With Sam Vincent set to be hired as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, there are questions about his experience.
While Vincent has coached men's and women's teams all over the world and in the minor leagues, he's spent only one season in the NBA - as an assistant.
But his former boss isn't concerned, and for good reason. Dallas coach Avery Johnson spent less than a season as an NBA assistant before taking over the Mavericks.
``You've got to start somewhere. Every head coach, somebody had to give them a shot,'' Johnson said Thursday. ``When I took over, or Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson or anybody, you always look back at your first opportunity.''
Johnson took advantage of his chance, going 16-2 after he took over for Don Nelson late in his first season as an assistant. He's gone 143-39 in three seasons and is considered one of the NBA's top coaches.
Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan said in March he'd be looking for the next Johnson when he replaced Bernie Bickerstaff. It led Jordan to choose Vincent over experienced head coaches Paul Silas, Stan Van Gundy and Mike Fratello, and longtime NBA assistants Lionel Hollins and Herb Williams, who all interviewed.
``I'm really excited for him,'' Johnson said. ``Sam really did a good, solid job here. He made his first year on the bench seem like he'd done it before and that's what I wanted. He knows what he's doing. He's very competent. I knew he would become a head coach pretty quickly.''
The 44-year-old Vincent, like Johnson, is a former NBA point guard. A first-round pick by Boston in 1985, Vincent had an average seven-year career that included two seasons playing with Jordan in Chicago in the late 1980s.
Vincent then set on a whirlwind tour, coaching teams in South Africa, Greece and the Netherlands before leading the Nigerian women's team to its first Olympic victory in 2004.
He also coached the Nigerian men's team before becoming the head coach of the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBA Development League in the 2005-06 season. There he came under the wing of Lee Rose, the former college coach and NBA assistant who is paid to mentor the D-League coaches.
``He's very poised in everything he does, and he's very thorough, cerebral,'' Rose said of Vincent. ``I found him to be a really outstanding candidate that would be able to work his way to an NBA head job. Obviously, it's happened.
``The big thing is he is a very good people person. And I think that is one of the qualities that the good coaches like Popovich and some of these guys have that are in the NBA.''
It's expected many of Bickerstaff's assistants, including veteran Jeff Capel, will remain on Vincent's staff. Rose thinks that's critical, much the same way former NBA head coach Del Harris has helped Johnson in Dallas.
Speaking by phone Thursday, Johnson sounded excited that Vincent is getting his chance - and feels his international experience will help in a league that is bringing in more foreign players.
``He went through a lot of highs and lows and has coached in a lot of different environments, learning how people think,'' Johnson said. ``He was able to deal with a variety of personalities.
``He's got a lot of young kids to work with and he'll come prepared and do a nice job.''
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