Written by: Carson Deveau | Photography: Paul Morris
As Ryan Marchand, Assistant Coach for the Halifax Hurricanes, prepares for his first season coaching in the NBLC, he is excited for the challenge. Though the 31-years-old is relatively young to be handling assistant coaching responsibilities, the Oakland native already has a lengthy resume that he feels more than prepares him for the challenge.
Ryan was born in Oakland, California, but grew up in a town called Paradise after his parents moved there when he was young. Like most kids, Ryan's parents had him involved in organized team sports from a young age, and that's when he was introduced to his passion – basketball. Ryan began playing basketball when he was in the third grade, and quickly fell in love with the sport. He played point guard during middle and high school, and though he enjoyed watching the likes of Allen Iverson, Tracey MacGrady, and Gary Payton play on TV, the player Ryan said he most modelled his game after was legendary San Antonio Spur's point guard, Tony Parker.
"I loved getting out and running my 'bread and butter' plays when I was playing, which was playing from 15-18 feet and in. I also loved orchestrating the offense, and getting my teammates involved. This was exactly how Tony [Parker] use to play with the Spurs. So, even though I enjoyed watching other players more because they were more flashy, Tony is definitely who I most resembled on the court."
After graduating high school, Ryan attended a Junior College and played with their basketball team in the off-season, with hopes of securing a roster spot once the season began. But, little did Ryan know, that an opportunity was about to arise for him that would change his entire life.
Before the season began, Ryan was offered a coaching position with a local high school team in the area. Though he had played for almost his whole life, coaching was something that Ryan had always been interested in, and knew it was something that he wanted to do in the future. So, even though it ended his playing career, he accepted the coaching position, and thus began his coaching career.
"When I think about it I do have some regrets about stopping my playing career so early, especially before the season started in my freshmen year. But, on the other hand, I don't regret the valuable experience that I gained from coaching high school basketball for three years."
Ryan was right, as his experience coaching high school helped him immediately once he graduated from college.
In 2011, after graduating college, Ryan got an internship coaching with the Bakersfield Jam, a team in the NBA D-League (now G-League), for their upcoming season. Ryan wasn't with Bakersfield long though, as in the middle of the season right before the NBA season was about to start, he received a call from the Minnesota Timberwolves wondering if he had any interest in the position of Video Coordinator with the team. Working with an NBA team had always been a dream for his, and after a multitude of interviews, that dream became a reality. Ryan was offered the position, and was flown out to Minnesota for the start of their season.
"I felt, and still feel, really bad about leaving Bakersfield mid-season. But, I just had to take a step back and look at it professionally, and figured that this opportunity may never come again. So, I had to take full advantage of it if I was serious about coaching as a career."
After working with the Timberwolves for a year, Ryan had established a name for himself in the NBA-circle, and spent the next several years bouncing between positions with other NBA franchises – first working with the San Antonio Spurs' G-League team, the Austin Toros, as a Video Coordinator and Basketball Operations Intern, then with the Orlando Magic as an Advanced Scout for a season. During both positions, Ryan had begun to work in player development with a few teams, and players, that played overseas.
After working a couple of more positions around the G-League, Ryan still hadn't received a coaching offer with an NBA team, so he decided to pack his bags and move to South Korea for a year to teach English to locals.
Upon returning, Ryan received a call from Scott Roth, someone he had worked closely with while doing player development.
"Whenever I was doing player development for those players overseas, I would contact Scott after practice to give my updates on how things were progressing. Fast forward years later – Scott ended up getting the head coaching position with the Iowa Wolves (Minnesota's G-League affiliate), and I guess he liked all of the player development work I had done with him before, and offered me a position as an Assistant Coach on his staff."
Ryan was now one-step closer to achieving his dream, and began working as an Assistant Coach with the Iowa Wolves in the 2017 season.
He held the position for two years, and even served as the Head Coach for a game during the 2018/19 season. But, with the Minnesota Timberwolves struggling to find success in the NBA, the owner of the franchise decided to shake things up to get a better result. One of those changes being to replace the entire staff of their G-League affiliate in Iowa.
"Though is was too bad that things happened the way they did, the Timberwolves organization were very professional throughout the whole process and informed us early on that they would be moving in a new direction after the season. Coaching in the G-League was an amazing experience for me, as the smaller coaching staffs allowed me to do more floor work with players, and involved more in basketball operations than I had ever been before with a team."
Knowing that his days in Iowa were coming to an end, Ryan began looking for his next coaching position.
A colleague of his, who at the time was the Head Coach of the Saint John Riptide in the NBLC, informed Ryan that the Halifax Hurricanes were looking to fill an assistant coaching position and asked if he had any interest in filling it. He then reached out to Hurricanes Head Coach Mike Leslie, and after a few months of the two talking, Mike offered the position and brought Ryan to Halifax to work alongside him, and the rest of his coaching staff.
Now that he has been with the Hurricanes for a few months, and seen the players in training camp, Ryan believes that the team has the ability to go as far as they want to this season.
"I know the season is a long one, and is a grind both physically and mentally, but we're doing the right things now by establishing a strong culture and developing our chemistry on, and off, the court. How far we go as a team will be determined by the consistent work that we bring day-in, and day-out."
As far as achieving his dream as working on an NBA coaching staff, Ryan knows that he can't look too far ahead and must simply focus on what's going on now.
"You can't look too far forward that you forgot about today; I know I will be the best coach I can possibly be if I coach to my abilities each, and every, day. As far as certain jobs in the future are concerned, those will take care of themselves if I continue to prove myself."