FRISCO, Texas — As an NBA G League head coach, this season is a first for Grant Gibbs, but it’s a paradigm shift the Marion native welcomes.
“Yeah, obviously it’s been an adjustment for me, and I would say our program too,” said Gibbs, a former Linn-Mar prep who is leading the Oklahoma City Blue. “Mark Daigneault was here for five years before I took over. My job is to continue some of the systems that are already in place and to continue to evolve and grow our development program here in the G League.
“The players are our priority but also (I want to develop) the staff and everyone associated with the Blue program.”
The biggest specific shift has been going from an assistant who offers ideas and input to being the Blue’s primary decision-maker, the person responsible for fielding all those ideas and employing which concepts will help the team win.
“As an assistant, your work is very actionable on a day-to-day basis. You’re working with individual players. You’re doing scouts,” Gibbs said. “As a head coach, you’re really thinking about everybody else first and then instituting what’s best for the team. It’s a lot of thinking about how you want to approach things, how you want to plan it, what’s most important in a given moment.”
Gibbs, 7-12 in his first season, was a Blue assistant for two seasons before moving several chairs down the OKC bench and he’s fully aware of his status as the latest Iowa native to become a head coach, something he takes immense pride in.
“There’s obviously some coaches that have done well professionally but also in college and I played for one of the best in (Cascade native) Greg McDermott (at Creighton) who had a strong influence on me and also being from Iowa,” he said. “Growing up there as a player we take a lot of pride in the players we produce that have done well collegiately and professionally.
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“It’s an underrated basketball hub, I really believe that. You always feel tied to where you grew up, where you learned the game at and obviously the players and coaches that came before you.”
Gibbs played his first two collegiate seasons at Gonzaga before transferring to Creighton and finishing out his career with the Blue Jays. He spent three seasons playing abroad, two in the Netherlands, where he was named that league’s most improved player, and another in Germany before transitioning into coaching in 2017.
And with basketball becoming more global by the day, he knows his experiences overseas will pay huge dividends as a coach.
“Yeah, I think it helped me life-wise a lot honestly, living in a different culture, just seeing things from a different view,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s really valuable for people who grew up in America to experience other places and how they do things in other countries that have been around a lot longer than we have.
“Your human interactions with people when you’re exposed to different cultures, you are more accepting of things and from a basketball perspective, you play for coaches and countries that approach the game differently or have different styles in practice, different concepts within the game and I think that’s valuable.”
It’s those interactions with others in and out of the game and the relationships he’s forged over his years in the sport that have made his transition from playing to coaching rather seamless.
“I think it’s really human connections. Basketball’s obviously been what I’ve done for most of my life as a player and now as a coach,” Gibbs said. “It’s how I’ve met a lot of people. It drives life. We’re all — what we do within the world is driven by human connection — connecting with others. Basketball’s been that for me. It’s human connections with the staff, with the players, with people in the league, building relationships and helping people be their best in what they’re trying to do.”