Following similar paths as Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to get the much-necessary respect for his coaching talents, Dallas Mavericks‘ assistant coach Monte Mathis appears to be on the cusp of being ‘that guy’ when it comes down to potential NBA head coaching candidates. Like Spoelstra, Mathis had success as a basketball player at both the high school and collegiate levels. While Spoelstra received his first shot at coach life overseas, Mathis humbly started from the bottom as an assistant coach at a Cincinnati high school.
The two similarities which stand out, though, is the fact that both of these guys didn’t have what it takes to play in the NBA and that they both got recognized as potential assistant coaches in the NBA while working as video coordinators for their respective teams.
Everybody remembers Spoelstra’s unique and intriguing (and whatever other funky adjective you want to use to describe it) story. This youthful coach standing next to Pat Riley, this young guy who would eventually take over the reins as the Heat’s on-court leader—he was previously the video coordinator. Broadcasters calling the game would never fail to remind viewers of this neat tidbit, and it produced the imagery of a future NBA where the league would be full of video room guys who became head coaches.
While Spoelstra’s success hasn’t sparked that sort of trend, it has provided coaches like Mathis with a legitimate opportunity.
Last year, it took head coach Rick Carlisle getting sick for Mathis to get that first opportunity, albeit in a guest-starring role, as Mathis filled in for that one game. Yes, the game was against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks, but Dirk Nowitzki was also out with an illness. Presented with this incredible challenge of having never been a head coach and being without his superstar, Mathis proceeded to prove his abilities as a head coach in the NBA, as he led his short-handed squad to a victory.
His future in this league is too bright but, again, he owes Spoelstra. Spoelstra paved the way.