Still, Caleb Canales’ decision to leave the NBA and coach in Mexico is not without risk. Broadening his experience on an international stage could help him get back to the league and to the job of his dreams, but his leap of faith could also be ignored. Despite a growing stable of foreign-born superstars and the NBA’s expansion to new markets overseas, the league has been slow to embrace coaches with international experience. European champions like David Blatt and Igor Kokoskov came and went last decade, as did successful foreign-born assistants like Etore Messina. “The coaching side, you always have to be ready to adapt and adjust,” Canales says.
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While skepticism may remain in some NBA circles regarding the value of international coaching experience, there’s no doubt the league is putting effort in to diversify its coaching ranks overall. As of the 2022 offseason, half the league is led by Black head coaches. Nash and Kerr were born outside the U.S., and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is Filipino-American. Canales credits the work of David Fogel, executive director of the National Basketball Coaches Association, and Karen Marrero, its director of communications, for things improving over the last few seasons. “They’ve been so creative, and they’ve been so willing to help us, as coaches,” he stresses, highlighting the coaching profiles as well as a newly deployed coaches database the NBCA has set up to assist teams in finding and hiring talent outside the same small coaching pool.