Getting a Job in the NBA
The most common question I get on social media doesn’t really have anything to do with shooting mechanics. It usually comes from coaches looking for advice on getting a job in the NBA. So it seems like a pretty logical blog topic.
On a very surface level, working the NBA is about adding value to a team, and developing relationships. The first advice that I give to people is to make sure that the NBA is the next logical step in your development as a coach. By that I mean, don’t focus on it if you are a middle school coach in your first couple of years of coaching. The next logical step for you will be to get a job with a high school team. And don’t think that having a great passion for the game will be able to make up the difference. It is great that you love the game, and think about it all the time, but so do thousands of other coaches, and a lot of them will have more experience that you do.
Building relationships is the next key. I’ll have a whole separate blog on networking, but in the beginning, I want you to focus on doing favors for people. Try to think of ways that you can offer some value to others that they may not be able to offer themselves. Is there a head coach in the area, that you would like to work for? Go scout a couple of their future opponents and provide them with a (GREAT) scouting report. Make it really good, really concise, and something that they are going to look at and say “wow”. Then provide it for them for free, and the next week do the same thing. Don’t ask for anything in return, just help them. And if the work that you are doing is really helpful, and they have the resources, eventually they MAY want to hire you to keep doing that, or something similar.
But below the surface a little more, here are a couple of the (still really long-shot) short cuts to working in the NBA.
- Start in the video room – Learn SportsCode and know how to log games on it. Typically these people are younger, usually former players, that break down game tape and assist with player development.
- Become an intern – This varies a great deal from team to team. I’ve worked for teams that don’t have any interns (basically volunteers, but maybe with a small wage attached), and there are teams that have a dozen or more. Keep an eye on teams websites for internships. But be aware, just because it may be a volunteer position doesn’t mean the competition isn’t highly competitive. As a friend of mine likes to say “we turn down Yale graduates for our internships”.
- Summer League – Many teams will take on outside coaches for summer league. You still might need to know someone (good thing you’ve been doing a lot of favors!) but for two weeks in July there is a chance to be around a staff.
- Free-agent Mini-Camps – Some teams will run mini-camps for during the off-season for players that are on the bubble of making it to the NBA. On some occasions teams will use these camps as a chance to get to know some outside coaches as well. This is how I got my start.
Understand that each team will run things differently, and potentially VERY differently, so what applies to one team may not apply to another. I’ve worked for 2 teams that did mini-camps, then my third team did not have one for 4 years, and on the 5th year they ran one. Some teams may use their existing staff for summer league (especially if they have a new staff) while others may use a lot of outside coaches.
Most importantly, if you are lucky enough to get one of these opportunities, don’t try to impress everyone with how amazing you are. Try to help people, be polite, fit in, ask questions, clean up after yourself. I’ve seen young coaches spend all their time bragging about their accomplishments to the point that no one wants to sit with them at dinner, and I’ve seen coaches leave behind water bottles for the (Full-time employed) equipment manager to pick up. Don’t be that person. You are better off to spend your lunches and dinners having a quiet conversation about family with one of the other assistant coaches.