NBA assistant coaches change roles at Summer Leagues

Published Jul. 9, 2015 6:41 p.m. ET

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder was in the hallways of the arena Tuesday night, wrangling his two kids who both wanted to be picked up by daddy. Meanwhile, assistant coach Alex Jensen was meeting with the media after the team's second summer league game in Salt Lake City.

The role reversal can be found at most summer league games as assistants get a chance to lead teams during play at Salt Lake City, Orlando and Las Vegas.

It's another illustration of how summer league promotes the growth and development of everyone associated with the game.

''It's an opportunity for all the work that they're doing with the players to really, in a hands-on way, see the application of that work,'' Snyder said. ''The game situations and game experience is great, (but Jensen's) had that before anyway.

''For me, the biggest asset really is these guys know how vested in their progress (we are) and to be able to apply some of those skills is really special and a good opportunity for that.''

This isn't the first head-coaching experience for Jensen, who coached in the Developmental League for two years and was named coach of the year in 2013. But last season was his first year as an assistant on an NBA staff.

''Moving a seat down is a whole new world,'' Jensen said. ''It helps me and everybody else learn a little bit (seeing it) from different angles.


''There's no substitute for doing it. There's no substitute for calling a timeout. There's no substitute for drawing a play on the board. You can see it and watch it, but doing it helps you. ... I'll be able to help him more having gone through it.''

Becky Hammon, on the other hand, is breaking new ground.

She'll be the first woman to coach a summer league team when the Spurs head to Las Vegas on Friday. The Spurs, Jazz and others will have a different assistant lead the team in Vegas than they did in Salt Lake City or Orlando. Hammon said it's invaluable experience for a young coach. The 2014-15 season was her first as an assistant after a 16-year WNBA career.

''If you look at (Gregg Popovich's) coaching tree, that's what he does. He gets people involved,'' Hammon said. ''It's only one chair, but it's a big chair. It's a big step over. ... It's just a different role for me in the fact for the past 20 years I've been running the draw-ups, now I'm going to be drawing draw-ups. It's a great chance for growth.''

Sixers assistant Billy Lange and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga have both been head coaches before, but never at the NBA level. Both downplayed the significance of their new summer league roles, saying it's more about working with the players than anything else.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens explained there are certain situations that only come up when leading the show.

''The good news is, now you go back to the film room and how do you approach them after a day where it doesn't all go your way,'' Stevens said, ''There's all kinds of things through the 48 hours that's going to be going through a coaches mind. What do you share? What do you not share? All those things. It's good to get that opportunity.''

Snyder and Stevens could be found walking around the arena throughout the week simply observing. The atmosphere was clearly less intense without the stresses of the regular season and full coaching responsibilities.

Snyder said the approach is similar to the way he works with players.

''We want to give experience,'' Snyder said. ''I believe in exposing our guys, just like our players. Those opportunities, whether they're mistakes or not, that's how you get better.''