We sat down with Head Coach of the Stockton Kings, Ty Ellis.
You’re coming up on your one-year anniversary of being the head coach for the Stockton Kings. What has been the highlight of your time and the most difficult thing you’ve had to overcome?
The highlight was not cutting anybody last season. We had a lot of success with guys getting called up. Of the ten guys we chose at the beginning of the season, three guys got called up and the other seven lasted the entire year – which is very untypical of a G-League team. So, I was most proud of that.
And the most difficult – I really didn’t have any difficulties. I just completed my seventh year, I know what to expect. So, I really didn’t have any difficult moments outside of being sick in the last game of the playoffs. That was the only difficult moment.
Coming off last season’s loss in the playoffs, what is your overall mood going into your sophomore season as head coach?
In the G-League, we have to reset. Because, very seldom do we have the same team. So, my mentality is being grateful for the opportunity and that we did well.
But now, it starts all over. We could possibly have a totally different team. Guys are going to go to Europe or the NBA, and some guys who I want to come back got better opportunities. I’m just refocusing on being better as a head coach and better as a leader.
What team are you most excited to see the team go up against this season?
The teams are different, but the coaches are the same. Oklahoma City has a very strong coach. Golden State has a very strong coach. RGV, obviously. The Lakers didn’t have a great season last year, but typically they have a pretty good team and a pretty good coach. Those are the teams in my division that I know will come back strong. They have strong coaches and a really good front office.
What kinds of jobs did you hold before entering the basketball business?
I always kept a job. I worked at Six Flags – I was in charge of the basketball game. I worked at CVS, I worked at grocery stores… This was all in high school.
Even in college, I did internships. I got my masters in Kinesiology, so I was going to be a teacher or coach at the college level. I kind of did a little bit of everything.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring coaches who are hoping to be in a position like yours one day?
Everybody has ambitions and we always look at the end goal. We take for granted the process it takes to get to the end goal. Sometimes progress is somebody telling you ‘no’. Sometimes progress is you getting fired. But it’s still progress, because you can learn from every situation. You’re going to be told ‘no’. You’re going to be looked over. This is a very unfair business.
But, personally, I just stay focused. I wake up every day and my goal is to be great. I don’t put my expectations in man. My expectations are in God. If God wants me here, I’m going to be great here until God puts me somewhere else. So, don’t get disappointed, because everything is part of the process.
What’s your favorite basketball slang term? (i.e. “Barbecue Chicken”,
When my guys are on the bench, they have this thing where, if a smaller player is guarding one of our big guys and they score in the paint, everybody will start asking each other, “Whose baby is that?” Or if they score, the bench will say, “Whaaa”.
I sit there and look at them and I just start laughing, so I’ve got to turn my back because I have to be professional. But it’s hilarious. We actually have a play called “Baby”.
Are you going to be at Summer League? If so, what kind of talent will you be on the lookout for?
As of right now, I’m part of it.
I’m always looking [for talent]. A guy that works hard and embraces their defensive end, I’m very interested in. I can teach you a lot of everything else, but I can’t teach a desire to defend. I can’t teach a guy who thinks highly of himself. Humility needs to be within you to grow.
I’m not necessarily looking for superstars. If you look at my team last year, we had guys who were getting cut from other teams and they didn’t get cut from me because they worked their tail off and they believed.
So, I’m not going to say I’m looking for the shiny car, so to speak. I’m looking for guys who really embrace the journey and are not interested in instant success. They understand it’s a process.