LAS VEGAS — It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Utah Jazz organization during its slate of NBA Summer League games in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Not only are players developing, but the organization is continuing to build its strength as a unit as well.
That learning curve extends to assistant coach Alex Jensen.
Jensen coached three games this week in Vegas, in addition to coaching every game in Salt Lake City, and he left for Germany on Wednesday to fill a position as an assistant to Chris Fleming. Jensen previously coached the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League, and he was then hired as an assistant to the Utah Jazz in 2013.
Jensen’s wife, Natalie Jensen, has had the opportunity to watch her husband take all these steps that led him to a position on the coaching staff of the Jazz. Through these experiences, she has learned more about the structure of the team, what each role is and all those who play a part in the development of this young team.
“It’s been fun to see Alex step into that role again,” said Natalie Jensen. “He’s been developing Rudy (Gobert) for a really long time, and I think he’s really happy to see Rudy take a predominant place."
What Natalie Jensen thinks her husband has learned about coaching:
“He has said to me before, ‘You have to do it to be really good.' He has learned so much from Quin (Snyder) and (Rick) Majerus and all the really good coaches that he’s known,” she said. “I think that the chemistry towards the end of last season really started gelling, specifically when the coaches and the team started gelling, and it was really exciting for everybody. So, I think now Alex is excited. He’s excited about Trey Lyles, he’s excited about Olivier Hanlan. I think he’s just really optimistic for the future of the team because he saw so much at the end of the season."
Natalie Jensen said the coaching staff and head coach Quin Snyder have a great relationship and that Snyder is very generous to coach Jensen and the families he works with.
For Natalie Jensen, being around the team has allowed her to make great friendships with a lot of the guys her husband coaches. She is also learning the lingo of basketball; she compares the experience to her time working on Broadway. This helps her to understand the NBA lifestyle and the dynamics of the Jazz organization.
With the fast-paced schedule and long-distance traveling the team is accustomed to, she appreciates spending time with her husband and enjoys seeing the growth in his character as a coach.
Natalie Jensen also broke down the preparations being made to help the Jazz return to the playoffs.
“I think the coaching staff is really realistic about the playoffs. They are working their tails off and are always in the office,” she said. “Alex really cares about the team and I think that they know it. I don’t know what it takes to be a great coach, but he gives them a lot of love and gives them straight talk.”
She said that is a lesson her husband has also learned from Snyder.
Natalie Jensen is looking forward to some long-distance travel with her husband when in Germany.
"I love being at the NBA Summer League because I have friends here, but Alex leaves for Germany and will assist the German national team head coach. I am excited; I have never been to Germany," she said.
On Tuesday, after the Jazz played the Phoenix Suns at the Summer League in Vegas, Alex Jensen shared his thoughts on his experience while coaching in different situations:
"You learn that players win games, and it’s hard. It's hard to get through to them. It’s different than coaching in the D-League, where players are encouraged to get their stats, and that by doing this, it will help them more than coming together as a team, and so that is a challenge here,” said Jensen.
Alex Jensen’s take on the Development League:
“The nice thing about the D-League is that it's your first gig where you are off the radar a little bit. There isn’t as much media scrutiny, so you can live and learn. But it’s one of those leagues where nobody really wants to be there. They want to be making money, and they use that as a vehicle to get to the NBA,” said Jensen.
"However, if you can motivate someone in the D-League, than you can probably motivate them other places.”
Jensen also talked about the improvements he has seen in his players throughout the season and in Summer League.
“A lot of them are young and you forget how they started, but they just grow. A good example to me would be Dante (Exum). He is shooting 10 free throws in his game. I don’t know how many games it took him to get to 10 free throws, but now it’s good.”
Jensen is looking forward to the Jazz's upcoming season.
“I hope (for everyone) to get better and to take another step. Continuity is very underrated; we just want to build together and move forward," he said.
Utah shooting guard Chris Johnson participated in the Salt Lake Summer League games, as well as the games in Las Vegas. He is familiar with Jensen’s coaching because he worked with him in the Development League a few years ago.
"He coached me two years ago in the D-League and now out here in the Summer League. It’s a great relationship I have with Alex. I feel like back then, he had confidence in me, and now I have the same thing with him,” said Johnson. "D-League is a grind. He was a coach at Canton and I was a player, so we were both trying to get to this higher level, and luckily we got onto the same team."
Johnson evaluated Jensen's coaching technique as he has observed his progress.
"He’s gotten better. He follows Coach Snyder’s structure; he can read things on the court, and he adjusts to it. He’s doing a great job.”
Johnson shows the same positive outlook that is permeating the Jazz. "I'm just looking forward to every moment of this season. It’s only going to get better this season — the fans are great; we got a great team, a great organization.”