The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Eric MusselmanPosted by WCarey on July 1st, 2013
Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the son of the fiery, late coach Bill Musselman, Eric Musselman grew up around the game of basketball. Not long after his playing career finished at the University of San Diego, the younger Musselman followed in the footsteps of his father and became a coach. Starting as a head coach in the CBA and USBL, Eric Musselman soon earned the reputation of being one of the top young coaches in basketball. The NBA soon took notice and he earned spots on the staffs with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Memphis Grizzlies. He broke through for the first time with the Golden State Warriors, where he coached from 2002 to 2004, and later with the Sacramento Kings in the 2006-07 season. Following his stints in the NBA, he worked as an NBA and college basketball analyst and color commentator for several national networks. Musselman returned to coaching in the 2011-12 season when he took the helm for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBDL. In his only season with the team, he was named the NBDL Coach of the Year. In September 2012, Musselman became a member of Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State. In his first season coaching in the collegiate ranks, Arizona State improved from a 10-21 mark in 2011-12 to a 22-13 mark in 2012-13. In May, Musselman was rewarded for his efforts, being promoted by Sendek to associate head coach at ASU. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Eric Musselman about the 2013 NBA Draft and Arizona State’s development as the 2013-14 season nears. You can follow him on Twitter @EricPMusselman.
Rush the Court: The 2013 NBA Draft was widely viewed as a weak draft. What are your thoughts on the draft in terms of its overall strength?
Eric Musselman: Obviously, there are going to be years where the NBA Draft is going to be down, just like any other sport. A lot of people are already talking about the 2014 draft – and for good reason. Regarding this year’s draft, I think a few guys like Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke, and Shabazz Muhammad – to name a few – could end up making a impact . Then, there’s an assortment of other guys that were drafted that come could in and make an NBA rotation. As a whole, yes, the draft was down, but there are still guys that can help an NBA team. A lot of that depends on opportunity and fits with teams. Just because there was not a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant in the draft does not mean it was that weak. There are some good point guards in the class and a lot of hungry guys – like Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller – who have something to prove to the critics. A lot of these guys have been questioned for being picked either too high or too low, so they are a hungry bunch.
RTC: What player do you believe has the most upside among the 2013 NBA Draft class?
EM: Anthony Bennett. At the end of the day, he is a young player who only played one year in college. He is a dynamic four or a three who has the ability to play both inside and outside. Not to mention the fact that he is already an impact player. I think he is only going to get better and he could end up being a key piece in helping the Cavaliers get back to the playoffs – sooner rather than later. Trey Burke is another guy whom I feel has a lot of upside.
RTC: Who do you think could be a sleeper to have a successful NBA career from this draft class?
EM: Isaiah Canaan out of Murray State. In 2011-12 when Murray State had a really successful season, he received a lot of publicity. However, the team struggled a little bit in 2012-13 and he sort of became a forgotten man. He is very quick with the basketball and he can score the ball and distribute as well. He is also a spark plug on the defensive end of the court. He could definitely end up being a rotation player in the NBA.
RTC: With coaching experience in the NBA, the NBDL, and now in college, what attributes do you believe are the most essential for a player who is trying to make himself a career in the NBA?
EM: Work ethic is number one. The difference between NBDL players and NBA rotation guys is not too great, so you have to be willing to put in the work and perfect your craft. It also really helps if you develop a niche, i.e., being a knockdown three-point shooter. Just building a solid work ethic and being a guy who can be counted on every day goes a long way. Players like Danny Green, Steve Novak, and Jeremy Lin all were able to work their way up from the NBDL to the NBA – in fact, all three played on the same team in the NBDL. Other important attributes are being a great practice player, knowing who you are as a player, having great body language, and always looking to be a good teammate. It is very important to bring enthusiasm to the team environment day in and day out.
RTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a player just entering the NBA, what would it be?
EM: Be a sponge. Absorb everything you can from everyone. Listen to your coaches, veterans on the team, strength coaches, trainers, etc. You cannot come into the league like you know everything. You must strive to be a “no maintenance” player both on and off the court. You have to be able to learn and take advantage of the amount of resources you have around you. You have to be willing to put the work in, work on your weaknesses, and try to round out your game as well as possible.
RTC: After having the opportunity to coach Carrick Felix during his senior season at Arizona State, what do you think he brings to the fold for the Cleveland Cavaliers as an early second round pick?
EM: Energy, effort, athleticism, defense, and an excellent attitude. As a staff, we all feel Carrick has one of the best attitudes any of us have ever seen at any level. There is never a bad day with Carrick. He is always smiling and never takes anything for granted. Basketball-wise – he is a guy that can guard multiple positions on the floor, he gets loose balls, he runs really well in transition, and he is a much better shooter than he is given credit for. He is more than capable of making jumpers from the perimeter. I think the Cavaliers landed a guy who can be a rotation player for them.
RTC: Along with working his way to being an early second round pick, Carrick Felix was able to earn two degrees during his time at Arizona State. What do his accomplishments mean to the athletic and academic mission of the Sun Devil program?
EM: That is a great question. A lot of the time, you see guys that have success in one area or the other. With Carrick, however, he was able to earn two degrees and play well enough to be a high draft pick. It speaks volumes of him as a kid and his mother deserves all the credit in the world for who he is as a person. He is such a good role model. He is the poster child of doing things the right way. It goes to show that if you do things the right way, good things will happen. Coach Sendek and our staff put a huge emphasis on academics with our basketball players and we have a “student-first” mentality in our program.
RTC: Jahii Carson led all freshmen nationally in scoring and was Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year last season. His choice to return to school for his sophomore season was obviously a huge deal for the program. What strides do you expect him to make during his second season as he continues to develop his game?
EM: It is tough to put expectations on a guy like Jahii. First and foremost, he is very hard on himself. He expects to be the best point guard in the country. Jahii had an excellent season last year and we expect much of the same. We all know he can get to the basket and finish around the rim as well as any player in the country, but adding range to his jump shot will only help his game become even more dynamic. A lot of people forget that he was among the Pac-12 leaders in assists as well. Obviously the expectations for Jahii are high, but we think if there is one kid that can handle such high expectations, it is Jahii. Hopefully we have a successful 2013-14 season and the nation finds out that he is one of the top five players in the country.
RTC: Lastly, Jordan Bachynski played the best basketball of his career last season, as he became one of the premier shot blockers in all of college basketball. What improvements do you see him making to his game that will result in him being an even greater force in the paint?
EM: Jordan has a very positive attitude and works hard on his game. We want Jordan to realize that he is going to make mistakes and we want him to be able to play through those mistakes. We plan on working with Jordan on his conditioning. He is very athletic and with our fast-tempo style of play, we would like to see him score four-to-six points a game just by running the floor hard. He is getting great experience this summer playing with the Canadian National team under coach Jay Triano and that will benefit him. He is already one of the premier shot blockers in the nation and that will correlate to the next level. He should be an NBA draft pick next June.