From the grassroots level to the professional level, the positive impact that a coach can have on an athlete is undeniable. A coach’s role extends further than wins and losses; it’s about teaching life lessons and developing young people into healthy, confident and respectful adults through the medium of sport.
The Jr. NBA and Positive Coaching Alliance have partnered together to create a program designed to honor influential youth basketball coaches and the impactful work that they do for our game. The Jr. NBA Coach of the Year award is given to a youth basketball coach in an NBA team market who is making a positive impact on children by demonstrating outstanding integrity, character and leadership.
About The Program
Each participating NBA team nominates a local coach, who is automatically entered into the national Coach of the Year selection process. The Jr. NBA and Positive Coaching Alliance will conduct a screening process to narrow the pool of nominees to eight (8) national semi-finalists. From the round of eight, an executive panel of judges, along with a fan vote via social media, will determine the top three finalists and national Jr. NBA Coach of the Year winner.
The top three finalists will each be awarded with a financial grant to support their local youth basketball organizations, as well as additional benefits, including a free Positive Coaching Alliance training, basketball equipment and apparel. The finalists will also receive an all-expense paid trip to New York where the Coach of the Year winner will be announced and honored on a national stage at the first-ever NBA Awards Show on June 26, 2017.
The following individuals have been recognized by various NBA teams for their dedication and influence in their local youth basketball communities. These outstanding coaches are in consideration for the 2017 Jr. NBA Coach of the Year award.
Karim Abdullah has been coaching with Mecklenburg Park and Recs (Tom Sykes Center) for the past 10 years. Throughout his tenure, he has won three county wide championships in three different age groups. Coach Abdullah is a 3-time nominee for the Tom Sykes Coach of the Year award, and has been recognized as the most outstanding citizen in his local Dilworth Community. Coach Abdullah not only teaches the game of basketball, but he also stresses the importance of taking the life lessons learned on the court and applying them to the everyday ups and downs of life.
A former D1 gager, Coach Berran has excelled the past decade as a youth basketball coach and administrator in the Eagan (MN) Athletic Association (EAA). She serves as the association president managing all in-house and traveling basketball programs for over 1,000 athletes. Coach Berran’s true philosophy includes that by being on a team you learn not only the sport, but, more importantly, life skills that you can carry with you forever. Her success is seen through her on-court success and her off-court positive impact is realized through each of her players’ lives.
At Franklin High School in Highland Park, Ashley Berumen played on 3 different varsity sports teams – basketball, softball, volleyball – in addition to having a black belt in karate. After high school, Ashley played one year at West LA college and two months before facing her toughest challenge, being diagnosed with cancer. A natural competitor, Coach Berumen beat cancer and set her sights back to the court after walking on to the basketball team at Concordia University. While Ashley succeeded because of her hard work, she credits her work ethic and opportunities to her former coach at Highland Park, Corky Farley. Coach Farley showed Ashley that basketball is more than a game and continuously kept her motivated and inspired to grow as a player and person. Because of this, she now coaches basketball at Highland Park and enjoys teaching other young adults these fundamentals and life lessons.
Representing the San Fernando Valley Junior Lakers, Kenneth Cook is a dedicated coach and mentor for the local youth basketball community. In addition to his work with San Fernando Valley, Coach Cook also coaches a variety of different AAU and parks and recreation teams. While he loves basketball, his true passion is giving back to the community. When he is not coaching, Kenneth serves as the Director at the Los Angeles Youth Network and also works as an in-home outreach counselor for the Boys & Girls Club.
Skee Fox and his wife, Angie, live in West Bountiful, Utah with their four children. Coach Fox has helped coach youth football (7 years, 10 teams), youth baseball (10 years, 22 teams), youth soccer (6 years, 14 teams) and, his favorite, Junior Jazz basketball (8 years, 17 teams). His favorite part of being a coach is watching the kids learn life lessons, such as teamwork, respect, fairness and sportsmanship.
Matt George has been coaching middle school basketball in Camden, NJ for the past five years. He is currently the head coach of the KIPP Lanning Square Middle School boys’ basketball team. He has coached his team to two back-to-back undefeated seasons leading to two Camden City Middle School Championships. Coach George runs practice three days during the week and holds a mandatory homework club with the other two days. While playing under Coach George, his players know if they want to be a student-athlete, student always comes first. Coach George also focuses on the importance of giving back to the community. He requires that he and his players do a variety of different community cleanups so his players learn responsibility and feel proud of where they live.
Coach Corey Gomez has coached the Jr. Cavs 5-6 year old team for the past several seasons at the French Creek YMCA. Coach Gomez demonstrates all of the qualities in a great youth basketball coach. Even with his considerable work and family obligations, Coach Gomez volunteers to coach young basketball players season after season. During practices, he works with each player individually to help them improve their basketball skill set. He instills in his players the need to practice their basketball skills in order to motivate them to achieve more. Many of his players want to practice even more after experiencing success with something Coach Gomez has taught them. Beyond personal improvement, Coach Gomez also creates a sense of teamwork and collaboration that is very hard to achieve in players that age.
Coach Abdul Hill is a Washington, D.C. native who continues to be a pillar in his local community. Hill has been coaching and developing youth of all ages in basketball for more than 15 years at the Rita Bright Family & Youth Center, which implements more than 35 free programs for youth and adults under the umbrella of Technology, Education, Enrichment, Arts, and Athletics. In 2016, Coach Hill became the Head Boys Varsity Basketball Coach at Cardozo Education Campus High School in addition to serving as the Athletic Director and Program Instructor at Rita Bright Family & Youth Center.
Scott Jergler became an Atlanta police officer in June 2003. He has been coaching basketball with Atlanta PAL for four years and football for six years. After becoming a police officer, he quickly and happily took on the role of creating new opportunities for both his colleagues and youth of Atlanta to connect on many different levels. Whether Scott is attending a coaching course, coaching a game, taking his youth on a field trip or organizing a mini police academy, he interacts with his peers, his superiors and his team with respect and honor. Coach Jergler strongly believes in the importance of his work with PAL as it is a relationship-building platform with the youth of Atlanta and creates a safe space for the kids who learn they can trust and lean on the police force when needed.
In addition to his role as coach of the Afterschool Matters Crossover Basketball Program, Pastor John LaTorre is the lead pastor for the English congregation at the New Life Center in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community. Coach John teaches youth the fundamentals of the game, while also focusing on effective communication and life skills. He has initiated partnerships with other urban youth centers to allow his players the opportunity to positively engage with their peers throughout the city through the game of basketball. Coach John’s wife, Bethany, and three young children graciously share his time with the players whom he mentors.
For 30 years, Al McClain has tirelessly dedicated himself to youth development through the game of basketball in the city of Boston. Operating leagues, camps and mentor programs throughout the city, Coach Al has positively impacted the lives of more than 3,000 young people throughout his coaching career. A local basketball legend from his playing days at Trade HS in Hyde Park, Al went on to become the leading scorer in University of New Hampshire men’s basketball history before being drafted by the Rockets in 1984. Determined to return to Boston and make a positive impact in the lives of young people, Al is the founder of leagues and programs that have crossed city lines, brought people together and unified the community by teaching the values of the game.
Thomas Chapas Oakes is a retired financial analyst and business manager currently residing in Waddell, Arizona. A former athlete himself, Thomas wanted to spend his time volunteering and doing what he loves most – coaching. He coached the first-ever high school basketball team at the NW Valley YMCA and his players and parents have been spreading the word about his impact both on and off the court. The NW Valley YMCA now has two high school teams for the spring season due to Coach Oakes’ dedication and commitment to the basketball community.
Representing Memphis Athletic Ministries, Randy Odom has leveraged basketball and other sports to positively impact thousands of youth over a 20+ year career. Citing his own youth basketball coach (who stepped in as a parental figure following the passing of Randy’s mother) as inspiration, Odom seeks to “pay it forward” and has since established a culture of hope among under-resourced youth throughout the city of Memphis.
Coach Brandon is the Club Director for FLAMES Sports, which serves the communities of Vancouver, Portland and the Columbia Gorge. FLAMES’ mission is to bring opportunity and resources to all players regardless of their demographics and to promote positive personal growth to each player affiliated with FLAMES. Coach Brandon is not as concerned about wins and losses, but more concerned about the character development and off-court success of his athletes.
Coach Lloyd Saunders’ mission is to save lives one jump shot at a time while improving life skills. He is the perfect example of a role model because he believes that giving back builds character. He approaches every basketball win and loss with style and grace and has impacted more than 300 youth basketball players. Coach Saunders is a two-time Neighborhood Grant Winner by the Citizens Committee for New York City and will continue to work towards his goal of positively influencing one million children, parents and communities all over the world.
Cole Skinner is a 2015 graduate of Grand Blanc High School. Currently, he is a student at Oakland University studying Actuarial Sciences. While in high school, Cole became a Special Olympics certified track and basketball coach. This training allowed him to excel as the Autism Support and Resource Center’s POWER Basketball coach. In addition, Cole gives of his time and talent as the Grand Blanc Unified Special Olympics basketball coach, as well as assisting with other Unified sports. When he is not coaching basketball with his Unified athletes, he volunteers his time in tailored programs to help them develop daily living and social skills. Because of his efforts, Cole is seen as a true pillar in the Grand Blanc special needs community.
Coach Dwight Taylor has coached Einstein Middle School boys’ basketball in Sacramento for the past two seasons. Following each season, Coach Taylor was named to the coach All-Star team. In addition to his coaching career, he is also the author of a book called “Domin8 Your Day,” a high-energy, high-value, interactive book that takes readers through insightful explorations of how self-awareness can positively impact your life and the lives of others. Coach Taylor also has his own YouTube channel, which features a variety of different motivational and encouraging videos.
With more than 14 years of coaching, Coach Andrew Teal has had the privilege of working with players from three-year-old beginners to adult professionals, and from countries all over the world, including France, Brazil, China, Puerto Rico, Spain, Argentina, Egypt, Sweden and Costa Rica. Coach Teal has been with the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy for 12 years and with the National Basketball Academy for eight years. His roles within the National Basketball Academy include lead trainer, Jr. Magic Youth Basketball League Director, Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Camps Director, Lead Clinician, AAU Director and AAU Coach. Although he has been fortunate to earn a variety of awards, honors, and accomplishments through coaching, the greatest achievements are better seen in the lives he has impacted.
Larry Thompson is a Texas native, but currently resides in the Bay Area and serves as the Head Football Coach at Franklin High School in Stockton. For the past 5 years, he has also coached Tracy Youth Hoops in the Junior Warriors Basketball League, teaching players the fundamentals of the game, as well as how to be great team players on and off the court. His passion for coaching comes from teaching discipline, respect, hard work, courage and, most importantly, keeping kids from turning to the streets.
Coach Elwin Williams, a Baton Rouge native, has coached and cultivated many winning teams over the years. During his time in Biddy Basketball, his teams have won every regional championship for the last 10 years. His AAU teams have won multiple super regional and state championships. Additionally, they have won several Governors Games Tournament titles – a prestigious tournament including the best talent in Louisiana. Coach Williams has always gone above and beyond what has been expected of him as a coach, both on and off the court. His community recognizes him as a leader, role model and someone of great wisdom. He is universally well-liked and trusted by team parents, and he is greatly respected by opposing coaches. His goal is to positively influence youth in the community through the game of basketball.
Executive Voting Panel
Our Executive Voting Panel is comprised of various individuals from the Jr. NBA Leadership Council, NBA league office and Positive Coaching Alliance. This panel is tasked with providing guidance on the selection of our Coach of the Year finalists and national winner based on their respective basketball knowledge and experience.
Jennifer Azzi is a former basketball coach of the women’s team at the University of San Francisco. She played four years at Stanford University, started her professional career on the San Jose Lasers of the ABL, and went on to play in the WNBA for the Detroit Shock and Utah Starz, now the San Antonio Stars. Azzi is also an Olympic and FIBA world champion. After retiring, Azzi served on the Board of Directors of USA Basketball and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2016, Azzi publicly came out as gay, announcing her marriage to USF assistant Blair Hardiek at the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award ceremony.
Renee Brown is the former WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations. Brown joined the WNBA in its inaugural season in 1996. During her tenure at the league, she was responsible for overseeing the policies for all oncourt basketball operations as well as the administration of player-related programs. Currently, Brown serves as a member of the Jr. NBA Leadership Council and USAB Board of Directors.
NBA Official James Capers has officiated 1,172 regular season games, 78 Playoff games and five NBA Finals games during his 20-season NBA career. In addition to his NBA experience, Capers has six years of CBA officiating experience, including three CBA Finals and two CBA All-Star Games. The community-conscious Capers was the recipient of the 1998 Monarch Award as Chicago Sportsman of the Year for his career and community achievements.
Jason Collins is a Stanford University graduate and 13-year veteran of the NBA who played for New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, and Brooklyn and who went to two NBA Finals. Off the court, he was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame and serves as an NBA Cares Ambassador, furthering the league’s efforts to address social issues. Collins made history after the 2012-13 season, becoming the first active male athlete from one of the four major North American professional team sports to come out as gay.
Wardell Stephen “Dell” Curry I played in the NBA from 1986 until 2002 for Utah, Cleveland, Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Toronto. He retired as the Charlotte Hornets ‘ all-time leader in points (9,839) and three-point field goals made (929). Curry currently works as a color commentator on Charlotte Hornets television broadcasts. He also established a charitable foundation, the Dell Curry Foundation, that runs learning centers in Charlotte to provide educational training and drug abuse counseling. Dell is the father of current NBA players Steph Curry and Seth Curry.
David S. Fogel joined the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) in 2013. As Executive Director, his mission is to ensure that NBA Coaches have a voice within the on-court and off-court business of the League. Prior to this role, Fogel served as the NBCA’s Associate General Counsel. Fogel also currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Pace University School of Law, where he teaches a course titled “Legal Aspects of Professional Sports,” and as the Co-Chair of the Sports Law Committee for the New York Bar Association’s Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Section.
Ernie Johnson, known as “E.J.”, graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in journalism and has since worked as a play-by-play announcer and studio host across numerous sports including basketball, baseball, golf, and football. Johnson is currently a sportscaster for Turner Sports and CBS Sports. He works as the studio host for TNT’s coverage of the NBA, including pregame and halftime shows, and the network’s famous postgame studio show that airs after each NBA doubleheader, Inside the NBA, which he has hosted since 1990.
Jim Thompson is CEO of Positive Coaching Alliance, a national non-profit organization he founded at Stanford University in 1998. PCA’s mission is to transform the culture of youth sports and high school sports with the goal to develop Better Athletes, Better People. Jim is also the author of nine books on youth sports coaching, parenting and organizational culture.
E.M. ‘Kiki’ VanDeWeghe III, the NBA’s Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations, joined the NBA league office in April 2013. He has been involved in a broad range of basketball matters, including the development of playing rules and interpretations, game analytics, disciplinary matters, and policies and procedures relating to the operation of NBA games. He also serves as a key liaison between the league and its teams, drawing upon his experience as a general manager, coach, and player. VanDeWeghe’s NBA playing career spanned 13 years, with Denver, Portland, New York, and LA Clippers, during which he made two All-Star appearances and helped his teams to the postseason 12 times.