Irish Coaching Connections
"He did great, perfect," Chris Paul said. "I just hate that we couldn't get the win for him."
On Monday December 27th 2021, history was made in the NBA when Kevin Young took control of the Phoenix Suns against the Memphis Grizzlies. Young, the Associate Head Coach of the Suns, was acting head coach as Monty Williams entered Covid health and safety protocols. In the midst of a season being interrupted by Covid, was a first for Irish basketball, as Kevin Young became the first coach ever to coach in the Irish Super League and go on to be the head coach for an NBA game (albeit in an acting head coach capacity). Perennial All Star Chris Paul was happy with Young’s command of the side-line and it looked like Young would have a 100% record before a last second shot from Ja Morant won the game for the Grizzlies. Despite the loss it was another step in the remarkable coaching rise of Young who arrived in Dublin to coach Shamrock Rovers Hoops (Denny Notre Dame) as a 23-year-old back in 2006.
Young isn’t the first coach with a connection to Ireland with brief head coaching experience either. On the 7th of January 2016, former Irish captain and player coach Jay Larranaga stepped in as acting head coach of the Boston Celtics to replace Brad Stevens who was on compassionate leave. Larranaga coached an under-strength Celtics squad against a red hot Chicago Bulls that had Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol in dominant form. Although Larranaga was unlikely to sit back after the game and consider the remarkable journey that had taken him around Europe and back to the NBA, if he did find the time, he wouldn’t have had to look far in the United Center for reminders of his journey that night. Looking down to the Bulls bench Jay could see one of their inactive players at the time, Mike Dunleavy Jr. Mike was famously one of the main targets for the Irish team and his brother Baker was capped at Senior Level for Ireland alongside Larranaga. Even more incredibly, one of the Celtics players that night was Jonas Jerebko from Sweden. Laranaga played against a young Jerebko in Italy but remarkably Jerebko also played for Sweden on the night of Larranaga’s head coaching debut (against Sweden) as player coach for Ireland just over seven years earlier.
Irish basketball may not operate on the main stage in the basketball world but throughout its’ history the sport and Ireland have been interconnected with the top players and talent in the world without many even realising it. Alongside Young (Associate Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns) and Larranaga (Los Angeles Clippers Assistant) is Jim Moran (Detroit Pistons Assistant Coach).