Back in May, when Sean Marks and Steve Nash finally sat down with the media for their end-of-season press conference, most of the attention was focused on what Marks said about player availability. The headlines were all about how the GM had sent a message to Kyrie Irving about how the Nets needed “selfless” and “available” players.
A bit lost in the headlines was another point Marks made: that the Nets needed more development which of course was a team hallmark before the Clean Sweep of 2019. Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and even D’Angelo Russell had benefited from that development ethos. Discarded players, draft picks and a player whose team had abandoned him came to life in Brooklyn.
“We’ve prided ourselves in the past with finding players with a chip on their shoulder, with a resilience, with something to prove. We’re going to have to go back to that,” Marks said. “We’re going to have to go back to looking more in their development, more at finding the right characteristics of a player that fits here.”
That was bad news for Adam Harrington, director of player development whose contract was not renewed by Marks. Now, the Nets have put a lot of that pressure on Adam Caporn who spent last year as the head coach of the Long Island Nets. As Alex Schiffer of The Athletic writes Wednesday, Caporn has the experience and connections.
“He’s a pain in the ass, mate,” fellow Australian Patty Mills said of Caporn. “He’s the Aussie who you guys better look out for. … Working with him with the national team, (I saw) his attention to detail, his knowledge about the game, (his) high basketball IQ and his ability just to have a feel for his players and his team and his ability to connect with those players.”
Indeed, Mills and Caporn have a lot of connections beyond the Tokyo Olympics where Caporn was an assistant coach and Mills the star of the bronze medal-winning team. Further back, Mills was a ball boy for the Canberra Cannons of the National Basketball League, when Caporn, seven years Mills’ senior, played. (Fast forward a few years and it was Mills who befriended a young Aussie named Ben Simmons.)
Caporn and Mills are also products of St. Mary’s University in northern California, Caporn starting a long line of Aussies that also included Matthew Dellavedova. More recently, David Patrick, Simmons’ godfather, worked as an assistant at the school.
It’s not just connections that distinguish Caporn, say friends. It’s his curiosity about what works no matter where the sidelines are located.
“He’s always that guy thinking one step ahead, and he doesn’t just come up with it; he finds it,” Patrick, a longtime friend of Caporn’s, told Schiffer. “He’ll find a team in Israel doing something. Or some team in Greece. Or some team in the NBA.”
Patrick added: “I think he asks the why in an offense … and he’ll figure out why and ways to score and better methods to do so.”
As Schiffer writes:
Caporn studies other sports to see how they can help him in basketball. He spent time with Arsenal FC of the English Premier League in 2016, which helped him develop a philosophy for how his teams should train. And he watches plenty of hoops, too. He seems to follow every basketball league in Europe and is quick to try and steal any idea he likes.
Then, once he feels comfortable with what he’s learned, he imparts it to his players and is demanding.
“There’s no BS with him,” Dellavedova said. “He just wants to help you get better, and I think he’s got … multiple sides to his coaching. Whether it’s the skill development stuff that he thinks outside the box on. He’s always researching, talking to people in different sports, strength and conditioning, sports science — and on the X’s and O’s side he’s really smart there in attacking different defenses.”
In 2015, he was recruited to run the Australian Center of Excellence, where he coached the country’s next generation of players including Josh Giddey now with the Thunder and Jock Landale now with the Suns.
As Schiffer notes, the same held true for Nets players in Long Island. He worked with players like David Duke Jr., Day’Ron Sharpe and Craig Randall III and got the Nets to the G League playoffs for only second time. Then, earlier this month, he led the Nets Summer League entry to a 3-2 record.
“He brings a lot of energy on both sides of the ball,” Duke told Schiffer. “Defensively, he’s trying to get in us. Offensively, he’s gonna try to get in us as well. But I think he brings the best out of us. …I love his coaching style. You know, he’s gonna put confidence in you, for sure. But he’s also going to tell you, ‘Hey, settle down a little bit.’ ”
Caporn now seems to be settling down himself in Brooklyn. Of course, he won’t be alone in the development game. Igor Kokoskov was hired last month after 19 seasons as an assistant in the NBA and head coaching gigs with the Suns and the national teams of Slovenia and Serbia. His forte is player development as well.
But Caporn is likely to have the key role in development maybe with the front office’s help, he can push a young player like Harris, Dinwiddie or Russell into a bigger NBA — and Nets — career.