By Matt Murphy | Blue Coats Beat correspondent
LAS VEGAS, NV — July 15, 2018 – Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Kevin Young knows a thing or two about development.
Young, who possesses more than a decade’s worth of coaching experience between the NBA and the G League, added another line to his resume this month in Las Vegas: Head Coach of the Summer Sixers.
Young’s path to leading the Sixers’ NBA Summer League team included a stop in Delaware. He served as the head coach of the 76ers’ G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, and as an assistant coach for the team the preceding year. Now two years into his time as an NBA assistant, Young says he’s amidst the next phase of his own development.
“It’s just a reflection of my past with the organization,” said Young. “Starting out as an assistant coach with the Blue Coats, for years I was able to help out with the Summer League program. To get the opportunity to work with the new, young players and get those reps as a head coach in this environment is really helpful for me, and hopefully helpful for the team as we look forward to next season.”
The 36-year-old Young has learned a lot from 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown over the past two seasons. Brown’s coaching style, particularly his energy and his trust in his staff, stands out to Young.
“He’s a one of a kind guy with the amount of positive energy that he brings to the table on a daily basis,” said Young. “Especially in the NBA, or even the G League for that matter, the schedules are grueling. The amount of games, the amount of travel. So to be around somebody that literally brings it every day, every hour, every minute, that for me has been something I’ve learned from him.
“The other thing he does incredibly well is he trusts his coaches. He trusts the people that he hires to ultimately do the job that he puts in front of them. And he’s comfortable enough in his leadership approach to really empower people. For me, and all of our other staff members, we reap the benefits because everybody’s super locked in to what we’re doing since you have such a large part in it.”
The G League was a pivotal part of the journey for Young, just as the Summer League is now. The minor league setting presented challenges that made him a better coach, but perhaps more importantly, it provided room for his confidence to grow.
“The thing about the G League for me more than anything was just experience,” said Young. “Just being able to trial and error things when all of the lights aren’t necessarily on you, when you’re not under the gun – as much – for wins and losses. It’s about development. And that’s such a cliche term and such a broad statement, but for me it was: develop philosophies, develop habits, develop different things that I thought would work moving forward based on my trial and error in the G League. For me, you try things as a head coach and you’re able to build up and have a library of different things in situations. So when you’re in those situations in the NBA, it’s not the first time or the second time you’ve been in it. It’s the hundred-and-first time, the hundred-and-second time you’ve been in it. It’s a big time confidence builder from that standpoint.”
In a recent guest spot on “The BroadCast” with Sixers.com’s Brian Seltzer, Young explained that “even as a coach you need confidence, and that’s what I’ve tried to help some of the younger coaches understand, the confidence that you need as a coach. And there’s no better way to get that than just doing what they’re doing right now, just coaching on the floor.” Connor Johnson, who was named head coach of the Blue Coats in June, is one of those younger coaches. Johnson spent the past four seasons as a member of the 76ers coaching staff and is currently assisting under Young at the Summer League.
“It’s been fun,” said Young. “First of all, Connor doesn’t need any help. He’s going to be just fine. He’s an eager guy. He’s humble. He’s receptive to different feedback and so forth. There are so many different things that I just tried to say ‘Hey, this is what I tried and it worked. This is what I tried, and it didn’t work so well.’ He’s smart enough to take the highlights from that and build his own program.”
Young spent nine seasons as a G League coach. Prior to his three years in Delaware, one as an assistant coach and two as the head coach, he was an assistant for the Utah Flash and then the head coach of the Iowa Energy. It was a grind.
“Coming up through the minor leagues is not an easy thing to do,” said Young. “There are so many things working against you, but at the end of the day it prepares you so well for everything, and other things that you’ll face in the NBA and in life as well. It’s gotten me to this point, and the thing for me that is interesting is that when you look at the landscape of the NBA, you look at the landscape of even the Summer League, the type of guys who have G League head coaching experience have paved the way for Connor [Johnson] and the next guy and the next guy. You go down the list of head coaches in the NBA. Obviously [Utah’s] Quin Snyder, [Sacramento’s] Dave Joerger. Nick Nurse was just recently named head coach of the Toronto Raptors. There’s been a bunch of guys, even more so lately, where you’ve found a legitimate path to becoming an NBA head coach. It’s almost the way to go as far as trying to break into the NBA.”
In reflecting on his own path, Young feels fortunate about climbing the G League ladder at the time that he did.
“I was lucky. I kind of got into it before it was really as popular as it is now, and I sort of was able to pay my dues early and here we are,” said Young. “I don’t know what that means for the future, but I’m enjoying the ride.”
The Summer League ride continues for Young and the Summer Sixers Sunday night at 10:00 PM EST, when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the NBA Summer League quarterfinals on ESPN 2.