|Joel Abelson, Idaho Stampede|
Last Friday, Scott Schroeder of RidiculousUpside offered up four possible candidates, based on Larry Riley's brief explanation of what he might be looking for, to be the Warriors' new head coach of the newly acquired D-League (NBDL) team, the Dakota Wizards. One of them was the Bay Area's own Joel Abelson...
Joel Abelson, associate head coach of the Idaho Stampede, would seem to be an excellent candidate for the position in Dakota. The 28-year-old has coached in the D-League for the past four seasons while spending his summers developing young players, giving him the exact experience the Warriors should be interested in during this coaching search.
The day Tolliver was acquired, Abelson told GoldenStateOfMind this about Tolliver:
He's the most NBA-ready player I've seen in 3 years in the D-League. Not only can he contribute on the basketball court, but he's an insanely hard worker and a tremendous human off the court. All he needs is an opportunity to play and he will be an NBA rotation player for the rest of his career.
Seems Abelson hit the nail on the head, even further saying Tolliver was more NBA-ready than Sundiata Gaines.
From my personal experiences overlapping into all things basketball here in the Bay Area, I can tell you that I've been privy to observing a few workouts of NBA-caliber players with Abelson acting as one of the coaches. He's very positive and clearly enjoys his profession. He has a very pleasant demeanor and is extremely respectful of players. The players listen to what he has to say and appear to appreciate his collaborative, non-stressful style.
Also, one of the things I noticed about Abelson was that it was never beneath him to do something as menial as dusting off the gym floor with one of those brooms. FWIW, in my many travels as a rec league and tournament basketball commish, I've met a lot of basketball types from one end of the spectrum to another, and he's one of the more selfless basketball guys I have ever met.
Now, as the Warriors consider various well-qualified current head coaches and assistant coaches for the job with the Dakota Wizards, it's important to note the motivations of purchasing your own D-League franchise. At the same time, it should become apparent why doing so is a much more valuable proposition than simply continuing the NBDL affiliation with the Reno Bighorns. For example...
- First of all, let me preface by saying it would actually be a mistake for Joe Lacob not to move the Wizards to the Bay Area or its outskirts, and at the same time change the franchise nickname to something else. The blockade of the South Bay market to discourage another NBA owner to move here is inherent. In fact, there's no reason why the franchise couldn't merely share the Warriors' practice facility in Oakland, to save on some costs. Instead of sending guys geographically northeast to Reno, you simply have them stay at home. You can also have your personnel scout the goings-on of the NBDL franchise much, much more easily. If the local economy can support it, I would actually recommend the Stockton area even prior to San Jose. You'd be surprised how much basketball fandom there is in that area. Things might also depend on the Sacramento Kings' situation, because if the Kings up and left Sacto, that'd be too prime a basketball market to leave barren. Anyways, I digress.
- Let's say you have a Jeremy Lin situation where a player is either not getting enough playing time in NBA games, isn't performing to the level you expected, or both. If you send him to Reno, he's up in the mountains following a different coach's system and style. That's a whole new dynamic of learning different plays, etc. You're left hoping that will translate back to your system.
- When you send a player to a D-League affiliate, you're also subjecting him to the current strategies of that franchise, which is probably this: Win! Winning doesn't necessarily mean putting a player into certain game situations and asking him to work on certain things. Of course, the Warriors should never admit to its NBDL fanbase that winning the D-League championship could be compromised at least a tiny bit, since the focus will be on player development.
Does someone like Abelson have the wherewithal to execute the above NBA (not NBDL) strategies? To do that, you need a head coach who isn't necessarily looking to win multiple NBDL championships to qualify himself for greener pastures, as you could speculate that a big name like Eric Musselman might be doing in Reno, or the coach of any non-NBA-owned NBDL franchise, for that matter. You're looking for someone who'd accept the job as a step up from his previous assignment. You're looking for as selfless and knowledgeable a basketball individual as possible. Schroeder could be onto something.