Kaleb Canales to repair fractured locker room
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  1. BlazerManiac
    Posts: 777

    Posted 03/19/2012 11:11 AM

    He has obviously done a great job with Raymond Felton.  Felton is a whole different player in the last two games.  Limited Turnovers great Production.

    This is a great article

    OKLAHOMA CITY — During his first team meeting as Trail Blazers’ interim head coach, Kaleb Canales huddled his players in a circle around him and asked everyone to make three simple promises: Play defense, play hard and play together. 

    Then Canales went around the circle, looked every player in the eye, and demanded a commitment. He turned to All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and said: “Are you going to do that? Are you going to be committed?”


    He pivoted to second-year forward Luke Babbitt. Yes. He glanced at 39-year-old Kurt Thomas, a player six years his elder. Yes. Ten players. Ten yeses. 

    In the span of 30 seconds Friday, the Blazers underwent an unofficial turning of the page, moving on from the Nate McMillan era and becoming Canales’ team.

    As Canales stepped into that circle of players, he might as well have entered a swirling tornado. Over the last month, the Blazers had devolved into a lifeless, lethargic and borderline depressed team. The locker room was a ticking bomb ready to explode. And Canales is an unlikely candidate to defuse it, a 33-year-old former unpaid intern who did not play basketball in college, let alone in the NBA.

    But unlikely or not, Canales wasted little time establishing a new direction for what’s left of the Blazers’ season.

    “That was a good start,” rookie point guard Nolan Smith said. “He confronted his team. He challenged us. When you confront your players individually, when you make them commit to something like that, it means something. Everybody said yes and now we have to go out and do it. Actions speak louder than words.” 

    Expectations are low for the Blazers. But if the actions of the players over the next 21 games come close to reflecting those of their new coach, whose infectious energy, passion and work ethic is second-to-none, the Blazers might just finish the season better than anyone is predicting. It’s only been three days since McMillan was fired, but the Blazers already have beaten the Chicago Bulls and there is a new vibe around the team that is more loose and optimistic. 

    Who knows if the change is a byproduct of McMillan’s ouster or the trades of Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby — or a combination of the two. But there is little debate that Canales has, at the very least, created a more uplifting, positive atmosphere. 

    “He just brings this energy and confidence,” Aldridge said. “There’s this new, fired-up, rejuvenated energy that we didn’t have. We were so down and so lifeless. He’s bringing some new fire to the team and everybody respects him so much that I feel like we’ve been rejuvenated a little bit. We’re trying to start fresh. We’re all going to go out and play hard and try to do everything for him.”

    When interim GM Chad Buchanan informed Canales he would be the Blazers’ interim coach, he asked Canales to, above all else, find a way to get the Blazers to rediscover the hard-working, always-together mojo that used to exist under McMillan. Then he offered Canales one piece of advice.

    “I told him the No. 1 and most important thing you’ve got to do is be yourself,” Buchanan said. “Because people respect you and our players and everybody around this team respects you for who you are. So be who you are. Keep your same positive, enthusiastic approach. Don’t try to be something different than who you are.” 

    And who is Canales? On the inside, he’s a deeply spiritual man whose strong faith and devotion to God guides his everyday actions. If he’s not reading NBA scouting reports, odds are he’s reading Scripture. He never swears and a drop of alcohol has never touched his lips. 

    On the outside, he bounces around like a teenager who’s crushed three cans of Red Bull, hugging, fist-bumping and back-slapping everyone he sees. He’s an everyday man who treats everyone — from a Rose Garden janitor to team president Larry Miller — the same. No one can recall seeming him in a bad mood.

    But as much as anything, as guard Wesley Matthews pointed out, Canales “eats, sleeps and breathes basketball.” He practically lives at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, sleeping on a couch in the player’s lounge most nights, and his mind is constantly racing with potential plays, possible matchup advantages and ways to make the Blazers better. 

    “My life is boring,” he said, laughing, at about 8:30 Saturday night. “After this is over, I’m going to go up to my room and watch film for the next five hours.”

    And that’s about as revealing as Canales gets. He is a reluctant subject and a challenging interview, who often speaks in cliches, is hesitant to open up and looks like he would rather undergo a root canal than talk about himself. It’s not that he’s calculatingly evasive or purposefully difficult, he just hates the focus to be on him rather than the team. 

    His opening line of an interview for this story was “Why don’t you just reprint the last story,” and more than once he said, “You really don’t have to write this.” He would much rather talk about Smith’s development, or Joel Przybilla’s heart or Aldridge’s All-Star ability. Time after time, he repeats that this season and this situation is “not about me. It’s about the Blazers.”

    Blazers fans had better get used to the phrases “control what we can control” and “stay in the moment.” Because during the handful of public and private interviews he’s participated in since Thursday, he’s said the lines countless times.

    Canales refuses to talk about what went wrong under McMillan and what type of changes he intends to implement. McMillan was Canales’ mentor and he’s protective of the legacy of the person he calls, “a great man and a great coach.” But when he’s pressed, Canales acknowledges that he’s “fired up” and “blessed” for this opportunity.

    His journey to the NBA has been chronicled before, including in The Oregonian. He arrived in Portland in 2004 as an unpaid intern working in the video department for college credit as he put the finishing touches on a masters degree in sports leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. The Blazers hired him the next season and he quickly ascended up the ranks, from video coordinator, to part-time assistant coach to full-time assistant.

    Now, at 33, he’s the youngest head coach in the NBA and the first Mexican-American to lead a team. 

    And while that might be a stunner to some, it’s merely the next step in his personal plan. When he was 18 and fresh out of high school, Canales sat down and scribbled a list of goals he hoped to accomplish by the time he was 35. At the top of the list: Be an NBA head coach. 

    “Talking to my friends about it, obviously, they would always laugh,” Canales said. “They were like, ‘Yeah right, dude. Yeah right.’”

    But he always believed. In college, he researched ways to break into the NBA and discovered that paying dues in the video department was a new avenue to becoming a coach. Mike Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers, Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers and Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls all have climbed the NBA ladder through the video department in recent years. 

    So when it came time to search for a internship in grad school, Canales sent Spoelstra a hand-written letter every week for a year begging for a chance. Each letter ended with a different inspirational quote or message — his own “personal touch,” as Canales describes it. 

    “Here was this kid, I knew nothing about him, but he really made an impression,” Spoelstra said. “I remember telling the video guys, ‘I don’t care what happens, we have to interview this guy.’”

    The Heat hired someone else for the job, but Spoelstra says Canales “made an incredible impression,” during his interview, so he recommended him to other NBA teams. Four days later, the Blazers hired him. Eight years later, he’s worked his way to the top. 

    But, following Buchanan’s advice, Canales says the change in title will not spark a change in him. 

    Before his first game as head coach, Canales was out on the court during pregame warmups, working out Aldridge and Matthews as he always does. Few, if any, NBA head coaches do that. He said he will continue to sleep at the practice facility most nights. 

    Odds do not favor a successful conclusion to the season for Canales and the Blazers (21-23), who are in the middle of a seemingly never-ending soap opera season. Interim coaches rarely make it and his only previous head coaching experience is a five-game stint leading the Blazers’ summer league team. But there’s new optimism in the locker room and it’s clear that Canales has the support — and commitment — from every player on the roster. 

    “The reason we went with Kaleb was, No. 1, I think our team had lost its competitive spirit, enthusiasm and passion for competing,” Buchanan said. “Well if you were to describe what Kaleb is, you would say, ‘enthusiastic, spirited and positive.” He has a great approach and passion to the game. I really believe he has a chance to reinvigorate our guys.”

    I am a fan of WES, the heart and soul of the Blazers.
  1. uprised
    Posts: 136

    Posted 03/19/2012 1:14 PM

    His energy on the sideline is pretty refreshing.  I see all the other coaches whispering in his ear and it's pretty clear there is a lot of collaboration on the bench which is a good thing.  Whatever happens, he will NEVER forget that game against the Bulls.  What an awesome thing to happen to a guy who was never a player.
    I am a fan of winning
  1. commontongue
    Posts: 1864

    Posted 03/19/2012 8:49 PM

    I like this kid. His passion is reminiscent of Lawrence Frank when he first took the helm of the New Jersey team that went to a couple of finals appearances. Everyone has been pointing out the similarities between Spoelstra and our boy, and you know what ? Im not mad at that semblance at all.  My hopes are that Thabeet and Flynn have something to prove when they hit the floor.Obviously the Rose City is known for taking chances on unproven guys. Hell, why stop now. I like Flynns aggressiveness when he's healthy. I look forward to him pushing Felton in practice, as well as teaching Nolan how to consistently attack under control. And Flynns got hops,dont sleep on him. As for Thabeet, he too can stand a cup of courage and hit the floor with a certain animosity. My only concern with him, is that he's a lot like a do-do [ pronounced dough dough ] bird. Flies beautifully,but lands like it should definitely invest in a helmet. I watched him block shots with either hand,but his landings... using the word scary is an understatement. 

    I do however have a question: Who is the best ball-handler in the draft ? 
    I am a fan of our new roster playing with and for eachother.
  1. BDawg
    Posts: 1593

    Posted 03/20/2012 6:04 AM

    I believe coach will be getting direction from above when Flynn and Thabeet are available.  I would like to see Flynn and Smith get the court time before Felton, since the new direction of this organization has recently been made very clear.  Felton will NOT be here next season and is therefore not a part of the future, so it serves no purpose to play RayRay over Flynn and Nolan Smith.  Would also be in favor of seeing some Thabeet.  Joel could use a little help in the middle.  Thabeet's mere size has an impact defensively.
    I am a fan of players that play with PASSION and PRIDE
  1. kenny c.
    kenny c.
    Posts: 418

    Posted 03/20/2012 11:36 AM

    That is a good story, let's hope it ends with us in the playoffs.
    I am a fan of Winning
  1. Blazer247
    Posts: 591

    Posted 03/20/2012 12:19 PM

    Disagree that Felton is gone for sure for next year. Stop hatin.
    I am a fan of BLAZER BASKETBALL. Not drafts, not business, not trades, not David Stern. Just BLAZER BASKETBALL.
  1. BDawg
    Posts: 1593

    Posted 03/21/2012 5:47 AM

    Good luck coach.  Good luck.
    I am a fan of players that play with PASSION and PRIDE
  1. Tobyus Sanchezo
    Tobyus Sanchezo
    Posts: 1669

    Posted 03/21/2012 6:51 AM

    The glue and duct tape didn't hold against the Bucks.
    I am a fan of multiple All-Stars on the Blazers roster this season!
  1. stacksfan2005
    Posts: 363

    Posted 03/21/2012 11:30 AM

    I'm growing tired of the blazers everything is going to be ok attitude. it started with all the little catchy phrases, uprise, rise with us, blah blah, now stories about how everyone's on the same page. but they still get blown out by junk teams. to quote my favorite line from zombie land, "time to nut up or shut up"

    im just happy i didn't buy tickets for the end of the year at the beginning of the year. I'll resume fan hood next year, as far as im concerned, there was a lockout for a full year and this season never happened. And since I hate every other NBA team, let's go 49ers
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