Since Theo Robertson left his post as player development coach to serve as an assistant coach at his alma mater UC Berkeley, Luke Walton and the Lakers have had a spot to fill on the coaching staff. It seems they have made their choice, looking at (another) former Arizona Wildcat to step in:
Lakers are finalizing a deal to hire Miles Simon to fill the coaching vacancy left by Theo Robertson. Staff gets another Arizona guy.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) May 26, 2017
College hoops fans of a certain age should remember Simon well. He starred for the Wildcats as a dynamic scoring guard and won a national title in 1997 playing with Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, and Jason Terry. After his time at Arizona, he was a 2nd round draft pick in the NBA, but ultimately could not stick there and then finished out his pro career for a few seasons bouncing around Europe before succumbing to knee injuries that, essentially, ended his professional hopes.
In the mid-2000’s Simon returned to Arizona and served as an assistant on Lute Olson’s staff, before moving to ESPN full time as a college basketball broadcaster/analyst in 2008. He’s been with the world-wide leader since then.
If you’re looking for more substantial coaching experience, Simon does have some background working with highschool and college players, both as a coach and in skills development. From a 2013 feature in the OC Register:
Now, he coaches Amateur Athletic Union. basketball and is in his sixth season as an ESPN college basketball analyst. He is also a personal skills trainer for high school, college and professional players.
In short, he’s as involved with the game today as he has been his entire life.
“I still have a competitive desire to win and be in the locker room, so coaching the AAU team and training helps me do that. I get great fulfillment out of helping these young men get better as players. I’ve been involved in basketball since the first grade. I don’t see my involvement ever waning. There is always something new to learn.”
Despite the short tenure of his coaching career, Simon has overseen the AAU careers of several current college players. His latest top recruit is Kentucky freshman Marcus Lee.
Regarding his coaching style, Simon says his history as a player helps him:
“Thinking about my career, it helps me a lot,” he says. “It helps to rely on personal experiences. When I’m coaching, I think back to when I was a player and how I liked to be coached. It helps me know if I’m being too hard on a young man or too easy. Coaching is a lot different because I can’t make a pass or score a basket or defend anybody. But I still get great fulfillment as these young men get better as players.”
Simon’s history as a player and background working with individual talents who are trying to grow their game does fit into the mold of what he’ll be doing for the Lakers — though, not at the same level (NBA vs. AAU/College). The hope, though, is that his teaching skills translate and his familiarity within the group he’ll be joining (Luke’s staff is, like, half Wildcats now) will aid even further in this transition.
The flip side to this is, of course, that the Lakers have hired another person with not much experience in the role in which they’ll be asked to perform. This isn’t to say these folks can’t/won’t be successful, but it is interesting to me nonetheless that this keeps occurring.
Ultimately, though, Simon’s success will be dependent on his knowledge of the game, his ability to translate that into teaching skills, and how well he can fit into Walton’s staff (both as a reinforcement to what he wants taught and as a sounding board of alternative ideas to progress things forward). We’ll see how those things go over time.