Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Red Claws Q+A With Austin Ainge



RED CLAWS: What is the biggest challenge you anticipate in coaching in the D-League? How do you balance winning at this level with the development of the players for the next?

COACH AINGE: The biggest challenge in the D-League is roster fluctuation. As a coach you want to continue to build on the things you teach in training camp, but having different players come and go severely limits what you can do. Perhaps the positive aspect of a fluctuating roster is that it does force a coach to keep things simple and focus on the fundamentals, which is a major purpose of our league.

RED CLAWS: What is your coaching style?

COACH AINGE: We will play a defense, much like the Celtics, based on toughness, communication, and keeping the ball out of the middle of the floor. On offense, we will run at every opportunity, and keep things simple and free.

RED CLAWS: What influence will the Red Claws NBA affiliates, the Charlotte Bobcats and Boston Celtics, have on how you coach? How much of a consideration is their individual styles of play, and how do you meet the needs of both while developing your own team?

COACH AINGE: Doc Rivers and Larry Brown are both championship coaches, and I will strive to learn as much as I can from them. Luckily for me, their styles of play are very similar, both being tough coaches who stress defense to their teams. I will incorporate a few set plays from both the Celtics and the Bobcats so when players are sent to us, we can have a few things they already are familiar with.

RED CLAWS: Theo Epstein was considered revolutionary in baseball for using statistics heavily to determine personnel moves and to predict a player's future impact on the team. Has the NBA caught up with MLB and the NFL in using statistical analysis as a coaching tool and will it affect the game the way the introduction of video once did?

COACH AINGE: I don't think the NBA will ever rely on statistics as much as baseball because of the nature of our game. Measuring the individual value of a single player in a complex and team oriented basketball game is much more difficult. Having said that, many advances have been made in recent years, and it has vastly improved coaching and player evaluation. The non-traditional statistics focus more on a player's efficiency and his impact on team success, more than just totals during a game. Our game is trending this way, and those who understand and use these tools have a major advantage.

RED CLAWS: How will you integrate your past experiences as a player, as an assistant coach and as a scout now that you are a head coach?

COACH AINGE: I have had the unique opportunity to be on many sides of this business. You learn something new from each perspective. A main focus for me, as I have drawn from each situation, is talent evaluation. That includes both as the team is being assembled and during the season. As a coach, you must focus on which plays to call and what defensive adjustments to make, but even more important is which players are your best players and which lineups are playing the best together. Evaluating your own players and lineups is paramount, and using statistical analysis is a big help in making more accurate evaluations.

RED CLAWS: What will you be looking for as you hire your coaching staff and how will their experiences/skills complement yours?

COACH AINGE: The first thing I will look for are coaches who share my passion for basketball and the development of young players. We have dual purposes, winning and developing the next great NBA stars.
RED CLAWS: What is your impression of the Portland Expo and what should the fans of Portland expect to see there this fall?

COACH AINGE: I am very excited about the combination of the tradition of the Expo, combined with the new floor and improvements that will be done to the building. I have a vision in my head of a packed and loud Expo with our players diving for loose balls and shouting to call out their defensive positions over the crowd noise. With the initial excitement in the state of Maine, I expect our team to have the best home court advantage in the league.

RED CLAWS: To which D-League city are you most looking forward to traveling?

COACH AINGE: I will look forward to playing the Utah Flash, because my alma mater (Brigham Young University) is minutes away from their arena, and I still have some old friends in the area. But we will develop a natural rivalry with Springfield, so those games will be the most exciting I would expect.

RED CLAWS: With expansion of the league just beginning in the East, what impact will the travel schedule have on the team?

COACH AINGE: We will travel quite a bit and because of our location, some trips will be very long. We are at a bit of a disadvantage that way, but I don't believe in excuses and our team will fight and scrap no matter how far we traveled. They have to come the same distance to play us!

RED CLAWS: What do you think of the level of play in the D-League?

COACH AINGE: The D-League has tremendous players. I don't think people really understand how good you have to be to play at this elite level. Millions of kids try to play college and then thousands of college players want to play basketball for a living. These are elite athletes, and every year, many go on to play in the NBA.

RED CLAWS: How involved will your players be in the community?

COACH AINGE: The great advantage of the D-League is fan access to the players. We will be open and available to the fans who support us, especially the young fans and aspiring players that want to meet the Red Claws.

(Courtesy Maine Red Claws)

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