By Kristen Dolson | Pacers.com
It was not a difficult decision for Sydney Kings head coach Andrew Gaze when he was asked to join the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach for the 2017 NBA Summer League.
“(Pacers Director of Scouting Ryan Carr) asked if I’d be interested, and I said, ‘why wouldn’t I be?!'” recounted Gaze. “This is an absolute privilege, it’s incredible.”
The Melbourne-native played professionally for his hometown team, the Melbourne Tigers, for 21 seasons and won two NBL championships while also earning himself seven MVP nods. He was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2013 and is currently the head coach of the Sydney Kings.
The legendary NBL star has also contributed some of his talent to the NBA.
Gaze came to the United States to play for the Washington Bullets in 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, where he helped the team win the NBA title.
This time, returning to the NBA as a coach instead of a player, Gaze is absorbing the differences in the sport since he played in the league.
“I think that the game has changed a lot,” said Gaze. “It’s great to learn, and now as a coach, to experience as much as I can.”
As Gaze familiarizes himself with fellow members of the coaching staff, he reunites with Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan, whom he had met at a Seattle SuperSonics workout in 1989.
He has also gotten to know Pacers assistant coach Popeye Jones, who is serving as the head coach of Indiana’s 2017 Summer League team.
“If you guys don’t remember Andrew Gaze, you need to go YouTube or Google him because he was a heck of a player,” said Jones. “He’s helping us in terms of offense and defense, he’s on both sides of the ball.”
As basketball continues to gain popularity globally, Gaze says that the sport is booming in Australia on both a national and international scale.
“I think we’ve got nine guys — maybe 10 now — in the NBA, and some other guys playing in Europe, and our league in Australia is getting really, really strong,” said Gaze. “The quality of international players coming to our league is really high.
“The biggest asset that we have is our participation rates, it’s a massively popular participant sport.”
The NBA Summer League is known to have a large international presence, as players and coaches from all over the world are invited to participate in the tournament.
“I’m just helping out where I can and trying to benefit as much as I can,” said Gaze. “It’s so great that they’re all so keen to learn about international basketball as well.”
Gaze is hopeful that his experience with the Indiana Pacers will help him in his own coaching career with the Sydney Kings.
“From my own experience, it extends beyond just what goes on in the X’s and O’s on the floor,” said Gaze. “It’s about how they meet, how they prepare their video, the facilities, all those things come into consideration, and I’m trying to absorb as much as I can.”