Last week, Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernández was brought on as the Associate Head Coach under newly-hired Head Coach Mike Brown. Former head coach and Hornets assistant Jay Triano was also added to the staff then, as well as player development coach Luke Loucks at the end of the weekend. The three join Doug Christie, who is holding over through the transition.
As the Kings look to build a culture of what former coach (and current front office member) Alvin Gentry called “sustainable winning,” creating a staff to facilitate that development is imperative, and these coaches provide different forms of experience to aid with that.
The particular addition of Fernández doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Following the new head coaching hire, Marc Spears went on the Deuce & Mo show and suggested looking at the staff Brown had on the Nigerian National Team, as well as other connections, to get an idea of what his staff in Sacramento might look like. A few specific names were mentioned, one of them being the 39 year-old Jordi Fernández.
In addition to being an assistant under Brown for the Nigerian National Team in the 2020 Olympics, Fernández has a diverse background of experience.
He was born just outside Barcelona in Badalona, Spain, a haven for basketball. It’s where the professional Club Joventut plays, a top-talent team that featured Spanish league star Ricky Rubio prior to his selection in the 2009 NBA draft.
At an early age, his fascination for the game and a shortage of physical talent lured him into coaching locally. His passion further metastasized when he began attending college in the Netherlands, where he struggled not knowing much Dutch or English. Fernández nevertheless persevered the distance separating him from familiarity.
“My main thing has always been to find a way to compete and give yourselves a chance,” he said of his overall philosophy when speaking to The Denver Post for a profile they published.
Having studied sports sciences, Fernández graduated before he headed for Norway. There he taught at a university and coached on the side while working towards a PhD in sports psychology. He, in fact, co-wrote an academic paper entitled “Identifying and analyzing the construction and effectiveness of offensive plays in basketball by using systematic observation.”
In his time up there, he agreed to make a trip to the United States to partake in a youth development program. That is where he met Mike Brown. The NBA head coach was impressed with the manner in which Fernández worked with his son, Elijah Brown.
Fernández was hired as a player development coach for the Cavaliers in 2009, Mike Brown’s fifth and final season in his first stint as head coach in Cleveland. This afforded him the opportunity to help develop players like Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and others. He remained in that more minimal position until 2013 when he was added as an assistant for their Developmental League affiliate Canton Charge.
“I always thought my life would be around basketball,” he said of the chance. “When people say, ‘I would like to be a coach,’ that’s one thing. ‘I’m going to be a coach’ is different. I knew I’d find a way to be happy doing what I like. I took my time to figure it out.”
In the summer prior to that, Fernández served on the staff of Spain’s under 19 national team in the 2013 FIBA Championship. The Spaniards went 7-2 overall, winning their group before losing to Australia in the Quarterfinals. Ultimately, they won the fifth-place game.
After one season as an assistant in Canton, Fernández was promoted to head coach. He served that role for two seasons, leading the team to two 31-19 seasons (.620).
“Being a head coach, you don’t know what it is until you do it,” Fernández reflected on his time in Canton, recognizing the plethora of lessons. “Even though the level is different, it’s the same. You call timeouts, play different lineups, figure it out and make mistakes. And I think it’s super valuable. Now you see a lot of former G League coaches who are coaches in the NBA.”
The young coach continued to impress, even beyond Cleveland’s organization. Second year head coach Mike Malone added him to his coaching staff in Denver as an assistant, where Fernández has been since.
“He’s a very good teacher, he relates especially well to young players,” Malone said when he hired him.
Fernández may have been sitting on an NBA sideline as a prominent part of a coaching staff, but he always continued to remain focused on the task at hand and make positive impressions on players and other coaches.
“He’s an all about business guy,” Nuggets guard Monté Morris said of him. “He doesn’t take no mess at all.”
It wasn’t long until Jordi Fernández was included in an ESPN list of potential head coaches, cementing his rising stock as a teacher at this level and undeniably setting the table for his new opportunity of being Mike Brown’s primary assistant.
Coming with his own breadth of experience, Jay Triano, on the other hand, brings a different kind.
In his younger days, Triano played basketball at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, Canada and broke or matched several school records, including most points scored. While playing college ball, he also joined Canada’s national team in 1977.
After graduating in 1981 and failing to generate an NBA career, Triano ended up playing professionally elsewhere, comprised of two years in Mexico and a season in Turkey. He continued playing on the Canadian National Team, becoming the captain after graduating.
For Canada, he participated in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, and also led the team to a gold medal in the 1983 World University Games, overcoming the USA in the semifinals.
Once his playing career ended in 1988, Triano began his coaching odyssey, taking the leading role over his alma mater’s basketball team. There, he formed a lifelong friendship with Steve Nash, who came to Simon Fraser on a recruiting visit. It was Triano who gave Nash some valuable advice that contradicted an initial desire to recruit the young guard.
“I actually told him he had a better chance of finding out how good he was if he went to Santa Clara,” Triano recalled. “I told him ‘Go there. Find out how good you can be. If it doesn’t work out, come back and play for me.'”
Reflecting on the advice, Nash can’t credit Triano enough.
“That meant a lot to me to hear him be honest and hear him be humble and to tell me that he believed in me and that I could go and do great things,” Nash recounts.
With Nash playing college ball at Santa Clara and carving a path towards the NBA, Triano got his foot in the door in 1995 when he became the Director of Community Relations for the newly established Vancouver Grizzlies, doing radio commentary for them as well.
In 1998, Triano fulfilled a dream when he became head coach of the Canadian National Team and got to lead them into the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where he reunited with Steve Nash. The Nash-led team fought their way to the quarterfinals, finishing seventh with a 5-2 overall record in what was an impressive underdog showing.
After not qualifying for the Olympics, though, Triano was let go as Canada’s coach in 2004, but he got a job on the US National Team’s coaching staff soon after.
Raptors head coach Lenny Wilkens had added Triano to his coaching staff in 2002, making Triano the second-ever Canadian to serve as an NBA coach. He remained an assistant in Toronto for over six seasons, under three head coaches, before taking over as head coach seventeen games into the 2008-09 season, finishing 25-40 in the final sixty-five games.
With the Chris Bosh-led Raptors primed to take a step forward the next season, Triano was extended as head coach. However, Toronto missed the playoffs by a slight margin, finishing 40-42 after closing out the season 2-5. Bosh then left to join LeBron and Wade in Miami, and Triano’s squad won just 22 games in the 2010-11 season, leading to a head coaching change in Toronto.
He remained with Toronto for a year in the scouting department before taking an assistant job with Portland in 2012 under the newly hired Terry Stotts while at the same time getting another chance as Canada’s head coach. This was followed in 2016 by the hiring of Triano as the Suns’ Associate Head Coach under Earl Watson, who’d played his final NBA season on the Trailblazers team Triano was on the staff of.
In 2017, he took over as interim head coach after Watson’s 0-3 start to the year. Phoenix finished with 21 wins that season and Triano left to become an assistant under Popovich protégé James Borrego in Charolette, where he’s been for the last four seasons.
Compared to Fernández and Triano, the 32 year-old Luke Loucks may have significantly less experience than the previous two, but the years he does have under his belt present the opportunity to add to the developmental and strategic innovation of this staff.
Loucks played four years of basketball at Florida State between 2008 and 2012. In all four seasons played there, the Seminoles made the NCAA tournament, a record that rested alongside his school record for games played.
After college, Loucks played professionally overseas for two seasons in Latvia and Belgium. In 2014, he was selected by the Maine Red Claws of the Developmental League. He was then waived and picked up by the Erie BayHawks for a few months before being waived once more, reacquired by the Red Claws for a cup of coffee stint, and finally let go after just 19 games at that level.
This was followed by another trip overseas in Germany, where a ruptured disk in his back brought the former Seminole back home to recover. Though his playing career came to a fairly quick end, Loucks has managed to post an impressive NBA résumé as a coach and as front office personnel.
With any job related to basketball as an aspiration, he emailed the Golden State Warriors, inquiring about a possible position. Equipped with plenty of basketball experience and a master’s degree in sports management, the Warriors hired Loucks in 2016–Brown’s first year on Steve Kerr’s staff–as a film and player development intern in the basketball operations department.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can these first few years and soak up what I can,” Loucks said of his first year as part of a championship organization with the premonition of a promotion. He would indeed learn a lot.
In 2017, Loucks moved up within the Warriors, becoming a two-way player developmental coach, working with players that move between the NBA and G League levels. After two years in that position, he was promoted to a player development coach for Golden State, which he also held for two seasons.
While in Golden State, Loucks has taken a lot from Brown and defensive guru Ron Adams.
“They had mentors when they were young coaches,” the young coach said, “and, for whatever reason, they kind of just took me under their wing.”
This, along with the mindset instilled in him by coach Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, contributed a lot to Loucks’ coaching emphasis on defensive intensity and the boost to how he was regarded.
Last summer, Mike Brown thought highly enough of Loucks to ask him to join his coaching staff for the Nigerian National Team as an assistant and player development coach, an invitation the younger coach enthusiastically accepted.
After five years with the Warriors, Loucks was brought in by the Phoenix Suns to work for their Basketball Strategy and Personnel Evaluation at the beginning of this past season before his hiring this last weekend.
As is clear, Brown’s staff is beginning to fill itself out with Fernández, Triano, Loucks, and Christie, and based on their backgrounds, these newcomers have plenty to offer this organization.
Jordi Fernández is a smart, innovative mind with a long history of player development. Jay Triano comes with decades of experience as well as being one of Canada’s most accomplished basketball coaches ever. And Luke Loucks brings an added component of player development, a defensive mindset, and a younger perspective.
It is therefore evident that Mike Brown is off to a steady start in building a culture-friendly staff.