Tim Lewis will head to Germany once his duties on the Great Britain coaching staff are done this summer. And he’ll be taking a few insights picked up from within the inner sanctums of the NBA.
Last season started with a resounding thud for the former GB Under-20 coach. Essex Pirates, the little club that eventually couldn’t, dropped out of the British Basketball League just weeks before the campaign was due to kick-off.
Quickly, Sheffield Sharks came on the phone. An assistant-slash-developmental role was promised in conjunction with Hallam University. The offer proved to carry all the weight of a feather. Lewis was left kicking his heels. When Chris Finch called, offering him free room and board in Houston and a chance of some sunshine, he was only too happy to accept.
Showing up at the Rockets practice facility for a look-see was a welcome diversion. It got a lot more interesting after that.
“In Houston, I was in and out of practice every day, going to games and meeting with all the coaches,” he revealed. “I could see every aspect of what went on.”
And, through mutual contacts, the Texan hospitality kept on coming.
“Then I went down to San Antonio, where they made me feel like part of the family,” Lewis continued.
“I spent most of my time with (general manager) RC Buford, just talking basketball, and then I got to sit down with Pops (coach Gregg Popovich) after practice.“
Going inside the ropes at the franchise which is the envy of most in the NBA was instructive. Lewis was given access (almost) all areas during his internship, pitching in wherever he could as the likes of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker went about their daily grind.
As well as coaching at GB training camp, back in Houston next month, Lewis is slated to spend the Olympics as Finch’s video chief, breaking down tape of opponents and coming up with the forward plans.
In the NBA, that’s a fine art as much as Ph.D level science. Listening to men of Popovich’s experience opened his eyes still further.
“When you talk with him,” he said, “and the likes of Kevin McHale and Kelvin Sampson, you pick up so much.”
It’s good for business too, potentially. Networking in coaching circles is priceless.
“I’ve made a wealth of contacts as well and that’s opened up all sorts of doors,” he admitted.
“I’ve been able to see how teams like the Spurs and the Rockets go about their business, how they assess players and opponents and just maximise their talent.”
Finch, of course, is not the only member of GB’s Lone Star coaching fraternity. Lewis gained entry into Houston Baptist University, where former Scotland playcaller Donna Finnie is an assistant, and to the Rio Grande Vipers, the Rockets’ D-League affiliate now helmed by Nick Nurse.
College and the NBA’s kid brother league would interest him, he confirms. Staying Stateside was a possibility.
“There may have been opportunities in the D-League if I’d been prepared to hang around until September,” he affirmed. “It was the same last year. But after what happened in Sheffield, and Essex before that, I really wanted some stability.”
That will now come in the German League. Lewis is to join BBL giants Ratiopharm Ulm, linking up with the former Scottish Rocks coach Thorsten Leibenath.
The club has ambitious plans for the future, with a new 6100-seater arena and a purpose-built practice facility. But with new rules coming in next season which will force each club to field at least six homegrown players, the new mantra is development.
Lewis, as well as coaching Ulm’s Pro B team, will head up that process.
“The main thing I’ll be involved in is the new academy they’re setting up,” he confirmed.
“They want to recruit and develop top class players with the aim of being able to eventually play in the Euroleague.”
They’ll do so with ideas cultivated between Southend and San Antonio, gleaned from some of the sharpest minds in the business.
The German lessons have been booked in. But the education already completed, Lewis states, was of unquestionable benefit.
“Chris organised it. And I’m totally grateful to him because it’s been a great experience.”
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