In his 13 years of coaching in the NBA, Caleb Canales marks the history of the league. You may not know his name, but in 2012 he became the first Mexican-American coach in NBA history during his interim with the Blazers.
Former Blazers assistant Nate McMillan and Terry Stotts, Mavericks Rick Carlisle, Knicks David Fizdale and Pacers Nate Bjorkgren have joined the Jr. NBA Coaches Online program. The opportunity to remember his career, his times with Dirk Nowitzki and Damian Lillard, the globalization of the NBA and coaching.
BasketballSession: You are the first Mexican-American coach in NBA history. Do you think diversity and representation is important for NBA coaches? And do you think it will be inspiring for future generations?
Caleb Canales: It’s an honor for me to be the first Mexican-American head coach in the NBA. It’s also for our community and my family. As a competitor, that’s the ultimate purpose of being a head coach. The NBA is at the forefront of these issues, with programs and opportunities at every level, from the G League to the NBA.
One of the things we try to focus on in the Jr. NBA Program is that we want to allow coaches to improve. We want to explain to them what it’s like to coach every day in an NBA season. As you know, we have to coach the best players in the world, but they are also the hardest players in the world.
Last year, you organized a basketball camp for youth in Laredo, your hometown in Texas. Now you are part of the Jr. NBA Coaches program. How important is it for you to act for the community?
Caleb Canales: It is very important for me to give back to the community. I think that’s one of the cornerstones of the Jr. NBA Coaches Program. My Assist 13 foundation means so much to me. Giving back to the community, returning to Laredo, and helping the youth at the camps and other projects is very important to my family and me.
The Jr. NBA Coaches Online program is primarily aimed at young Europeans who want to improve. The NBA globalizes a bit every year, how important is this cultural aspect to you?
Caleb Canales: The NBA, over the past decades, has done a great job of improving the game around the world. A lot of people work hard to put together different programs: Basketball Without Borders, Jr. NBA… This is just one example of how the NBA is ahead of its time and improving the game.
It happens every night. Nikola Jokic is the back-to-back MVP. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic are on the All-NBA First Team, we can clearly see the progress. But we’ve also seen the growth of a lot of players, not just the All-Stars. Players and coaches are on the rise. There are hundreds and hundreds of examples of how the game has evolved in different parts of the world, and I think the NBA has been the best institution at this level in a long time.
From a strict European perspective, when do you think European coaches have their place in the NBA?
Caleb Canales: I think it’s very similar to how it happens to players. It started very slowly, there were ups and downs in terms of the number of players. There are a lot of good players all over the world and now they know it.
I think the same thing happens with coaches. It starts at one or two, then a year is between five and ten, and the next year not so much. The fact that the NBA continues to expand around the world will not only affect players, but also coaches around the world.
“I still have wonderful relationships, all my life, with guys like Dirk, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard … guys I’ve coached for a long time.”
You work at the Mavericks, where you’re with the legend Dirk Nowitzki every day. What would you tell the young Europeans on the program if they asked you how to be the next Dirk Nowitzki?
Caleb Canales: You know, I learned a lot from Dirk. What I would tell them was that they had to dream. Dream big. They need to see that purpose, but it comes with responsibility and work. A player like Dirk Nowitzki, whom I coached for five years, works at an elite level every day. And it’s hard, but he’s working on his game like some have. It starts from there, you need to know the game. If you want to be the best version of yourself, you have to work as hard as you can.
On this subject, you spent 13 years as an NBA assistant and you were the Blazers ’head coach for one season. Today, you are co -head coach of the Mexican national team. Who are the players and do you want to work with and what experiences mark you the most?
Caleb Canales: My favorite time in the last 20 years? It’s really hard this year. There are so many wonderful times. Obviously, we remember the big wins, the big losses that hurt… but most of all it’s a question of the relationship between the players and the coaches.
I had the opportunity to coach future Hall of Famers like Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, I think Damian Lillard could also be Hall of Famer. I was also able to coach Brandon Roy for a while, but sadly his career was cut short due to injuries. But guys like Wes Matthews and Jared Bayless are hardworking guys I’ve worked with. I evolved with them and we still communicate today. I still have good, lifelong relationships with guys like Dirk, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard… guys I’ve coached for a long time.
What do you think is the most important quality to be a good coach?
Caleb Canales: I think you need to know how to listen and be open minded. I think you have to have a style of play, an identity, that you want to put in place. But you also need to remain flexible to adjust to your workforce. In the end, what you want is to put your team in the best possible position to win. Sometimes, as a coach and an assistant, you have to adapt to the present.
The Jr. NBA Coaches-Online presented by the Gatorade® program is hosted by OWQLO and offers 12 live virtual sessions from February to September for app users aged 16 and over in France. The next session with Kaleb Canales, former NBA assistant coach, will take place this Sunday, June 12. For more information, visit owqlo.com, gatorade.com@NBAFRANCE sa Facebook and Twitter and @NBAEurope at instagram.
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