league and they want to keep you around,” Irving explained Saturday morning during an All-Star media session at Bojangles Colosseum. "They want to have your knowledge be imparted on the next generation, so if that opportunity approaches down the line, if I have to go get my college degree to be an NBA head coach, I would do it.”
Irving got to show off his coaching skills on the air, as TNT mic’d him up for the early portion of the fourth quarter for a brief interview. At one point, one of the announcers requested Irving to demonstrate his teaching ability, so Irving complied by barking out orders over the next 55 seconds of game action, during which Team USA went on an explosive, 11-2 run.
“Hey JT, would you get up the court? Get up the court!” he playfully barked at Tatum, who had been jogging lightly up the court with the ball. “I got to talk to JT like that to try and get him going.”
Tatum was Irving’s primary target for many of the orders he dealt out, as he Irving implored the 20-year-old Celtics wing to play some defense in the high-scoring affair.
“It was awesome,” Irving said of coaching his younger teammate. “I was trying to get him MVP.”
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma ended up winning the award behind a 35-point performance, but Tatum was not far behind, as he produced 30 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
“It was fun to be around those young guys,” Irving said of his experience with the whole group. “Those guys are the future of our league, so I’m excited to be kind of in this in-between stage of my career where I get to see them develop as young players, getting extensions, making multiple All-Star games, striving for their individual goals, but also how they grow as far as their team environments.”
Irving also had the opportunity to try on his coaching shoes Friday morning, when he served as an instructor at the Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game. Partaking in that event only strengthened his appreciation for the field of coaching.
“The game can be understood by a lot of different people,” said Irving, who will slide back into a playing role Sunday night as a starter for Team LeBron in the All-Star Game. “To see those gracious, great individuals be able to understand the game of basketball and really go out and play their hearts out, it was nothing short of amazing. Basketball has a way of speaking a language to everybody.”
Perhaps Irving will continue speaking that language to future generations of basketball players after his NBA playing career is over. He has many avenues that he could potentially explore after he hangs up the kicks, and coaching could certainly be one of them.