Since it was reported Brian Shaw would return to the Lakers as Luke Walton’s lead assistant, it has been pretty quiet on the “who will be on Luke Walton’s staff” front. No leaks of names who were shoe-ins, not even any hints at who might be under consideration.
That changed over the weekend when Dave Miller brought up a name I was unfamiliar with:
Hearing Tucson native Jesse Mermuys will be joining LUKE WALTONS staff in LA…if my memory is correct he used to run Walton's youth camps
— Dave Miller (@coachdavemiller) June 11, 2016
After Miller’s report, Chris Reichert of Upside Motor confirmed what Miller was hearing:
Confirmed with multiple league sources — Jesse Mermuys (Raptors 905 HC in 15/16) will join Luke Walton's staff in Los Angeles #NBADL
— Chris Reichert (@Chris_Reichert) June 13, 2016
As Reichert notes, Mermuys most recently coached the Raptors’ D-League team, the Toronto 905. Before that, Mermuys was a Raptors’ assistant under Dwayne Casey and also worked for the Rockets as an assistant under Kevin McHale and with the Nuggets as a video coordinator and advanced scout. Mermuys also has college experience, including time at at the University of Arizona. Along with the camps Dave Miller noted, this is where his ties to Walton likely come in, with Mermuys being a a Tuscon native.
What exactly does Mermuys bring to the table, though? From his history, Mermuys has experience in the video room, as an advanced scout, and in player development. Being a head coach at the D-League level (as well as the assistant GM), also gives him insight into roster construction and how to relate to and communicate with players.
On that topic, back in 2014, Holly MacKenzie wrote a very good feature on Mermuys at Raptors.com. Her entire piece is worth your time, but below are a few excerpts which stood out to me:
Standing less than six-feet tall, Mermuys looks more like a trainer. Smiling easily and often, he can usually be found in Air Canada Centre working with one of the Raptors players putting in extra time after hours. This July, he was the head coach for Toronto’s Las Vegas Summer League submission. After Vegas, he moved to Los Angeles where the bulk of the team’s players are spending the offseason so he would always be available when they wanted to workout.
One of the things he loves about this particular team is that it’s filled with players who have the same level of dedication that he has. While much of Mermuys’ offseason has been spent in the gym with DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross, a typical regular-season day has him splitting his time between working out players and working on game plans with the coaching staff.
And, on how he continues to build relationships with the players:
While his basketball knowledge and scouting skills are a given in his profession, what sets him apart is his ability to connect with people. Building trust by always being available when the text comes from a player who needs someone to get in the gym with him, Mermuys appreciates the role he gets to play in developing young men into adults.
“I love the game of basketball, of course, but what I really love is helping the players and having those successes,” Mermuys said. “That’s what it’s all about for me. I love the relationships. I love when they have success. It’s a special thing. Especially when we’re working extremely hard and making sacrifices of time with our family. It’s very rewarding for sure. Of course, when I’m working with a guy I’m giving him all that I have so there’s no better feeling when a guy has success. It makes me proud and happy.”
All of this is music to my ears and, in many ways, is exactly the type of hire I would want Walton to make. Like Luke, Mermuys has that history of spending extra time with the players — helping them improve and being available at the drop of a hat to put in the work. This is the type of relationship building which helps establish a winning culture while also spearheading the growth and development we all want to see in the players.
Further, while there has been some clamoring for Walton to fill his staff with experienced guys (like Shaw), I think a well rounded group of assistants who come from a variety of backgrounds is also a very good approach. Mermuys worked his way up from the video room to being an assistant at the NBA level and then a head coach at the D-League level. His experience isn’t that of a former NBA player (which is valuable as well), but from a path where he started from the bottom and outside of NBA circles to get to where he is now.
I am by no means trying to make any one path seem harder or better than the other, but I think it’s very good to have people with different life experiences, different perspectives, coming together with their own ideas on how to attack problems and reach goals.
Beyond all that, though, the qualities listed above are ones which I think are a real value add to any staff. And, so, with Mermuys looking like he will join Walton’s staff, I am excited about the things he can bring to the table.