What is your relationship with Coach Fizdale like?
“It’s been phenomenal. For him to trust me and recognize that I can contribute to his staff means so much to me. He’s really into the development of everyone – players, coaches, the whole basketball operations staff. He’s a true leader. His attitude, approach, and vision have been exciting to experience. It’s been hard work but it’s been a lot of fun. He’s really into our culture and being together – ‘We’re one and we’re a family and we’re going to do this together.’ I’m all about that. I’m all about being part of a team and being a part of something bigger than myself. I love being part of his staff and I’m hoping to contribute to him. He’s been really easy to talk to, and really easy to approach. He’s very open to any suggestions or any opinions. We have the same values of loyalty, trust, and positivity. I’m obviously pretty excited to be working alongside him.”
How excited are you to be coaching alongside J.B. Bickerstaff, Keith Smart and Nick Van Exel?
“This staff is the best. They are very knowledgeable and have so much experience playing and coaching. I’m in such a great position to develop and get better every day. These guys are not only great coaches, but even better people. I love coming to work every day and am very fortunate to be in my position.”
What drove you to decide you wanted to get into coaching?
“It was toward the end of my senior year at Redlands. I always wanted to create an AAU program and give the youth of the area the right skills and approach to be successful in basketball. I wanted our program to properly prepare players for the next level. I felt that was a need in my hometown so I was motivated to create that.”
Who has mentored you along the way?
“My mom and dad. They both love hoop. They call me after every single Grizzlies game and watch every single second, they’re definitely our biggest fans in California. They both have always mentored me when it comes to making correct decisions, and always gave me direction and feedback. Both of them were immigrants and they really instilled in me the value of hard work, keeping your head down, and letting your work speak for itself. My three brothers mentored me as well – Michael, Amir and Matthew. I played alongside Amir in college. He was a stud and Matt was really good as well. We are just a hoop family and really close. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
“Basketball-wise it would be my college coach – Gary Smith. He had a huge influence on me as a player and more importantly as a person. He’s the kindest person I know. Joe Abunassar from Impact Basketball helped me get my foot in the door. He’s one of the top trainers in the world and I learned a ton from him before joining the Grizzlies. Lastly, Coach Jeff Bzdelik – who’s with Houston now – he’s an amazing human being and a great coach. He taught me a lot over the last two years on and off the court.”
What did you pick up from your years as a player development coach?
“I learned that the guys want to be coached. They want to be coached and they want to learn and to be challenged. They want to get better. These guys are professionals and they want to improve every year – they take their craft seriously. It’s about working hard every single day for them and trying to get them better. That can be through technical skill work, working on their confidence and trust or just watching film. Player development is also about connecting with the staff and doing what’s best for the team. Giving them the tools they’ll use in a game, or giving them game shots at game speed from where they’ll get them in a game. I’d look at what the coaching staff wanted and applied it to workouts so they’ll be prepared when they play.”
Before the NBA, you were an assistant coach in college and helped build up a local young club back home, how did those jobs help develop you for now?
“Those jobs were really cool because I got to experiment a lot. I would create different drills and really experiment with them. If it didn’t work out, then I’d try something new. I got to play and fool around with my coaching skills, culture, system and pace of play. In college you recruit and you get different players, so you have to coach to your personnel. One year we’re playing fast, the next year we’re playing slow. One year we’re playing through the bigs, the next through the guards. AAU, and college too, is about relationships. You have to build those relationships with the players, even the parents, the school, the AD. You try to build trust and have good synergy between everybody and make it positive where everyone is on the same page with the same goal. Ever since college, since I was 22, that’s been my approach. All those years, coaching youth and coaching college, really has created what I believe in today.”
As you know, the Grizzlies organization has a close bond with the community through events and volunteer work. What are some of favorite events that you’ve been a part of and look forward to doing so again?
“I had a blast with the Grizzlies Day of Service. Last season we went out to Greenleaf Learning Farm and got to paint and create gardens and it was a great way to give back and experience our community. I enjoyed seeing how excited some of those kids were to get to work alongside their heroes and I look forward to doing that again. The organization also has a program called “GrizzFit” which promotes youth physical fitness and I find that to be really outstanding and positive for kids in this area.”
You’ve been around Memphis for a few years now, what are your favorite places to eat?
“Of course you have to mention Gus’s Fried Chicken. Gus’s is really, really good. Majestic Grille is must-see downtown, and in Midtown I really like Second Line. And you can’t count out Rendezvous – I love those dry ribs.”
What are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
“I love different TV shows – Game of Thrones, everything on Netflix like Narcos and House of Cards. If I can go out and watch a movie, I really enjoy that. I still play video games a little bit – I used to be a real big gamer with NBA 2K, Madden, Call of Duty. But my gaming time has gone down substantially since getting into the league. I like to travel, and I like to go back home to LA. I enjoy the beach, swimming and getting a workout in. But I really enjoy the water.”