It seems like over the last seven years we've been hearing those in the know tell us that the Canadian boom of talent in the NBA was coming and it would be here to stay.
Now, it's commonplace to see a Canadian grab a headline or two in some of the biggest games of the year. And while the prophecy has been fulfilled by the players, somehow lost in the rise of Canadian Basketball has been the spotlight on Canadian coaches.
When news broke that Steve Nash would be the new head coach for the Brooklyn Nets, it felt like another win for Canada, but more importantly, its coaches. I couldn't help but think about what that might do for the numerous Canadian coaches at every level of basketball that may have hit a glass ceiling.
Nash is only the second Canadian to be a head coach in the NBA. Jay Triano became the first when he coached the Toronto Raptors from 2008-11. He also had a stint as the coach of the Phoenix Suns in 2017-18. While Triano's accomplishment should never go unrecognized, the Nash appointment feels monumental. It feels like a moment. Canada's greatest basketball player coaching in the league's marquee market with championship or bust expectations right out of the gate.
The Nets are taking a huge chance on Nash, but without knowing, have they opened the door for the next wave of Canadian talent to hit the NBA, this time in the coaching ranks?
Stars respect stars in the @NBA & #HOF @SteveNash respects & fits in with everyone from the ushers to the VP's. In an era where communication, relationships, & adaptation is as important as knowledge & experience in coaching @SteveNash is a sure bet @BrooklynNets#Congrats! https://t.co/6XtIaWvNfy- Joe Raso (@coachraso) September 3, 2020
Joe Raso, the winningest coach in men's basketball history at McMaster University, knows a thing or two about the rise of coaching talent in Canada. Raso no longer stalks the sidelines, but as the director of basketball operations for the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), Raso remains at the frontline for the growth of the game. He sees the Nash hiring as a watershed moment for Canadian coaches.
"Steve's been a trailblazer at every level. He's been a trailblazer as a player now as a coach," Raso told NBA.com. "Which means we have one more coach now - our second Canadian ever as a head NBA coach."
Despite his lack of coaching experience, Raso believes Nash will have success. Beyond his obvious knowledge of the game, Raso made a point to say that Nash's best attributes come from his ability to make connections with people. Not just with the players, but people.
Nash, in Raso's description, is the type of person who knows your kids' names after hearing it just one time and will ask you about them. The type of person that stars will be able to relate to. A Hall of Famer who's as humble as can be. A unique blend that's certainly hard to come by.
"A lot of people might've seen this coming a few years ago but in the last five years I don't know if it looked like Steve Nash wanted to be a head coach," Raso continued. "But I think it's important, it tells you that the game has come full circle."
Charlotte Hornets assistant coach and Canadian Nathaniel Mitchell thinks it will inspire the next wave of coaches.
"As a Canadian as someone who's worked for him before, it's great to see a familiar face be successful and get opportunities as a head coach in this league," Mitchell told NBA.com. "To be the second coach next to Jay Triano, who Steve actually played for for years with our national team - I think it's amazing.
"I think it just keeps setting the bar for a lot of us coaches who want to be head coaches, for the Canadian coaches that are in the NBA. I know I speak for myself when I say it is a goal of mine."
Holy Moly 🇨🇦- Nathaniel Mitchell (@MitchNathaniel) September 3, 2020
When Nash won his first of two league MVP in 2005, it put Canada on the basketball map. When he followed it up with another incredible season becoming just the 10th player in NBA history to win the award in back-to-back years, it forced the basketball world to pay attention to the north. Now on a nightly basis, his Canadian records are being challenged by some of the league's brightest stars.
We saw what his days as a player could do for the country, but what about as a coach?
"I think it's another avenue," Mitchell continued. "I think when Steve was a basketball player and I thought kids saw Steve while they were growing and said here's a two-time MVP, it's possible for a Canadian to do that - and have success in the playoffs and not just be a role player but be a star.
"And I think you see some of the Canadian kids in the playoffs really taking the role of trying to be the best player on the floor. Now for the kids back home who aren't headed to the NBA, you still want to be around the game, you're a great college player or a great basketball mind, and now you want to coach there's an example.
"I think you'll see more, maybe our Canadian players once they retire they'd want to get into coaching and do the same thing, so it's great for our country.
"I think it's going to have a big influence on Canadian coaches and continue to grow the game, which starts at the grassroots level. As long as our coaches are inspired to get better and to get to that level, I feel that our grassroots level will continue to improve."
There's only a handful of Canadian coaches at the NBA level - Mitchell, Triano, Roy Rana in Sacramento, Scott Morrison in Boston, Jon Goodwillie, Jamaal Magloire with the Raptors - but there are far more talented coaches littered all throughout the many levels of basketball globally.
In Canada, outside of the limited spots available with the Raptors and G League's Raptors 905, the NBLC and CEBL offer the opportunity for coaches to get seasoned at the pro level, something that Raso understands is as important as the player development.
"I think what the CEBL does is offer coaches an opportunity to be professional coaches," Raso said. "And the majority of our coaches being Canadian born and Canadian trained speaks to the level of coaching that occurs in Canada.
"I think six of our seven coaches this year were Canadian trained and Canadian born. That's part of the CEBL development right through. And that's really important that we develop every part of the game and coaching is a big part of it."
As it stands right now, Nash is the only Canadian head coach in the league.
But that doesn't mean there isn't coaching talent in Canada. In fact, there's many chomping at the bit for the opportunity.
Nash's hire may have cracked the door for them.
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