Although he is no longer playing the game, don’t expect Jerry Stackhouse to leave the NBA anytime soon. The former No. 3 overall pick in the draft played 18 successful seasons in the league, reaching multiple All-Star Games and evolving into one of the most respected professionals of his era. Now, Stackhouse is chasing his latest endeavor: coaching in the NBA.
Below, check out Dime’s interview with the 16,000-plus point scorer as he exclusively takes us into his life, speaking on the subjects of coaching, the state of the Association, his connection to Jackie Robinson and more.
*** *** ***
Dime: Can you talk about your experience at the NBA Assistant Coaches Program?
Jerry Stackhouse: It was a great experience. Working with the kids was a lot of fun. I never thought I would get to the point where I would be coaching; it’s crazy. Toward the end of my career I began to think about it because of my knowledge of the game. I’ve been coaching an AAU team for the last five years which has been a great experience.
We are here to learn the assistant coaching aspect and what it takes to be an assistant coach. As players, we don’t really understand all that goes on in a coaching staff. Paul Silas came and spoke to us, which was great. There’s no real blueprint to it. It’s who you know and your work ethic at the end of the day and that’s what it comes down to. I’ve played the game for a lot of great coaches and people think players don’t know how to coach but we really understand and can relate to the players and understand the dynamic.
Dime: As you mentioned, Paul Silas attended the camp as a mentor. What are some key points he brought up that stood out to you?
JS: The head coach is the head coach and you have to understand that and make the head coach and players look good. As an assistant coach, you have to come in with the mentality to do everything you can to make them look good. The head coach and the players receive the credit and no one really talks about the assistant coach. That’s a hurdle for former players and being able to understand that is important. He did a good job of talking about that and trying to explain that. Also, if you have questions there is always a time and a place to approach the head coach but never step out of line; there’s a hierarchy. As an assistant coach, you must have good knowledge of the game and the head coach will put you in positions where he feels you can succeed, whether it’s offense or defense. But it’s great to know them both so you’re more valuable.
Dime: Do you plan on pursuing a coaching job this summer?
JS: Yeah. I would take an opportunity possibly within the next six months. I’ve had a couple opportunities coming right from my playing days but I just thought I would take some time off and step away from the game. This year helped me get my mind off being a player and now I’m going to take the next step–to teach the game and coach the game. I feel like I’ve been around the game enough and have a good understanding of how it should be played from both the offensive and defensive standpoints.
Dime: You’ve played many years of basketball for numerous coaches. Is there one that stands out to you?
JS: At North Carolina under Dean Smith, I learned the fundamentals of the game. I learned a lot from Larry Brown and Don Nelson, too. Rick Carlisle was more on the analytical side and trending toward numbers, taking bits and pieces. I’ve had a lot of experiences and make my own thing out of all of it.
Dime: You were regarded as a physical, hard-nosed player; do you think the league has become soft in recent years?
JS: I think the league has become soft. It’s a different era. In the ’80s and early ’90s it was cool to be physical and be more of a defensive team and everybody was comfortable doing it. It was a grind-it-out type game. From a fan standpoint, though, they wanted to see more scoring and I think that people bought into it. The game has become extremely popular not only domestically but internationally, so they’re doing the right thing. I don’t have a problem with “soft” because I think at the end of the day, the best team is going to win and defense still wins championships, no matter how much offense there is.
Dime: What was it like donning the No. 42 jersey with the Nets, becoming the first professional player to wear that number in Brooklyn since Jackie Robinson?
JS: I had always been a big Jackie Robinson fan, really understanding what he did when he broke the color barrier. I had the opportunity to pick my number in Brooklyn and wanted to honor his legacy.
Dime: What advice do you have for young NBA players?
JS: I understand that different players need different advice. The guys getting drafted in the first half, the top 10 or top 15 picks are going to need different advice from the second-rounders; they have different mentalities. There are those coming in to be the next big player as opposed to someone coming in the second round. Becoming a role player at the end of my career, I understand this. Those guys have to be thinking, “how can I come in and earn a spot on this roster?”
Dime: Have you had a chance to watch the playoffs at all? What’s been your favorite series thus far?
JS: Oh man, it’s hard to pick. It’s been great quality basketball but I think I have to go with Toronto-Brooklyn. That’s been one of my favorites. I watched DeMar DeRozan kind of grow up so I have a warm spot in my heart for him. Houston and Portland has been fun basketball to watch. Hopefully, fans are focusing on these great playoff series and not all that other stuff going on now.
Dime: Prediction–who wins the NBA Finals?
JS: I had a better answer two weeks ago. Now, I’m not so sure. San Antonio looked to have everyone’s number, now they might not get out of the Dallas series. I don’t know if Miami has enough to win again, and they are a little banged up. I’m going to go with Brooklyn over OKC in the Finals… it’s a bold pick (laughs).
Does Brooklyn have a chance to make the Finals?
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MatthewHochberg.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.