In a summer of great importance, Dallas has already made one positive move. It likely won’t be a move that has a major influence on their free agency path this summer, but it is still a move that should greatly impact the finished roster. It was announced in early May that former Portland Trail Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales will joins the Mavs an assistant coach, replacing Jim O’Brien on Rick Carlisle’s staff.
Canales has ties to the area as he a Laredo, Texas native. Canales earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas-Arlington and a master’s degree in sports leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University.
In March of 2012, Canales became the first Hispanic head coach in the NBA when he replaced Nate McMillan. Now known as energetic and motivational coach, Canales began as a video intern under Maurice Cheeks in 2004 before spending three years as the team’s video coordinator. Before the 2008-09 season, he was promoted by general manager Kevin Pritchard to assistant coach.
Caneles inherited a MASH unit that impersonated an actual NBA roster. Decimated by injuries, Caneles coached the Blazers for 23 games. The team was 20-23 before Canales became the interim coach and they finished the season 28-38. It was clear that the team was out of the playoff mix, but he found ways to get the players to buy into what he was selling. It wasn’t a substitute teacher they players were playing for. They were playing for something they wanted to see succeed.
What did he do to earn the trust and respect of the players as an assistant that led to them playing for him as an interim? According to sources in Portland, he spent plenty of time with his players through one-on-one workouts and spending time with them, having conversations about life and basketball. He often played the role of psychiatrist as he would be the “shoulder to cry on to” as he would listen to players as they needed to vent about a variety of issues.
Canales is clearly a player’s coach, but he provided brutal honest and tough love when the time is necessary to avoid the idea of just being a yes-man. It seemed like he did enough to earn the opportunity to have the interim tag lifted and be the team’s head coach. That was the case until the organization decided to hire former Mavs assistant coach Terry Stotts to become the new head coach. He remained with the Blazers as Stotts assistant before deciding to join the Mavs this offseason.
Canales is already going to be paying dividends for the Mavs when it comes to their preparation for the draft. He coached the prospects who participated in the draft combine in Chicago. “(Canales) is working the draft combine, so it’s good for us ‘cause he’s getting even closer to these players and has developed kind of a working relationship, so he can bring a certain level of ‘intel’ on that,” Carlisle told reporters in Chicago. “And he’s going to be a real good addition for us. You know, I hate losing a guy like Jim O’Brien because of his experience, but Kaleb is a different kind of dynamic for our staff. He’s young, energetic and very good, and we’re going to have a lot of young guys on our team, so it makes sense.”
Carlisle said during the team’s exit interviews back in April that, “one of the things I’ve prided myself on is I hire guys that I can learn from.” A young mind in Canales could teach Carlisle new things about his approach to his players. At the very least, Canales could be the good cop to Carlisle’s bad cop. He would never undermine Carlisle’s coaching, but he could clearly be a solid buffer if the situation called for it.
Carlisle’s staff has been picked over since the team won the championship in 2011. With a vacancy within the ranks, the Mavs might have found one of the best assistants available.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.