Congratulations to Coach Jason Curry representing the New York Knicks on being selected as the 2019 Jr. NBA Coach of the Year!
Coach Jason has coached youth basketball in New York for the past twenty years through his program Big Apple Basketball (BAB). Big Apple Basketball aims to develop, educate, and support boys and girls ages 8-14 to allow them to pursue and fulfill their dreams. In addition to developing kids on the court, Coach Jason makes sure to focus on off court development and often brings in guest speakers to speak with the kids about careers within sports. BAB also provides opportunities for internships within the organization. Coach Jason’s passion for the game of basketball and teaching youth how to become productive citizens in their communities make him a special steward of the game.
- About The Program
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.
Each participating NBA and WNBA 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 semifinalists. 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 and a free Positive Coaching Alliance training. The finalists will also receive a trip to Chicago where the Coach of the Year winner will be announced and honored on a national stage at the Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference on May 17, 2019.
The following individuals have been recognized by various NBA and WNBA teams for their dedication and influence in their local youth basketball communities. These outstanding coaches are in consideration for the 2019 Jr. NBA Coach of the Year award.
A leader in the community, Coach Fambro has been a role model for young ladies that have played on his teams. Whether it is taking players to the movies or bringing his team to New York City to participate in the Jr. NBA Nationals, he shows his determination to better the lives of the young ladies he mentors. Coach Tim wants to help the young athletes get the most out of their childhoods. More than a coach, Fambro is a teacher. He wants the girls to believe in themselves, to respect their parents and teachers and to remember they are kids and life should be fun. A certified coach with the Georgia High School Association, Coach Fambro received the Phoenix Award, the highest award an Atlanta civilian can receive from the Mayor’s office.
Born in Korea to a military family, Coach Joe LeVan has experienced living in many different places before settling into Savannah, Georgia. Living in Oklahoma during his formative years, Coach LeVan fell in love with the game of basketball while watching The Atlanta Hawks on TBS. He has spent the last 22+ years at Chatham Academy in Savannah, where he coaches basketball for kids who were denied the opportunity to play based on their learning challenges. Coach LeVan focuses on celebrating success and building a sense of purpose through team work and commitment to each other. His passion and dedication to spreading the game of basketball, as well as building up his players confidence, has made Coach LeVan a very worthy recipient of the 2019 Jr. Hawks Coach of the Year.
Randy Butler Sr. is the founder of the Butler Basketball Club, a non-profit organization in Newport Country, RI. Understanding firsthand how basketball can be used as a tool to improve the world around you, Randy provides youth with safe spaces to play and connects his players to educational opportunities that build strong character and expose them to their full potential. Randy’s program prioritizes positive relationships with community leaders and develops players’ character towards hard work, tolerance, cooperation, and respect. Since its inception in 2016, Randy has impacted the lives of hundreds of local youth on and off the basketball court.
Matthew “Matt” Palyok is a native of Columbia SC and coaches the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets Teal Wheelchair Basketball Team. He is the father of wheelchair athlete Julia Dailey Palyok. Three years ago, Matt sought out a competitive wheelchair sport for Julia and found the Charlotte program and reached out to the program director, Mike Godsey, who welcomed the Palyoks into the program with open arms. This program has given so much to Julia that Matt felt compelled to give back. He asked about being a coach for the younger kids and soon found himself recruited for the role. Matt’s philosophy is to treat and coach these kids as any able-bodied player would be treated. While it may require extra work, he inspires these young children and allows them to experience the same great joys that other child athletes get to experience. Coaching the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets Teal Wheelchair Basketball team has taught Matt that success isn’t measured in wins and losses, but in the amount of lives you touch. Becoming a role model in a city of more than 850,000 people in which you do not live in is hard, but being able to watch young children develop as athletes, teammates, and as human beings is what drives Matt every day. For Matt, coaching these young athletes is the best job in the world.
Bob Lozano has over 20 years of experience in coaching basketball. His coaching involvement has ranged from boys and girls of all skill levels, from elementary to high school. Bob has been a pivotal member of the coaching staff for Chicago Bulls youth programs throughout the years and he will continue as a lead coach for our new Youth Hoops program. His priorities in coaching have always been to develop young adults into successful goal oriented, humbled, and hardworking individuals. He strives to put young athletes in the best situation to succeed on and off the court.
Coach Darren Drake is a YMCA Staff Member that also volunteers as a Coach in our Jr. Cavs League. Drake, a retired Military Drill Sergeant, has a commanding presence in everything that he does. Coach Drake coaches boys ages 13 & 14 and has volunteered for over 5 years. He gives back to the YMCA to have an impact on the youth & teens in our community and his impact is clearly evident in the smiles of all of the kids he mentors & coaches. The YMCA stands with us in our nomination as he “embodies their core values of respect, honesty, caring and responsibility.”
Although he was selected to be a part of the USA 19U World Championship team, unforeseen trouble derailed his objectives at the University of Tennessee, forcing Muhammad to be redirected to Claflin University. It was the summer of his junior year at Claflin where Muhammad decided to leave school and turn to the pro rank where he desired to play professionally. Muhammadʼs professional career would allow him to showcase his unstoppable talent in countries such as France, Taiwan, China, Dubai, Peru, Basra, Colombia, Turkey Europe and competing on the 2010 23U USA World Championship Team. After a successful, professional career that spanned across 9 countries in 11 years, Muhammad decided that it was time to elevate his game even further through giving back.
In 2016, he began “Belief Basketball Skills Training” with the mission to aid in elevating and developing the mental and physical skill set of student athletes. However, as time went on, he determined that there was still more that he could contribute. After becoming an official Jr. USA Team coach, he decided to form Belief Basketball SharpShooters Inc., a non-profit organization based in Dallas, TX that is geared towards providing year-round basketball training (and games) for student athletes. Muhammadʼs ultimate goal is to use this organization not only to impact the basketball skills of upcoming athletes, but to more importantly help increase their mental skill level by showing, giving, and teaching them the necessary strategies and thought patterns that are needed to ensure that they finish as a champion in life.
Ashley Robinson is a retired 10-year WNBA veteran from Grand Prairie, Texas. Robinson graduated from South Grand Prairie High School in 2000 and went on to play for the legendary Pat Summitt at The University of Tennessee. Her Lady Vols competed in three Final Fours and two championship games. Robinson received a degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Business. Robinson was drafted 13th overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury. She spent the majority of her career with the Seattle Storm, checking champion off her bucket list with the Storm in 2010. Robinson also played overseas in various countries including Israel, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Czech Republic, Australia and South Korea. After a successful career in the WNBA, Ashley spends her time raising her son Destin, aka Dez, growing her businesses, and giving back to amateur student athletes through basketball training programs. With her training programs, Robinson coaches, mentors, and tutors student athletes on how reach the same height she did through camps, clinics, mentoring sessions, and personal lessons. Robinson is the Founder and Owner of AKR Texas Summitt, Founder and Owner AKR Athletics and was the Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for Trinity Christian School, as well as the Junior High Head Coach for Trinity Christian School.
Arvada West Graduate, University of Northern Colorado 2006 Communications BA Minor Recreation. Being a Colorado native, I have always enjoyed the city and the outdoors. During the school year you can find me engaging with students, teachers, and community members daily, while holding high expectations for students and providing any assistance needed to teachers and the school. In my free time I enjoy fishing, camping, golf, bowling and of course attending Denver Nuggets games. I believe that sports have taught me so many life skills, the best one being “hard work”. Growing up I used sports as my outlet from stress, school, and any situation that may have caused stress. Now that I have been coaching at Merrill, my players know the expectation it comes with to play for me. They know that we practice so hard that the games are easy. They know that if they do not stay on top of their academics they do not play. They know that at any point they can come to me about anything as I am their trusted adult. They know that we respect the game, the opposing team, and the officials. They know we wear shirts and ties on game day. All in all, I have always said I want to change the world and I am honored that I have the privilege to do so daily through sports.
Marcel Smith is a Detroit-based young professional and multi-faceted entrepreneur. A native of Detroit, Marcel completed his master’s in business at Houston Baptist University, where he played basketball and later held a position as Director of Basketball Operations for Men’s Basketball. Marcel’s speed on the court has led to success on the scoreboards but it is his intellectual swiftness, natural leadership ability, and propensity for people that allows him to achieve in the other facets of his life and work. Marcel is the published author of The Balance: A Guide for Student-Athletes and demonstrates the importance of balancing all aspects of life in all that he does including managing The Family Basketball Organization, mentoring youth through the Detroit Stars/ Cares Program, and training schools and organizations with Essential Colors.
Tim Von Urff was born and raised in Hollister, California. In what normally has been a quiet area for basketball, Tim has taken it upon himself to expand the scope of basketball talent in this area. His goal is to always create a positive and competitive learning environment for kids to gain confidence on and off the court. Tim’s dedication to cultivate his area’s youth inspired him to take on the role of Men’s Head Coach at Christopher High School the last 3 years and help start an AAU program – Hundred Hustle. Tim also works with Warriors Basketball Camp as one of their most determined and motivated coaches. He strives to make sure each child learns what it means to be a team player, and most importantly, to always give it their all.
Casey Adams stands along with his mission statement with 20+ years of coaching experience – Team Focus is a not-for-profit youth basketball program geared towards not only preparing great athletes, but also great leaders who are looking to inspire their sphere of influence. Team Focus’ Mission is to mentor, instruct, and guide young athletes into reaching their full potential in the areas of athletics, education, family life, and community services. We accomplish this through high intensity training and drills that concentrate on repetition with attention to detail. Our training has purpose and will lead our players to a higher level of understanding. We also hold to the notion that we want our players to realize that although basketball is a wonderful life skill to attain, there are other things in life that our time should be directed towards such as family, friends, charity work, and other outside interests.
Coach Roderick Greene is owner of Team Greene Sports. Servicing all localities. Introducing children to multiple sports from age two through school age in daycares, schools, churches, recreation centers, private locations, and the community. Tennis, Volleyball, Kickball, Basketball, Football, Tee-Ball, Bowling, Golf, Field Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Track/Field, Yoga, Hula Hooping, and Gymnastics!
I’ll always be that little 9-year-old who fell in love with the game of basketball. My passion to impact the youth, my love for the game, and the support I get from my family and friends made me who I am today. I grew up in Azusa Ca and graduated from Azusa High in 2005. I am a former San Diego State Women’s Basketball Alumni class of 2009. I joined the Los Angeles Sparks Family in 2017. I share my energy, drive and determination every time I step on the court with the Jr. Sparks and it’s contagious! I enjoy seeing players develop their game and accomplish their goals on and off the court. I am looking forward to continuing to make a positive impact on the players and families of my community. I am very thankful and proud to be a part of the Sparks family.
For the past two years Skai Thompson, has gone by a different name, “Coach Hoops.” After playing basketball for the Women’s team at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, Coach Hoops came out west to Southern California as an Americops Volunteer, looking to find a way to make a difference. She found a home with Playworks, where she works with at-risk youth in Los Angeles during school days to encourage play and the positive benefits of healthy lifestyles. As a Junior Lakers coach, she has led her all girls team to success on the court, while instilling positive principles that exist off it. Coach Hoops’s approach is dual-goaled – so that her players might become better basketball players and better people.
Rosalyn Knox was recently named Grizzlies Youth Basketball Coach of the Year and serves as the team’s nominee for Jr. NBA Coach of the Year. A United States Military Veteran, Rosalyn currently serves as the Sport, Fitness & Aquatics Director of the Memphis Jewish Community Center and has coached youth basketball for over 20 years following her own collegiate playing career. Rosalyn embodies every desirable trait sought in a COTY candidate – including on-and-off-court success, leadership and the like – and seeks to develop special relationships through coaching, especially for those without typical role models and mentors to look up to.
Coach Miles Chinn was born and raised in the Miami-Dade area – although he spent three years living in Jamaica – to a Jamaican father and Colombian mother. After graduating from Miami Beach Senior High School, Coach Miles joined the U.S. Marine Corps in August of 2010. During his six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Coach Miles reached the rank of Sargent, with a military occupational specialty of Marine Security Guard. As a Marine Security Guard, Coach Miles served on U.S. Embassy Duty in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Manila, Philippines, and Jerusalem, providing security detail to high-ranking government officials and diplomats such as the President of the United States and the United States Secretary of State. Since completing his service with the U.S. Marine Corps, Coach Miles has returned to the Miami-Dade area with a passion for shaping the lives of our next generation. Coach Miles currently serves in his second term as an Up2Us Sports coach at Overtown Youth Center, a center founded in 2003 by HEAT Legend Alonzo Mourning and Martin Z. Marguiles, in the hopes of creating a safe haven for children living in the neighborhood of Overtown, in Miami-Dade County. Coach Miles has a young son, Koa, and his fiancée, Lissa.
Quico Ayala has been coaching youth sports for about 10 years. Quico recently moved to Wisconsin in 2018 and has been coaching with the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex ever since. Before moving to Wisconsin, Quico coached for the city of Chicago at Archer Park, West Lawn Park, Hamlin Park, and the La Grange Park Districts. Mostly basketball and Baseball.
Jason Curry is in his 19th year as President of Big Apple Basketball (BAB). He’s responsible for all aspects of Big Apple Basketball’s daily operations, coaches the Pro Summer Team, and is the lead clinician for the Basketball Training program. As Founder of BAB, Jason has created and implemented all Big Apple Basketball’s programs, including the High School Challenge, High School Invitational, Scholarship Games, Shooting Challenge, Academic Eligibility Seminar, Basketball Training, and Mentoring program. Prior to launching BAB, he had a successful television and radio broadcasting career. He worked as a college basketball color commentator, sideline reporter, and television video editor.
Jason graduated from St. Michael’s College with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.
He was also a 4-year member of the men’s basketball program and graduated with several statistical SMC records, including career assists (#1), career assists per game (#1), career free throw percentage (#1), career three-point percentage (#2) and career steals (#3). In 2009, he was inducted into the Saint Michael’s College Athletic Hall of Fame. He also served on the St. Michael’s College Alumni Board of Directors for four years, where he chaired the Admissions Committee. In addition, Jason has worked as a television analyst for the Westchester Knicks.
Coach Nancy Walsh of Cabrini has coached basketball for the last 28 years while being named district coach of the year 4 times in the last ten years. In August of 2018, Coach Walsh was diagnosed with breast cancer but that never wavered her overall commitment to her players as practices and games have been frequented by her while also attending her personal chemotherapy sessions. Coach Walsh influences her players to never give up and to always strive towards your passion day in and day out.
Robert Baker was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Sports had played a crucial role in helping Baker overcome the loss of his father and provided him with a team of people who helped him deal with the loss of his most important role model. Basketball and coaching are the vehicle Robert chose to impact young lives by developing positive life-skills through sports. Baker is a husband and father of four children. He is currently entering his fifth season of youth basketball where he coaches in the 8U Spirit division of the YMCA Thunder Basketball League. His team, the Thunder, is comprised of 12 young boys, including his three sons. Coach Baker loves coaching youth basketball and believes it is important to create a safe and fun environment for his players. His approach focuses on making the experience positive versus focusing on failure and defeat. He believes creating this type of environment builds confidence and self-esteem. Coach Baker believes a caring and well-rounded coach is helping each child discover confidence and happiness to lead to future success on and off the court. Coach Baker’s goal at this age/level is to create a positive learning experience where the players learn fundamental basketball skills, but more importantly, they learn how to exhibit great sportsmanship while they begin to understand what it means to be a part of a team.
Coach Corey Williams was born in Germany but currently resides in Brevard County, Florida. After graduating high school, Coach Williams received a basketball scholarship to the State College of Florida, and then transferred to Allen University. Coach Williams graduated Allen University Cum Laude, and began teaching basketball to local youth. He has used the platform of basketball to reach back to the community by mentoring youth, teaching core character values through sports and partnering with the Orlando Magic and Jr. NBA to bring the Space Coast Stars Jr. Magic Academy. Coach Williams has also helped build different basketball academies in China and continues to travel there to coach/teach the game of basketball. Lastly, Coach Williams teaches K-8th Physical Education at Calvary Chapel Academy in Melbourne, Florida and continues to work with community leaders and youth to help pave the way for a brighter future.
Coach T has been a staple in her community for several years. She is a great coach on the court but so much of her success has been off the court. Her dedication to growing young girls and boys into women and men is truly outstanding. Coach Tiffany is community focused, scholar centered, and truly committed to the advancement our connected communities.
Leon Chavez has coached basketball for over ten years. He’s been volunteering for the City of Surprise with the youth basketball program for over nine years as well as four years coaching in the Dysart Unified School District. Coach Chavez played basketball in high school and the sport became his passion. While teaching his own children the sport, he decided to try coaching with the City of Surprise Parks & Rec. Ever since that first year, he has always signed up to volunteer coach each season. Regardless of the skill level of the players, Coach Chavez focuses on teaching the fundamentals to someone that has never played the sport and taking pride in seeing their progress. He takes satisfaction in seeing the players leave the season loving basketball and appreciating the sport as a wonderful gift. Coach Chavez hopes to continue being a volunteer coach for many years.
For the past five years, Coach Chavez has coached girls’ teams in the Winter and Summer Basketball leagues for the City of Surprise. He has been a true driving force in the development of girls’ basketball in Surprise by helping dozens of girls learn the game while being a true role model. Coach Chavez is active as a volunteer with C.P.L.C. (Chicanos Por La Causa) for the past three years. Chicanos Por La Causa is one of the largest Hispanic nonprofits in the country, promoting stronger and healthier communities throughout the southwestern United States while providing direct services to impact more than 306,000 individuals annually in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Darrell Patton has been a basketball coach for over 30 years. He has coached boys, girls, and co-ed teams and coached at every level from elementary to high school. Coach Patton grew up in the shadow of the YMCA in Peru, Indiana. He lived one block away from the YMCA and he spent countless hours playing basketball there. The YMCA has always been a huge part of his life. Coach Patton was awarded the 2012 Liberty Mutual Positive Coaching Alliance Double Goal Coach Of the Year award. At the time, he was the only coach in Arizona to receive the award.
Coach Patton vividly recalls one of his first basketball teams while living in Portland, Oregon. At the coaches meeting to start the season, all the coaches laughed when Coach Patton walked in. He found out why when they passed out the team rosters. They gave him a team of nine-year-old girls who had never played basketball before. Coach Patton and his team proceeded to win the league championship that season. During all the basketball games and practices, all-day tournaments, his wife Susan has always been there by his side cheering him and the team on. Coach Patton is currently battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but always makes it a priority to make it to practices and games to be there for his players. He is dedicated to this sport through all of the struggles he encounters in his life.
Coach Sarah Wilson was born in Houston, Texas in 1978, where her dad played for the Houston Rockets. She moved to Portland, Oregon when she was 2 years old. She started playing organized basketball in the 3rd grade and played high school basketball at Tualatin High in Oregon. She played the post position and held the school record for most defensive rebounds for many years. Sarah was named 1st team all-conference and was selected to play on the Oregon High School Girls Basketball All-Star team. She earned a full ride Division I basketball scholarship to the University of Tulsa. Sarah also played tennis and was the goalie on the high school water polo team, where she also excelled! She credits her dad for her love of the game and the belief that hard work, a positive attitude, and perseverance helps you achieve your goals both on and off the basketball court. Sarah really enjoys coaching with the Flames family and seeing the progress the kids make. She believes strongly that kids need to love playing the game, be in a positive environment, and respect and value your teammates.
Jackie Wada was born and raised in Sacramento, California. Her childhood was dedicated to the same AAU team for 7 years where she committed her time to practices and preparing for national tournaments throughout different states. Her hard work continued at C.K. McClatchy High School where she played all 4 years of Varsity and has a tied record of most 3-pointers in a season (86), as well as holding the career high record of 308 3-pointers. She played at American River College where she holds a record of 11-16 threes in one game. After college, she continued to share her passion and knowledge of basketball through training and coaching. Wada has been a skills trainer at DBS Elite Training and a coach for 4 years. She was the girl’s freshman Head Coach at Consumnes Oaks High School (2013-2015), and then became the girls’ JV Head Coach and Varsity Assistant at C.K. McClatchy High School (2016-current). She has valued every moment in her life as a basketball teammate, skills trainer, coach, and mentor. She has found a passion in giving back to the youth and finds it beyond rewarding to continuously push them to their highest potential. Jackie is excited to be a part of the Sacramento Jr. Kings where it gives her an opportunity to give back and teach the fundamentals of the game.
Anthony Hernandez is a Taft native and graduate from Taft High School in Taft, TX. He is a father to three kids, with another expected mid-2019. He has dedicated his entire adult life to community service and youth programs and seeks to enhance the quality of life for our youth, especially those from low-income families.
GC Hillburn has over 12 years of experience coaching basketball at the college, AAU, and high school ranks. He recently joined the Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) women’s basketball coaching staff as an assistant prior to the 2018-2019 season. Before PLU, Hillburn served as the Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at Kentlake High School for three seasons. Under his direction, the Falcons compiled a 61-22 record on the hardwood. His tenure included an undefeated SPSL Northwest Conference Championship during the 2015-16 season, a NPSL Cascade Division Championship in 2016-17, and a sixth-place finish at the WIAA 4A Championships in 2018. Prior to Kentlake, Hillburn was an assistant for three seasons at George Fox University. His tenure saw the Bruins post a 73-13 record, making two trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament, including an appearance in the national championship game in 2015. Hillburn has additional experience as head coach of the Columbia Cascades AAU program (2012-2017) based in Vancouver, Washington and Emerald Ridge High School (2009-2012) in Puyallup. Hillburn is currently the Head Trainer and Director of Basketball Operations for Southend Skills Academy and previously coached junior varsity boys’ basketball at both Seattle Christian and Skyline High Schools. Hillburn earned an associate’s degree from Bellevue College before earning a Bachelor’s degree in business from Northwest University.
Ben Fuller was born and raised in Centralia, Washington as one of 8 children and thus competitive from the get go. Eventually in High School he played basketball for 4 years under Hall of Fame coach Ron Brown (who just last year retired after 56 years at Centralia High School), graduated in 1995 and received a full ride academic scholarship for college. Ben played college basketball at Centralia College. He started as a freshman and won the defensive player of the year in the Northwest Athletic Association of Colleges. He’s been a gym rat ever since. Since then basketball has been an integral part of Ben’s life. After serving a two-year church service mission to Mexico and growing 3 more inches, Ben returned to Centralia college on a basketball scholarship and then transferred to Whitman College where he earned a degree in Math and Computer Science as well as All-Conference honors. After Whitman, Ben had the opportunity to play professionally in the US and overseas (in the German Bundesliga with the Dusseldorf Magics and the Tus-Hilden 96ers, averaged 30 pts. a game) before returning to coach for three years at Washington University in St. Louis under legendary coach Mark Edwards (44th all-time in NCAA wins with 685). While there he also earned a degree in Computer Engineering. He moved to Reno thereafter and coached at Bishop Manogue High School, came out of retirement for a brief stint to play in the ABA with the Reno Sharpshooters, and has been running around gyms coaching and playing ever since.
Today Ben lives in Saratoga Springs, Utah, and is honored to be the husband of Shannon Fuller as well as the proud father of 6 children: Ayzha 17, Alyssa, Holly & Tiago 13, Reyn 11, and Qyntn 6. He is currently the V.P. of Airline Relationships for Global Onboard Partners, an inflight entertainment company, and a full-time, unpaid chauffeur driving kids to activities each afternoon when not traveling. He can be found in the gym a few times each week trying to keep the inevitable Father Time at bay and reliving the glory days in lower level city leagues. Only now you can look for him below the rim. It happens to the best of us.
Thomas Gadson is the Founder and Director of Basketball Operations of Virginia a premier grassroots basketball program based in Northern Virginia. A native of Savannah, Georgia, Coach Gadson has been involved with basketball for more than 40 years. The primary mission of Virginia Elite is to encourage student-athletes to make good decisions utilizing basketball as a channel to teach life-skills. Coach Gadson is dedicated to helping student-athletes develop and achieve the necessary skills to achieve their maximum potential academically and athletically.
The Jr. NBA and Positive Coaching Alliance are proud to announce the 8 semifinalists for the national Coach of the Year award, due to their outstanding integrity, character, and leadership.
These semifinalists were selected because they have not only been successful in bettering their athletes on the court, but have also shown that their main focus was to make these athletes better people in their communities. These coaches have established and fostered meaningful relationships with their athletes and their families over the years, and have incorporated valuable life lessons into every aspect of basketball they coach.
The Jr. NBA and Positive Coaching Alliance are pleased to announce the following coaches as this year’s Coach of the Year Finalists:
Coach Jason Curry (nominated by the New York Knicks)
Coach Rosalyn Knox (nominated by the Memphis Grizzlies)
Coach Anthony Hernandez (nominated by the San Antonio Spurs)
The finalists were selected by a panel of judges, including Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, NBA legend Jason Collins, and ESPN Analyst Doris Burke, along with fan voting via social media.
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- 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. The below panelists are from the 2019 Jr. NBA Coach of the Year program.
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.
A former D1 gager, Coach Berran has exceled the past decade as a youth basketball coach and administrator in the Eagan (MN) Athletic Association (EAA). She serves 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. Carrie was nominated by the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2017 Coach of the Year and won the National Jr. NBA Coach of the Year.
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.
ESPN named Doris Burke a full-time ESPN NBA game analyst just ahead of the 2017-18 NBA season. Across nearly three decades, she has been a top commentator on several significant ESPN properties, including the NBA, women’s and men’s college basketball and the WNBA. She also serves as the lead ESPN NBA sideline reporter for NBA playoff games and the <em>NBA Finals </em>on ABC. Burke has covered basketball for ESPN since 1991 and has been the recipient of several awards and honors, including a recipient of the 2017 WISE Women of the Year award. Burke previously served as a WNBA analyst for the New York Liberty on MSG Network, a women’s college basketball analyst on CBS Sports and New England Sports Network (NESN), an analyst on regional coverage of BIG EAST and Atlantic-10 women’s basketball, and a radio play-by-play commentator for Providence College men’s and women’s basketball. A former basketball standout at Providence College who held seven records upon graduation, Burke served as an assistant coach for her Alma mater for two years. She was later inducted into the Providence College Hall of Fame and received an honorary doctorate from the school in 2005. Raised in Manasquan, N.J., Burke graduated from Providence College with a degree in health service administration/social work and also earned her master’s in education at Providence.
Growing up in inner city Providence, Kash Cannon used the game of basketball to overcome personal adversity and become the first person in her family to go to college. After a standout career at Northeastern University, Kash chose to pay-it-forward and give back to other girls from her community by providing them the same opportunities she was given through the power of sport. As the Program Director at G3 (Getting Girls in the Game), Kash delivers a youth basketball curriculum that focuses on health and wellness, goal setting and female empowerment. Kash’s program includes a mentoring partnership with female Boston Police officers, college readiness activities, hands-on cooking classes, tutoring from local college athletes and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Open to all Boston inner city girls, Kash also builds relationships with the mothers of her girls, leveraging the whole family unit when trying to increase healthy outcomes. Kash was nominated by the Boston Celtics for the 2018 Coach of the Year and won the National Jr. NBA Coach of the Year.
Rick Carlisle is the President of the NBA Coaches Association. Carlisle is one of eleven individuals to have won an NBA Championship as both a player (Boston Celtics- 1986) and a Head Coach. Carlisle got his first Head Coaching job in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons in 2001, where he eventually went on to win Coach of The Year honors in 2002. In 2003, Carlisle was hired as the Head Coach of the Indiana Pacers, where he spent four seasons. In 2007, Carlisle resigned as Head Coach and Executive Vice-President of the Indiana Pacers and began working as a studio analyst for ESPN. In 2008 Carlisle was hired as Head Coach of the Dallas Mavericks, where he eventually went on to win the NBA Championship in 2011 over the Miami Heat. In November of 2015, Carlisle became the winningest Coach in Dallas Mavericks history and in December of 2017, Carlisle recorded his 700th win against the Los Angeles Clippers, becoming the 18th coach in NBA history to reach the milestone. He now joins San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers as the only active coaches to reach 700 wins. Carlisle is on pace to pass John MacLeod (707 wins) at 17th place for all time wins as a coach.
Rick, and his wife, Donna, have a daughter, Abby. Carlisle enjoys golf, piano and spending time with family, which includes two dogs, Moe Norman and Zoe.
Tamika Catchings is a retired WNBA player who played her entire 15-year career for the Indiana Fever. Catchings has won a WNBA championship, WNBA Most Valuable Player Award, WNBA Finals MVP Award, five WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, four Olympic gold medals, and the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award. She has also been selected to ten WNBA All-Star teams, 12 All-WNBA teams, 12 All-Defensive teams and led the league in steals eight times. She is one of 9 women to win an Olympic Gold Medal, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA Championship. In 2011, Catchings was voted in by fans as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time. In 2004, Catchings founded the Catch the Stars Foundation, a charitable organization that provides basketball camps, fitness clinics, mentoring and literacy programs for underprivileged children to help them become successful in sports and academics. In April 2017, Catchings was named Director of Player Programs and Franchise Development for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
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.
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.
Monty Williams enters his first season with the 76ers as an Assistant Coach. He joins Philadelphia after spending two seasons with the Spurs’ front office as Vice President of Basketball Operations. Before spending 2015-16 as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Williams was the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010-2015, guiding the Pelicans to two playoff appearances. Prior to his time in New Orleans, he spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers from 2005-10. In 2013, Williams was named an assistant coach for the 2013-16 USA Basketball Men’s National Team and served on the coaching staff of Team USA Men’s National Team that captured gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Originally chosen with the No. 24 overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, Williams averaged 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 16.7 minutes in 456 career games with New York, San Antonio, Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia. At the 2017 NBA Awards, he was named the recipient of the inaugural Sager Strong Award. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, he earned his degree from the school’s College of Arts and Letters, majoring in communications and theatre.