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Energy And Continuous Learning Are Fundamental To Being A Young Head Coach For Eric Weissling

Eric Weissling | Head Coach | Hanoi Buffaloes

Personally, I feel like guys feed off my energy. If I'm a young coach, I wanna show guys I am a young coach and that I have energy. I don’t want to come in and not bring energy by just sitting on the bench looking pretty, because then what is the point of being young?

Eric Weissling

Head Coach

Hanoi Buffaloes

× The interview with Eric Weissling was conducted via a phone conversation and later transcribed. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

You spent time working with the San Antonio Spurs as a Player Assistant during the golden era of the franchise’s history. What were the most important things you learned from working with an elite NBA team like the Spurs during their prime?

Transparency, they preach it and push it.

They want everyone to be a central figure of their job. They want everyone to be not only the best they can be but you’re a member of the family. No one is seen as better than the other.

Everyone does their job, you have your role, you have responsibilities, they want you to be disciplined and someone that has good character. The last part is important because you can’t be soft in this business. It is important to also know your place, boundaries, what you need to do then go out and do it.

I love that about the spurs and their culture.

No one goes out and feels like they are truly unimportant. Even when I was just an equipment manager, and I’m helping them in the locker room, I loved it. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Even something as simple yet important as bringing Bruce Bowen his coffee at 4:30, it’s hot with two sugars, it’s there on time. I love their culture, you’re also not just a family member but a brother for life over there which is the best thing for me.

Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your coaching philosophy from the Spurs?

From the Spurs, the biggest influence was James Borrego.

It’s a really small world since my dad was his 7th-grade math teacher and my sister was his classmate. I had a connection with James through working at San Antonio and had been working with him for a while before I found out any of these things.

I mean just look at him now, he’s the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets!

He was the video coordinator during my time with the Spurs. That whole staff was amazing. They had Mike Budenholzer, Brett brown, Donny Newman. Jock Vaughn, Sean Marks were part of the staff.

Then you look and see Quin Snyder was the G League coach at the time, if you go down the list that staff was crazy talented. Taylor Jenkins is another guy who was the assistant of the G League team and now he’s the Memphis Grizzlies head coach.

With that entire staff, they all went on to do bigger and better things which is so cool to see. 

The thing that rubbed off on me the most from James was that he is a coach with Latino heritage. There are not many Latino coaches in the NBA at all.

Just the simple fact that he’s Hispanic, he doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish but he knows it and understands it. So even if I did a little bit of Spanish with him, or when we had Fabricio Oberto or Manu in the locker room and I was speaking a bit of Spanish and he could chime in, just that ability to be Latino and be a coach in the NBA, was the most motivating part for me.

Who is the coach that has had the most influence on your coaching style?

The guy that had the biggest influence on my style no doubt is Eddie Casiano. He is the head coach of the Puerto Rican national team.

When he worked in Mexico, I got a chance to be his assistant for a couple of years. The guy has an amazing resume too. You may hear the name and think “who’s that?”.

If you know Puerto Rican basketball, you’d know he’s not just a legend, he is pretty much the guy that knocked out the US in 2004 in Athens at the Olympics. He was a superstar player, a great shooter, and played also with Carlos Arroyo.

He started his career at 19 years old going up against guess who? The Dream Team in 1992 in Barcelona. He was the one coming in guarding Jordan as a 19 year old.

He had an amazing experience and it helped me learn a lot from him. But when he gets on the court, he is fiery, passionate and just the way he’s pacing back and forth never sitting down, I love that style.

Often times I see coaches sit down and chill on the bench.

Personally, I feel like guys feed off my energy. If I’m a young coach, I wanna show guys I am a young coach and that I have energy. I don’t want to come in and not bring energy by just sitting on the bench looking pretty, because then what is the point of being young?

As a young coach, you want to come off as more mature and with a demeanour that makes you seen as more mature than your age when it comes to your style. But it shouldn’t take away from your style.

The game is only 40 minutes long, why are you sitting? If I preach to players in FIBA to work hard for 40 minutes, then why am I sitting for half of it? That has become my style, that’s how Eddie was and I really connect with him in that sense.

After departing from San Antonio, you embarked on a run of success coaching in the Mexican League as well as with the Mexico national team. What made you come to the decision to pursue coaching in Mexico and what has your experience been coaching many different teams in that league?

This is good for all guys out there who got their start in the NBA like myself at a lower position.

You have to get coaching experience somewhere and the pool of candidates that each NBA team and even G League team have is crazy. They have pools of candidates that are filled with people who are very qualified and they filter it out a lot.

For example, some teams require that you have a Masters, so without one, your resume is toast. That’s the challenge of getting into the NBA because there are so few positions with so many qualified individuals.

I knew that even though I worked in the Spurs organization as an equipment manager, that does not mean I have any coaching experience, so why would they hire me to coach?

They might know me and that I work my butt off but that still doesn’t give a strong enough reason for me to beat out an entire stack of resumes that contains guys who coached in college or internationally.

In the beginning, when I was looking at getting myself up to the next rank, I knew that going the Spurs route would be incredibly difficult. This is because it would take a crazy amount of networking with all those guys and kissing butt at every corner and that is not my style. I believe in earning my stripes.

So, my mom is from Mexico and she said that the pro team in her city (Xalapa) is stacked. I knew nothing about them but the fact my mom suggested I try to coach there was an intriguing factor.

When I went down and saw the roster of players I thought to myself that these guys were pretty good! For someone that loves following basketball like myself who is a nerd of the game, that roster contained half of the entire Mexican national team.

There are also sometimes great players that come down to play in the league like Sam Young, who played for the Spurs one year. He was in the Mexican league when I was coaching there.

This made me realize that there is a respectable level of talent in this league and for me to be down there coaching at a good level so young was motivating.

What are some of the most important things you learned while coaching in Mexico?

I started out as an assistant there being a scout, doing the grind work of breaking down film and those sorts of things.

That can be tough to start out because you’re staying up late after games until 3/4 am and sometimes sleeping in the offices because it is a demanding job. But I enjoyed that part because since I didn’t know what it took to be a head coach yet, I only knew the grind work.

As I went through the process of growing up quickly in Mexico and doing grind work for the national team, little by little I realized you have to mature quickly.

You can’t necessarily be buddy buddy with the players. You have to start putting those boundaries down and they have to start seeing you as a leader, someone they can believe in and trust in. They know you care and care is an important word because the players can see it, feel it and your actions show that you care for them.

However, you still have to have that ability for players to say ‘yes sir/no sir”. That is a hard challenge to accomplish.

I had to lock in on the psychology and physiology. The xs and os are easy but how was I going to get the guys to buy into me being a young coach and my style plus the culture I want to put together, go out and execute it?

At the time I started as a head coach there I was only 27 so I had to figure out, why were these guys going to listen to me? I Had the experience, I knew the game, I could respond intelligently to questions and had all of the details down. I was going to have to win them over with my knowledge of the game and the kindness to help them and show them I care.

You have been a historically young head coach in the world of international basketball and have had the chance to coach under former Chicago Bull Bill Cartwright. How do you handle the various tasks associated with being a head coach at such a young age? How have the lessons you learned from coaching under Cartwright helped you along the way?

One of the things that I think is cool to share about this since this is good for all coaches and players. Sometimes the system is not designed for you, don’t take it personally! That’s one of the biggest things as a player.

As a coach, you have to think on your feet and adjust. Bill coached the national team in 2014 and I got a chance to be part of his staff.

Even though I was one of the lower end assistants, he trusted me like crazy because I spoke English and Spanish. I was the one who translated for him, I was the one who chilled with him while watching film.

He went to coach in Asia in japan which is part of why I came here to try it out. He had suggested I make the move to the far east because he found it enjoyable.

In Mexico, he was a legend. Despite not being Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen, he had rings on rings. When you talk to him, he knows what he’s talking about.

In the last dance, they talk about his passionate dynamic despite being generally quiet. He doesn’t get fired up lots but when he talks, he leaves a presence that is so neat.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

It was very inspiring talking to Eric Weissling about his journey as a head coach across international borders at such a young age. He has done such an amazing job to learn, adapt and use his youthful energy to have lots of success coaching in the Mexican League and now in Vietnam. He was able to learn so many different important principles of leadership through his time with the Spurs organization and it has translated into his coaching career well thus far. Being able to accomplish so much in a short amount of time in inspiring for all young head coaches who wish to reach elite levels of professional basketball across the globe. Eric will be able to make a lasting impact also on Latino coaches in basketball the same way that James Borrego and Eddie Casiano impacted his coaching career. 

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