Ernest Scott is now sitting on the first seat, commonly known in coaching as the hot seat, as the new head coach of the Iowa Wolves, the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA G-League affiliate. He was named HC in August after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach.
On his coaching journey, Scott told the MSR at the Wolves/Lynx practice facility in downtown Minneapolis, “It wasn’t like I set out with the goal of being a G-League head coach, or even get in the [coaching] business. I didn’t set out with the goal of being an NBA head coach.”
The Marietta, Georgia native played his college ball at Valdosta State, then 13 seasons as a pro in what was then called the NBA D-League, Europe, and New Zealand.
“I knew I still wanted to be involved with the game,” continued Scott, after retiring from playing. “I thought it would be more on the youth side. That’s why I like doing travel ball and AAU, and training kids.”
That eventually led him on his current coaching journey, he added. Before joining the Wolves’ affiliate, Scott was an assistant coach with the South Bay Lakers of the NBA G-League.
For many years, the former D-League was seen as a hoop wasteland of sorts where players hung on before retiring—and of course as a developmental league. “I remember when I played for [current Wolves] Coach Chris Finch in Rio Grande Valley in 2010,” recalled Scott. “I’d probably say the average age of our roster was like 26. Now guys that are 26, 27 are less likely to even get an opportunity.”
Now, each NBA club has a G-League team as well, a similar setup to the baseball major league-minor league connection for developing players for the big leagues. The Iowa Wolves serve as a training ground for coaches and other staff as well as players.
“It’s completely turned into developmental now,” noted Scott. “That’s where the value is. If you can produce guys through the G-League and develop those type of guys [for the NBA], that’s huge to a franchise.”
Naz Reid is a classic example—a former two-way player who developed into one of the league’s top reserves for Minnesota. He just signed a new multi-year contract with the Wolves.
But how will Scott handle the delicate balancing act of developing players, but also wanting to win? “It’s not easy, “he pointed out. “The biggest thing is you just take the approach of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“If we can get each of those guys if I can be in a situation where I’m able to or our staff is able to produce five or six NBA-ready guys, we should win. If we can develop those guys and get them playing the game the right way and doing what we need them to do, the winning will take care of itself.”
In any case, Scott is ready for the challenge. “It’s getting the roster together. It’s either trying to hire staff or getting to know the staff who you’re with. Not only are you trying to develop players, you also have to develop a staff,” he stressed.
More importantly, Scott has to be a truth-teller. For some players, who have been stars elsewhere and mostly told yes, hearing the opposite can be shocking: “Everybody has an ego. Everybody wants to be a star. It’s tough. My task is being for some of these guys the first real truth-teller.”