Adam Caporn is the New Coach Long Island Was Looking For

There’s a simple question that drives the way the Brooklyn Nets front office approaches its quest to bring the best talent into the organization and incorporate new ideas, whether it applies to coaches, performance staff, or the player personnel side:

“Who do we not know that we need to know?”

Over time, Long Island Nets general manager Matt Riccardi kept hearing the same name coming back at him in those conversations: Adam Caporn, the head coach of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence.

“He’s ran probably the best developmental program in the world in the Centre of Excellence in Australia and that’s something that we want to do with Long Island — to make it sustainably one of the best developmental programs that we have here stateside,” said Riccardi. “We targeted him and Sean Marks did a great job recruiting him as well. We looked at him, said, ‘How can we get this guy in our system?’ If we can find a way to put him in charge or our development, especially on the Long Island end, let’s do it. Let’s make it happen.”

They got their guy this summer, hiring Caporn as head coach of the franchise’s G League affiliate on Long Island.

“I’ve had some involvement with our senior national team as an assistant coach and that got me excited about working with this level of player and the challenges that come with that,” said Caporn. “Ultimately, it’s also the NBA. It’s a goal that I’ve had. I felt like my time in Australia had come to an end because our program is ready to continue growing without me and I felt really good about that. As I started investigating other opportunities, I was really fortunate this one came up.”

Caporn made his first leap to the U.S. 20 years ago, playing two seasons at St. Mary’s in California, and returning to the school early in his coaching career for four seasons as an assistant. In between, he played six pro seasons in Australia, and when a knee injury short-circuited his playing career, he got a jump start on coaching in Australia’s Division 2 league before returning to St. Mary’s.

Since 2014 he’s been at the Centre of Excellence, which he described as a “national academy” designed to identify and develop Australia’s top players in the roughly 15- to 20-year-old age range with the goal of winning on the international level.

“I’ve been really focused on development and I’m really excited to bring that side of things to Long Island and help the players progress out of the G League and to make their dreams come true and make the NBA,” said Caporn. “From a playing style, I really enjoy the international game and I hope to bring a little bit of that flavor to what we do here, but like a lot of coaches, I like things that have good space, good up-tempo and exciting game style, but also a style defensively that represents our organization and Long Island well, where we play tough and we play together.”

Beyond the Xs and Os, Caporn and Riccardi had common ground in valuing off-the-court aspects of development and maximizing performance from sports science to performance teams, nutrition, and psychological aspects.

“He was dealing with probably a little bit younger players but has a great track record of getting guys to high-level colleges, a few guys that are breaking through to the NBA and one guy that’s going to the G League Elite now and will be a draft pick in the future,” said Riccardi. “He’s developed guys from a young age. I think there’s similarities to what he has done there and what we would be asking him to do with some of our young guys here, absolutely. It’s going to be a learning curve, like with everything. He’ll adjust to the ebb and flow of guys getting called up and losing a guy from your roster, having a guy for a week and then not having him for two weeks. There’s definitely going to be adjustments that we’ll all have to figure out as we go, but I think because he’s laid down the foundation before and the structure has been there, that’s the same thing we’re looking to do in Long Island.”

Since 2017, Caporn has also been an assistant coach with Australia’s national team, and this past summer the Boomers won the bronze medal in Tokyo, the country’s first Olympic medal. Australia won five of its six games in Tokyo, with the only loss coming to the United States in the semifinal round.

“The culture of our team, the strength of our playing group and their commitment to our team culture was something really special to be around and be a part of,” said Caporn. “The circumstances were somewhat challenging obviously with COVID and what’s happening in the world and the journey we’ve been through together coming close so many times and really wanting to take that next step. The team was super committed to each other, committed to a team culture and principles and could just feel the determination and the belief that it was time and we were going to make that next step. Obviously, courageously led by Patty Mills, it was a fantastic thing to be around, to support, and when it happened it was really hard to define. It was a really special moment but just as rewarding was seeing the joy it’s brought everyone back home and how proud we are as a basketball nation and really happy for those players that have invested so much to get that done.”

Mills also played at St. Mary’s as part of an Australian pipeline to the San Francisco Bay area school that began with Caporn’s recruitment 20 years ago. The veteran guard is also joining the Brooklyn organization this season, signing as a free agent after playing the last 10 years in San Antonio.

“He’s the Aussie that you guys better look out for,” said Mills. “He’s great. I’ve known Adam Caporn for a long time; AIS days in Australia, St. Mary’s as well, that connection there is strong and to be able to work with him on the national team at the World Cup in 2019 and then this one, it’s those connections that you make when you continue to grow and see how he operates on a professional level as a coach. A great opportunity for him and a great opportunity for everyone else to see how he goes about his craft. Working with him with the national team, his attention to detail, his knowledge about the game, high basketball IQ, and his ability just to have a feel for his players and his team and his ability to connect with those players. Obviously a super new environment for him, but one that I think he will thrive in. It’s good to know that he’s got that opportunity.”

“Very lucky to be here and very appreciative, and I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity by soaking up every little thing I can and asking a lot of questions and giving a great effort,” said Caporn. “It’s pretty clear when you meet the people here and arrive that there are so many great coaches and great minds in a lot of departments and great people that being around, if I’m open-minded and asking questions and learning, that I’m going to really get better. The deep connection between Long Island and Brooklyn and truly being part of the Nets, that’s something I’ve felt from the start and feel that it’s real and it’s really going to help me as a coach, our staff and our players, being part of the connection but also drive us to get towards our goals.”