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Lakers assistant coaching candidate profile: Tim Grgurich

June 6, 2011 | 10:30 am


This is the fourth post in a series looking at potential Lakers assistant coaches. We'll profile Tim Grgurich, who, The Times' Broderick Turner reported, Lakers Coach Mike Brown is "expected to try and pry" from his current assistant coaching gig with the Dallas Mavericks.

Background: Obviously, any hire wouldn't happen until after the NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami, possibly as early as Thursday. Grgurich joined the Mavericks in somewhat of a consulting role, with management giving him flexibility to attend practices and games as he chooses. He had unexpectedly left the Denver Nuggets last summer, with the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman and Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reporting Grgurich's disappointment Denver didn't re-sign executive and longtime friend Mark Warkentien. Grgurich spent 12 seasons coaching under George Karl, which included a trip to the 1996 NBA Finals with the Seattle Sonics and five division titles. He also had assistant coaching stints with the Portland Trail Blazers (2004-05 and 1998-2001, including two Western Conference Finals appearances), Phoenix Suns (2002-04), Milwaukee Bucks (2001-02) and Sonics (1991-98). 

Before coaching in the NBA, Grgurich spent 12 seasons as an assistant under Jerry Tarkanian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where the program won the 1990 NCAA championship, made three Final Four appearances and featured future NBA stars such as Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony during Grgurich's tenure. After lettering three times in both basketball and baseball at the University of Pittsburgh, he eventually assumed head coaching duties in 1975 and led the Panthers to a 71-70 record and one trip to the NIT.

Connection to Brown: Consider Brown's revelation to Hochman about Grgurich when he was coaching the Cavaliers during the 2009-10 season: ""He's probably, single-handedly, the most important guy who helped me get to the seat I'm in now." Brown as a former Nuggets video coordinator served as a counselor at Grgurich's famously secretive summer camps at Las Vegas, which consistently attract the best NBA talent. Brown recalled Grgurich's willingness to throw Brown in charge of certain drills. "With him taking me under his wing and giving me credibility alone, that's helped me move up and be bigger than I was in a lot of people's eyes," Brown said. "He took a chance on me. He taught me a lot in terms of wisdom, how to interact with players, how to teach players and how to be yourself, and that's the most important thing. And I did listen some, because that's one of the reasons I'm here."

Style: In the same article, Karl described Grgurich as the "best assistant coach in the NBA" and every single publication written about him indicates the high level of respect players and coaches have around him. Grgurich has rarely talked to the media, but there's plenty of anecdotes that illustrate how he's cultivated strong relationships with players. Carmelo Anthony frequently talked with Grgurich even when he shut off talks with other Nuggets officials after refusing to sign a three-year, $65-million extension. Hochman also indicated that Grgurich played the "good cop" role for players falling in Karl's doghouse, most notably J.R. Smith.

Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said in 2004 when he coached Indiana that Grgurich and Pete Newell had been the "two major forces in the development of players and coaches in the last 20 years." Mavericks forward Shawn Marion indicated he liked Grgurich's ability to teach the game's nuances that excite players. Grgurich's annual camps in Las Vegas, which initially started out with him working with Sonics guard Gary Payton, then more Seattle players are now so well-attended that's Steve Aschburner reports many NBA teams send their assistants and other personnel to check in on their players' progress throughout the week. Even though the camps are off-limits to media and agents, the Boston Globe's Shira Springer found out the camps are similar to NBA preseason workouts, including drills, demonstrations and teaching fundamentals. 

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Tim Grgurich, center, was an assistant under George Karl, left, for 12 seasons before accepting a consulting position this season with the Dallas Mavericks. Lakers Coach Mike Brown, as reported by The Times' Broderick Turner, hopes to add Grgurich to his coaching staff. Credit: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images