In the two seasons that I got to work with Nevada Smith I was taken aback, over and over again, with how much the guy simply knew about basketball. Sitting behind the bench, getting to overhear him talk strategy and furiously work a dry erase board was lesson in both basketball craftsmanship and leadership.
But in this league, where things run faster and more nebulous, a coach has to have a certain flexibility for personnel. I think this was Nevada's downfall. Too often problems seemed to be based on not having a certain guy that does a certain thing. Rosters are in constant flux in the D-League and I think, over the course of his two season, Nevada just couldnt make do with a bunch of college nobodies and journeyman NBA castaways (note: in the D-League "journeyman" mean's you're 26 and still haven't made it to the NBA).
So here comes Matt Brase, who now becomes the sixth head coach in franchise history.
Brase rejoins the Vipers after two seasons as the Director of Player Development for the Houston Rockets. Brase previously served as an assistant coach for the Vipers during the 2012-13 season, the year they won the D-League title. That championship squad, lead by Nick Nurse, who now holds an assistant coach position with the Raptors, still gets talked about in all sorts of half-whispers among the die-hards in the RGV who have the time to keep up with this sort of thing.
You hang around the VIP section of State Farm Arena during pre-game and you'll likely overhear someone talk about that franchise-best 35-15 and how they closed the season out with a 10 game win streak before sweeping the playoffs 6-0. So there's a lot of hope that Brase can put some wins on the board. But more importantly, Rockets' brass is hopeful at the prospect that Brase will be much better at grooming guys into the type of players that Houston can call up in a heartbeat.
As Rockets Director of Player Development, Brase is as inside baseball as you can get. You know how players are always talking about watching hours of tape? It's guys like Brase who are often in the room, taking notes and pointing out flaws.
While with the Vipers, Brase had six players receive a total of seven Gatorade Call-Ups during the 2012-13 season and Andrew Goudelock (THAT Andrew Gaudelock) was awarded MVP honors.
This is the area where the Rockets excel, Chandler Parsons getting picked up in the second? Isaiah Canaan plucked in the later rounds to be flipped for real value? It's guys like Brase who do the groundwork for these sorts of decisions. And every one who follows the Rockets should feel good about having this kind of coach grooming the young'uns in case they need to be called up.
Vipers return to action in November. We'll talk then.