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NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP) Mentor Garrett Kelly Is Helping NBA & WNBA Players Transition Into Coaching

Garrett Kelly - NBA Assistant Coaches Program

NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP) Mentor Garrett Kelly Is Helping NBA & WNBA Players Transition Into Coaching

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Garrett Kelly is a mentor working within the NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP). This program has gained a ton of notoriety lately for its ability to take former professional basketball players from the WNBA and NBA and provide them with superb skills for transitioning into coaching.

Being an assistant coach in the NBA is super hard. There are so many aspects of leadership, mentorship, technology, and practice implementation, which many aspiring coaches take for granted.

Plenty of those who aspire to be an NBA assistant coach once played basketball professionally. Take Vin Baker, James Posey, Monty Williams, Edneisha Curry, and Jerry Stackhouse for example. Each quickly became assistant coaches on NBA rosters. But not before learning the ins and outs of coaching, which they did through the NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP) comes in, led by Rory Sparrow, Vice President of NBA Player Development and his former Knicks teammate and long-time NBA coach Butch Carter. Garrett Kelly is a piece of the ACP puzzle that keeps on producing technically and analytically savvy assistant coaches. We chatted with Garrett recently about his role in the program, his NCAA and Canadian Basketball League (CBL) coaching career, Butch Carter and more. Enjoy!

NBA Assistant Coaches Program | Mentor | Garrett Kelly

Detail your career in sport for us.

Currently, I am working as a coaching consultant for the NBA Player Development Department helping former players transition into coaching. We have created an intensive 6-month coaching curriculum that prepares the retired players for a career in coaching. The NBA Assistant Coaches Program begins in March when the ACP staff reviews submitted applications from former players and select the candidates that will be invited to this year’s program. Once the candidates are thoroughly reviewed, vetted, and selected, the first event is a 3-day coaching boot camp in Portsmouth, VA.

The coaching boot camp serves as an eye-opening experience for the former players to show them the number of hours and work that goes into a typical day in the life of a coach; they get trained on relevant basketball technologies for developing scouting reports and video edits and are assigned teams to scout and game film to review and chop up. We also get on the court with local high school and college players to help the coaches put their practice plans, game plans, and individual player development plans into action. After 3 long days of boot camp, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament begins with the top college seniors all competing for 7 days. PIT has been going on for over 65 years and is a great tournament… fortunately, our coaching candidates get paired up with a team and are able to execute practice plans, implement game plans, and coach their team through the tournament.

The focus for the ACP coaches at PIT is on the players and helping them transition from their college career into their professional career and the ACP coaching candidates do a great job of helping the players both on the court and off it. Once PIT concludes in late April, the candidates go back home and have lengthy scouting assignments on G League teams to help them improve their scouting reports after getting feedback from PIT. Our next event is the Chicago Pre-Draft Combine in May that is broken down into multiple events, G League Elite Camp, Draft Eligible Camp, and the Combine. At these events, our candidates get to work on the court with the players and in the classroom with our staff continuing their development with the basketball-related technologies for scouting and editing film.

NBA Assistant Coaches Program | Mentor | Garrett Kelly

After Chicago, the candidates are assigned more homework scouts to continue their development and depth of knowledge, they are continuously challenged and mentored throughout the summer. The last event is the G League Player Invitational in Chicago where the candidates get to work on the court with aspiring professional players and continue their coaching journey.

The NBA Assistant Coaches Program is only available to former NBA & WNBA players that have applied and are accepted into the program. Soon, the coaching curriculum will be offered to all coaches at our website;

How did your past jobs in the American College/University circuit as well as the CBL prepare you for your current job?

Coaching at the NCAA level helped me understand the time and commitment that coaching required, also helped me with organization and communication skills. Working with the CBL as a Head Coach sped up my learning curve dramatically. My mentor, Butch Carter has greatly increased my depth of knowledge on coaching, player development, organization and communication. He has opened doors for me in professional basketball and prepared me for the opportunities.

NBA Assistant Coaches Program | Mentor | Garrett Kelly

What is the best part about your career in sport?

Improving young peoples lives through basketball is what I love most about coaching. With the ACP, working with former players transitioning into coaching and seeing them get the coaching bug and fall in love with teaching and helping others. We have had several coaches leave our Program and get coaching jobs and find success, to see them enjoying their journey, helping improve the lives of the players they coach and continuing their development is the best.

What are a few highlights of your career in sport thus far?

Launching the Canadian Basketball League and coaching the Scarborough Basketball Club to a championship on live television was a personal highlight that I will always cherish, the amount of sacrifice and work that went into it from a lot of people I care about is something special to me.

The Assistant Coaches Program work we’ve done has been equally as rewarding, seeing former players come through our Program learn and develop their own coaching style and find success in the coaching profession has been very fulfilling.

NBA Assistant Coaches Program | Mentor | Garrett Kelly

Currently we’ve helped mentor and train Edniesha Curry (the only female DI NCAA men’s basketball assistant coach in the country at University of Maine), Vin Baker (Milwaukee Bucks), Milt Palacio (Long Island Nets), Keith Bogans (Westchester Knicks), Mery Andrade (the only female coach to go from NCAA assistant coach to G League assistant coach with the Erie Bayhawks), Ben Uzoh (Windy City Bulls, Nigeria National Team), Rex Walters (Wake Forest).

The relationships we’ve built and the work these coaches have put in to improve and develop is what it’s all about.  

What was the lowest point in your career thus far?

The coaching profession comes with a lot of highs and lows, it’s important to stay even-keeled and appreciate having our health, family and loved ones, and the fact they get to be involved in a game we love every day. Leaving college coaching to help launch a professional FIBA league was over a 2-year process that came with a lot of uncertainty and frustrating times. After launching the league and playing our first season, not securing the long-term funding for the league was also difficult to deal with, but the coaching lessons and life lessons learned have proven to be extremely valuable for my personal growth and development.  

NBA Assistant Coaches Program | Mentor | Garrett Kelly

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

It would be to eliminate the potential for any injuries to athletes.

Who should we interview next for SPMA?

1 Butch Carter

Butch is a former NBA Head Coach and is currently an NBA Assistant Coaches Program Mentor.

2 Ediensha Curry

Ediensha Curry is currently an NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach.

3 Mike Tuck

Mike Tuck is a Canadian Basketball player with the British Basketball League.


Garrett Kelly’s mentorship role with the NBA Assistant Coaches Program has helped a number of former WNBA and NBA players blossom into coaches. His coaching experience at the NCAA and CBL levels have transitioned well into his mentorship role, just as he is helping to convert players into coaches. Be sure to give Garrett Kelly a follow on his Twitter and LinkedIn pages below to keep tabs on his growing coaching career.

Garrett Kelly

Interview by Phil Goldberg
Posted September 10, 2019 in Industry Profiles