CREATING A PATH FROM USD TO THE NBA
Hank Egan has made a career out of providing teachable moments to some of the biggest names in the NBA. And he’s got some choice words for Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant should their paths cross.
“Sometimes, when I watch Kobe play, I see his drive, his will to win and it makes him a bit narrow-minded. Learning to better involve other players could really help the team.”
Bryant won’t hear this advice directly from Egan, but the message could be relayed through new Lakers’ Head Coach Mike Brown ’93, who played two seasons when Egan was USD’s basketball coach.
Egan and Brown were together again from 2005-2010 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James was the star player and Brown was head coach. Egan, a consultant, “interjected the people part of coaching” into their discussions. “LeBron is gifted and talented, but he’s so young. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride (with James), but Mike’s a very steady person.”
Working with people is what Egan, 73, cherishes most. His coaching career began in 1966 at the Air Force Academy, first as an assistant, then as head coach (1971-1984). “I consider coaching to be the purest form of teaching,” Egan says. “If you’re teaching math or economics, a student takes the information you give them and uses it when they work for someone else. When you coach, teaching the X’s and O’s, you immediately go into business with them and get instant feedback.”
Egan, who was recommended to then-USD Athletic Director Father Pat Cahill by legendary college coach Bobby Knight, went 156-126 at USD from 1984-1994. His greatest season came with the 1986-1987 team, which set a school-best, single-season 24-6 record. Egan was inducted into USD’s Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame in June 2011.
Over the course of his career, he’s helped many Toreros apply the knowledge he’s imparted, both in games and beyond. A few have also convinced Egan to join them.
When Eric Musselman ’87 was named head coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2002, Egan was an assistant. Soon after, Brown thrived with Egan in Cleveland. Other Egan USD-to-NBA connections include David Fizdale ’96 (Miami Heat assistant), Chris Grant ’94 (Cavaliers general manager) and Neal Meyer ’94 (NBA assistant, international operations).
A golden opportunity in the NBA led Egan to leave USD in 1994. Former Air Force player and assistant Gregg Popovich offered him a job with the San Antonio Spurs, who would go on to win the NBA title in 1999 with Egan onboard.
“The first two years I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. just trying to learn the (NBA) game,” says Egan. “Everywhere you go you have to be able to adjust.”
That’s why Egan thinks Brown is quite capable of adjusting to the highly visible job awaiting him with the Lakers. “People need to give him a chance. I’d tell him ‘You do what you think is right, study film, communicate with the players and do all the things a coach does.’ I know Mike knows what he’s doing.” — Ryan T. Blystone