In the San Antonio Spurs organization, proper role-playing is absolutely paramount. Under Gregg Popovich, assistant coach Chip Engelland has performed as well as possible in his role as shooting coach. The improvements of many Spurs over the years have been facilitated by Engelland, although most casual NBA fans are not familiar with him.
One clear example of Engelland’s ability is 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has experienced one of the most impressive improvements. Because Leonard was used as an interior player at San Diego State University, it is not surprising that he shot only 25 percent from behind the arc in his two-year career with the Aztecs. In his three-year NBA career, however, Leonard has shockingly changed that trend in rapid speed. He has shot above 37.4 percent in every season professionally, including his 57.9 percent shooting in the most recent NBA Finals.
Boris Diaw has also seen a leap in shooting because of Engelland. Before arriving in San Antonio, Diaw was a 32.9 percent three-point shooter. In just over two seasons with the Spurs, Diaw has shot 40.9 percent.
Of course, possibly San Antonio’s most lethal long-ranger shooter, Danny Green, was not always a capable NBA shooter. His shot from behind the arc was inconsistent in college, and he shot only 27.1 from three during his short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Like Leonard and Diaw, however, Green’s shooting has risen to a more than respectable number of 42.5 percent.
Possibly Engelland’s greatest strength as a shooting coach is that he understands shooting is a mental endeavor just as much as it is a physical one. Although Engelland’s knowledge of the technicalities involved with shooting a basketball is off the charts, his ability to instill confidence into San Antonio’s shooters is just as important.
Because San Antonio’s offense has been so predicated on the ability to make open jump shots, Engelland’s expertise has been extremely helpful in making the team such an efficient offensive team over the years. Although Popovich rightfully has received a lot of credit as head coach, assistant coaches like Engelland has also played a large role in the Spurs’ recent dominance.