Talk to Jerry Stackhouse's players with the Raptors 905 G-League team, and they say he would make a tremendous NBA coach.
The former North Carolina star reportedly interviewed for the Knicks opening this week, and has also been linked to the openings in Charlotte and Orlando.
"Everybody knows where Stack wants to go and everybody knows he wants to go to the NBA, so I think we all know that's the next step in his career," Andre Washington, a 7-foot-1 center with the Raptors 905 team, said by phone. "Whether he's back or not next year, I'd love for him to be my coach next year, but if not I'd be happy for him either way."
Stackhouse led the Raptors 905 to the G-League championship round this season, where they lost to the Austin Spurs. The 43-year-old is perhaps the most intriguing candidate for the Knicks opening, among a group of candidates that reportedly includes David Blatt, David Fizdale, Mark Jackson, and others.
"I liked Stackhouse, he's a great coach," said Raptors 905 wing Fuquan Edwin, a former star at Seton Hall and Paterson (N.J.) Catholic High School. "He was different from all our other coaches and it had a positive effect on me."
Edwin said the fact that Stackhouse played in the NBA gave him extra credibility with the players.
"He played the game at the highest level where we all are trying to get to," Edwin said.
Edwin, 26, said Stackhouse was uniquely able to relate to players because he could still get on the floor and compete with them.
"Not only did he tell us, but he showed us," Edwin said. "Most of the days he would dress up and practice with us."
Edwin, known as an elite defender, said Stackhouse once exposed his defensive liabilities during a practice, and then even talked some trash to the Paterson native.
"We did coaching drills where we scrimmaged the coaches and I was guarding him and he would score on me," Edwin said. "You know Stack is going to talk trash too, he's competitive."
He told Edwin in front of the other players, "This supposed to be our best defender?"
These qualities would seem to be consistent with what the Knicks are looking for, even though Stackhouse has never coached in the NBA.
"We're going to be looking for a coach who holds the players accountable and his coaching staff accountable," Knicks GM Scott Perry said after the team fired Jeff Hornacek. "Not only a good basketball mind but a very skilled communicator. A guy who can connect very well with his players and is equally aligned with wanting to be a very strong defensive-minded team."
Added President Steve Mills: "It has to be someone that understands today's player, and today's player is very different than yesterday's player. You have to be a person that understands who these guys are, where they come from, what their basketball journey is. Understand the complexity of today's NBA game, from an analytics standpoint, from a physical development standpoint, from a player development standpoint. A good coach is willing to embrace all those things."
Washington developed a special respect for Stackhouse because he didn't play as much as the others on the team.
Stackhouse "always believed in me, he was never afraid to put me out there," Washington said.
"He never looked at me any different, he always made sure everybody on the team had a voice, including me. I really appreciated that. "
He echoed Edwin's sentiments about how Stackhouse instilled disciplined while at the same time being a players' coach.
"I think he would be a great NBA coach because he's been there," Washington said. "I don't know how long he was in the league, but it was a long time. And he just knows his way and he can relate to his players."
He added: "He always had discipline and respect, he demands that. All his players, from my experience, we all knew he cared about us first before anything, before basketball, so that was probably the main thing. And that's why I think he would be a great coach for somebody's program."
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