Charles Klask excited to lead Denver Nuggets' Summer League team

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Charles Klask has been named the Nuggets' 2021 Summer League head coach and his appointment to the role shouldn't be a surprise.

Klask has developed a reputation as an outstanding player development coach during his four seasons as a Nuggets assistant coach. Klask's ability to help young players take the next step is the primary reason why the Nuggets felt he would be the ideal fit to lead this year's Summer League team as head coach.

"It's a dream come true," Klask told Nuggets.com after a predraft workout. "I'm very grateful to [President of Basketball Operations] Tim Connelly and Coach [Michael] Malone for this opportunity."

As excited as Klask is to help continue developing talent, he is also eager to expand his own coaching experience. With NBA coaching staffs getting larger each season, assistants usually focus on micro assignments. For example, Klask is largely known for his work with the Nuggets' big men, working with Nikola Jokić to Zeke Nnaji. Summer League allows Klask to widen his focus and work with all positions on the roster.

"With the Summer League, you get the opportunity to expand and do more," he explained. "Everyone has ideas of how they'd like to run drills and instead of thinking about it, I get to try those [ideas] and apply it to the game."

Being appointed as a Summer League coach allows assistant coaches to have valuable first-hand experience of what it is like to be a head coach. Michael Malone served as a Summer League coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wes Unseld Jr., who was recently hired from the Nuggets to be the Wizards' head coach, had the same role during his time with the Orlando Magic. Klask will now have an opportunity to lead a coaching staff, mentor first and second-year players, and hold frequent press conferences.

With Markus Howard, Nnaji, Bol Bol, and 2021 first rounder Nah'Shon 'Bones' Hyland expected to be a part of the roster, the team will likely be considered one of the favorites in the competition. Klask is looking forward to the challenge.

"I want the weight and pressure of performing and I want our team playing well and winning," he said. "You don't get that unless you're the head coach."

Klask is eager to showcase the improvement Howard and Nnaji have made during the offseason. He views both players as steals in last year's draft process.

"They didn't have a chance to do draft workouts [last year]. If they were able to get into more gyms [last offseason] and GMs could have seen those guys, they would've went a lot higher in the draft. Markus would've been a late first-rounder at least."

Nnaji was selected with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2020 draft while Howard went undrafted, despite being the NCAA's scoring leader that season. Klask will be relying on the trio of Howard, Bol, and Nnaji to provide leadership to the rest of the roster.

"I'm going to put a lot of onus on everything we do on them," Klask said. "They are going to be like my leadership council...I'll ask them to enforce the rules to keep our culture tight. They both have leadership potential."

"This is the perfect environment [for them to grow]."

Klask expects to retain most of the Nuggets concepts and plays for this year's Summer League team, especially on defense. Where he will have to add some of his own wrinkles will be on the offensive end. Without a certain MVP center facilitating most of the offense, Klask will tailor his system to suit the strengths of Nnaji, Howard, Bol, and Hyland.

"[For example], if Zeke is out there with Nikola [Jokić], he is probably more of a perimeter player. In Summer League, we might want him to be the center."

Another element to consider is how much the Nuggets' new G-League affiliate could play a role in deciding who makes the cut for the Summer League roster. In years past, free agents who joined their Summer League team might have had a slight chance of making a deep Nuggets roster on a two-way contract. Now, the Nuggets might have other alternatives to keep a player in their system whom they think has potential.

"I think it changes a lot," Klask explained. "Having your own [G League] team, it increases the flexibility for you to expand your base of players. Then you have them under your roof, learning your system."

"So I think it's going to really help our development, especially as our salary cap situation gets trickier...You're going to need to find some talented kids, really develop them with a chance they could make the Nuggets."

Klask's task of evaluating talent for both the Nuggets and Grand Rapids Gold rosters will be aided by his coaching staff -- Ryan Bowen, some members of the front office and Malone's coaching staff, and the video team. All of the personnel should be a valuable resource for Klask as he gets his first chance at being a Summer League coach.

"I've never been able to do it before and I'm really looking forward to it," Klask said. 

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