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Jerry Stackhouse’s “Love for the Game” Vital to His Transition from Player to Coach

By Jon Fawkes | September 27, 2016

Jerry Stackhouse’s accomplishments on the court are abundant: AP All-American at UNC, two-time NBA All-Star and one of the top 100 scorers in NBA history. His 18-year NBA career spanned three decades and he played for eight different teams.

Lesser known is the second career he has seemingly been preparing for as the traits and skills that made him a valuable NBA veteran leader and locker room presence have translated perfectly into the coaching field where he is now the head coach of the Raptors 905, Toronto’s NBA D-League affiliate.

MORE: Stackhouse’s Career in Photos

Stackhouse has seen it all as a player — coming into the league with huge expectations as the No. 3 pick and a star out of UNC, he was meant to be the savior of the 76ers, who then struggled as a team his rookie year and took future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson with the No. 1 pick in Stackhouse’s second season. Already a ball-dominant player who had gotten used to being the No. 1 option, all of the sudden he had to share the ball with an incredibly talented but also notoriously ball-dominant player in Iverson.

This experience with the Sixers taught Stackhouse partly about the importance of veteran leadership and how it contributes to winning on any NBA team. Looking back now, Stackhouse was able to reflect on why he gravitated toward younger players throughout his career.

“I was always wanting to help them because I didn’t have a lot of that when I first came into the league. I came to a really young team that didn’t have a lot of veterans. Probably the guy that helped me the most was Vernon Maxwell. I was coming from playing power forward mostly and being close to the basket in college and now I’m drafted as a 2-guard and the only one on the team that had played the 2-guard at a high level was Vernon.

“How he brought me in and taught me how to come off screens, chase guys off screens, that was something that stuck with me for a long time and after that I wanted to make sure I was able to help younger players and not look at them as threats to take my job or anything like that but more so to help them to get their footing in the NBA. That happened when I was in Detroit.”

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Stackhouse was traded to the Pistons, with whom he would make two All-Star appearances and three playoff appearances.

He was then traded to Washington in 2002 before the Pistons eventually won the title in 2004 and traded again to Dallas in 2004 where he would find the best success of his career with a great Mavericks team that had plenty of regular season wins but also infamous playoff losses, including being up 2-0 in the Finals against the Heat in 2006. They then lost to the eighth-seeded Warriors in the first round after winning 67 games in the regular season.

“When I was traded to Dallas, the guy that was traded with me, Devin Harris, and then Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels, all those guys were like little brothers to me. Even though they were talented guys, I think they looked up to me because they saw me as they were growing up when they were in love with basketball, seeing me play at UNC and then the kind of player I was early in my career. When I got there it was all ears when I would say something or speak to them about the game they took it, they knew I was giving them something to try and help them.

“Then when I was in Milwaukee, there was Brandon Jennings and other young guys, all eyes wide open, ears wide open. Dealing with guys like that definitely put it in my mind that maybe I could have some success coaching the game.”

The D-League is filled with a range of players at different points in their careers and Stackhouse feels like his experiences as a player can help him relate to any of them.

“I’ve sat in every one of their seats from being a star player to being a guy that was at the end of my career and just looking to coach as the 14th or 15th guy. But I’ve seen everything in between, guys that didn’t hit it out of the park from the beginning but were still able to carve out nice careers for themselves as rotational players, to guys that weren’t able to make the transition from a star player to more of a complimentary player. So I understand all aspects of that and hopefully seeing all those things and being able relate to them will help give my guys a mentality of how to make it in this league.”

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Stackhouse understands that everyone in the D-League is striving to make it to the NBA, whether it’s players, coaches or front office members, and he wants to help everyone individually. He sees his role as “trying to lift each other as we climb to where we want to go.”

Even with all of his experiences as a veteran leader in the NBA, the most important moment may have been watching his son play basketball, “It really started with my own kid, I had some time to see my son on the AAU team and I saw how they were rolling the ball out to him and not teaching him and I couldn’t take it no more. I was like, ‘Let me get in the gym with these kids.'”

True to his word, Stackhouse started an AAU program that grew, eventually got sponsorship from Adidas, and had a great coup in securing future Laker and No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Brandon Ingram. Ingram’s father heard about Stackhouse’s program back in 2011 and wanted Brandon to learn from a player of Stackhouse’s NBA pedigree. After seeing Ingram mature and grow as a basketball player under his tutelage, it was another light bulb moment for his future in coaching. “From 2011 to now seeing him as the No. 2 pick,” Stackhouse said, “that’s when I thought, you know, I might be OK at this thing.”

With these notions in Stackhouse’s head, he served as a player-coach with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-2013 at 38 years old. The plan was for Stackhouse to transition to the Nets coaching staff at the end of the season, but this plan went awry went when Avery Johnson was fired in late December 2012.

After Stackhouse’s playing career was over, he had myriad jobs that kept him “close to the game,” including doing XM radio, serving as an analyst on NBA TV and coaching at an adidas Eurocamp in Italy, which is where he met Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey. This camp was key for Stackhouse’s development as a leader of young men as Ujiri and Casey took note of how was able to relate and communicate with the players. They eventually offered him an assistant coaching job with the Raptors last season.

Stackhouse worked primarily with many of the young talented players on the Raptors, such as Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo, all of whom spent time both with the Raptors in the NBA and Raptors 905 in the D-League last season. Stackhouse’s knowledge of these players’ games and the roster of the Raptors will be a huge advantage for him as he finds out how to best prepare the Raptors 905 players for a Call-Up to the NBA.

The Raptors 905 had the most assignments in the D-League last year, partly because they are one of the few D-League teams whose NBA affiliate is in the same city as theirs, and partly because they had talented young players who they wanted to get playing time but couldn’t for a Raptors team which won franchise-record 56 games last year.

This year, in keeping with their trend as a franchise, the Raptors added two more talented international rookies, Jakob Poeltl from Germany and Pascal Siakam from Cameroon, both taken in the first round. Stackhouse understands that his role as a coach in the D-League is primarily in player development and helping these players find ways to contribute to the Raptors.

His wealth of basketball knowledge and experience will be on display, and simply put, he wants to communicate it to the players: “What it takes to play in this league for 18 years. Finding ways to re-create yourself to be valuable to a team is something I hope I can pass onto these guys. Not many coaches in the NBA can give you a blueprint on how to be an All-Star. I think I can do that. The fact that I’ve done it, played at a high level and been an All-Star but also carved out a long career, I think that’s what immediately gets their attention and now the players will listen and I can teach them how to play in a team concept and how to make it in this league.”

He is already well-equipped to the task after coaching the Raptors Summer League team in Las Vegas this year and getting a chance to see each of these players up close and learning their games.

“Jakob Poeltl has unbelievable footwork, he’s been taught the game, now it’s just taking it to the next level of how he can be a contributor for the Raptors. Same thing with Pascal. Norman got a taste of that last year from the work we were doing every day after practice.”

The Raptors are not a team bereft of talent or depth, so these young players will have to quickly learn how to maximize their strengths and improve their weaknesses to carve out minutes on a team that has championship aspirations after taking the Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Stackhouse also has some inherent advantages after his long playing career and relationships with players and coaches throughout his 18-year career, “[Rasheed Wallace] is gonna be here for training camp. If [Allen Iverson] can make his flight on time, I’m pretty sure he’ll come through, too. How cool would that be? And I think that’s just another perk of being in the league. I’ve already reached out to Ben Wallace, Vin Baker with his story, all of these guys are just a phone call away.”

Not many coaches can say they had the job of making sure Allen Iverson wasn’t late to practice as a rookie, but that’s just another thread in the rich tapestry that Stackhouse has been able to weave as a player and will use to his advantage as a coach.

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