Another Kind of Call-up

Updated: September 16, 2010

News broke this week at that John Treloar, coach of the Erie BayHawks for the franchise’s first two seasons, has accepted a job with the Phoenix Suns as the director of player personnel. The move has been discussed and analyzed by other sources already, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. If you didn’t listen to Project Spurs’ interview of me on Monday, I addressed the idea of Treloar possibly heading to Austin or San Antonio, suggesting that it wouldn’t make much sense to join the Toros—a lateral move—but it wouldn’t shock me if he took a position in the Spurs organization, which would feel more like a promotion. Of course, my thinking was that if Treloar left, wherever he landed, he would be heading there to coach.

Instead, the Suns just pioneered a new kind of call-up from the D-League. Unless I’m missing someone, Treloar is the first D-League head coach to get called up into this role in the front office for an NBA team.

When people think D-League call-up, they initially think in terms of players. Last season, the D-League had a record 27 players called up to the D-League and a record 40 call-ups when you factor in players who were called up more than once.

But the NBA Development League emphasizes that the word development in its name is not limited to its players. Referees, coaches and team executives are all being trained in the business of professional, NBA-style basketball. And while this offseason was headlined by a Grade-A crop of free agent players switching jerseys and taking their talents to South Beach, there have been some other offseason acquisitions, like Treloar’s hiring by the Suns, that won’t lead SportsCenter (or perhaps even the local news) but that will impact teams in significant ways.

Quin Snyder
Last season: Head Coach, Austin Toros
This season: Assistant Coach, Philadelphia 76ers

Snyder, once one of the top young coaches in college basketball a few years ago, had a messy divorce with Missouri. Before landing in Austin, Snyder considered investment banking or entrepreneurial endeavors, according to an Associated Press report. Snyder will now serve as an assistant on new Sixers coach Doug Collins’ coaching staff. Collins reached out to Snyder soon after taking the Sixers job and has a longstanding relationship with Snyder, dating back to the mid-90s when Snyder was an assistant under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Collins’ son Chris was playing for the Blue Devils.

Although he may have been out of the big media spotlight as coach of the Toros, Snyder did a great job there, earning the Dennis Johnson D-League Coach of the Year award in 2009 and playing a significant role in the development of many players. In fact, in his three years with the Toros, the NBA called up a Toro player 15 times.

Dell Demps
Last season: General Manager, Austin Toros
This season: General Manager, New Orleans Hornets

It should come as no surprise that Demps, like Snyder, was “called up” from the Austin Toros, the D-League affiliate owned by the San Antonio Spurs, one of the best-run organizations in basketball. Demps wasted no time in bringing his D-League pedigree to New Orleans, signing D-League All-Star Mustafa Shakur to the Hornets to back up their All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Prior to Demps’ arrival, the Hornets had called up and assigned just two players combined in the past four years. The signing of Shakur signals a new era in New Orleans. By embracing his past in the D-League, Demps can help the Hornets take advantage of the D-League as a valuable developmental tool in stark contrast to the franchise’s history with the D-League.

John Treloar
Last season: Head Coach, Erie BayHawks
This season: Director of Player Personnel, Phoenix Suns

This is the most surprising of all the “call-ups” because Treloar’s experience is almost exclusively as a coach. Of course, as coach of the BayHawks, he was instrumental in acquiring the likes of Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn via trades last season—two moves that worked for the team and showed Treloar has an eye for talent. Still, a lot of people will question his credentials to be given the role of director of player personnel at the NBA level.

Brent Barnaky, Nick Buchert, Kevin Cutler, Josh Tiven, James Williams
Last season: D-League referees
This season: NBA referees

Last but not least, five D-League officials from last season will be referees in the NBA this year. Four veteran NBA referees are gone this year: Joe DeRosa, Joe Forte, Sean Corbin and Phil Robinson. That foursome had a combined 72 years of NBA reffing experience, so the new crop of officials will have some rather large shoes to fill.

The D-League-to-NBA referee program is one of the underrated aspects of the D-League, developing refs and giving them the opportunity to learn the rules and flow of the NBA-style game before actually stepping onto the big stage. As top prospects for “call-up” status, all five new officials participated in a new initiative last season where they refereed a half dozen regular season NBA games to further prepare them for the full-time gigs they’ll have this season.

Players may get the biggest headlines, but the NBA Development League is more than a group of players working to achieve their dreams of playing in the NBA. Coaches, general managers and referees are also getting called up to more prominent roles in the NBA. The D-League is developing NBA-worthy professionals in a variety of positions off the court and opening doors to new opportunities for plenty of talented individuals in search of their own call-up moment. As Treloar’s move to Phoenix proves, there’s really no telling where the next call-up will come from or where he or she will be headed.


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