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Jazz assistant coach Bryan Bailey made most of his time coaching Summer League team

SHARE Jazz assistant coach Bryan Bailey made most of his time coaching Summer League team
Utah Jazz’s Macio Teague turns after dropping in a corner 3

Utah Jazz’s Macio Teague turns after dropping in a corner 3 as they and the San Antonio Spurs’ play in summer league action at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — The NBA’s Summer League is not just a place for up-and-coming players to prove themselves. For many of the coaches, it’s the first time they’ve had the reins and been given the chance to truly lead a team, and it’s an opportunity that is not taken lightly.

That’s the case for Utah Jazz assistant coach Bryan Bailey, who has been the head coach of the Jazz’s Summer League squad.

“For me it’s been a great experience,” Bailey said. “I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot just being able to manage and game manage and delegate responsibilities and prepare practice plans. It’s been great for me.”

It’s not as if Bailey is a stranger to the game, and in particular has recent experience working with young players who are still trying to break into the NBA. 

Bailey played professionally in Europe for 13 years before coming back to the States to try his hand at coaching. He started off in 2016 as an assistant coach for the G League’s Westchester Knicks. One year later he joined the Salt Lake City Stars coaching staff. Since 2019 he’s been an assistant and player development coach for the Jazz.

For the players who have been around him for a while with both the Stars and the Jazz, as well as the players who have only spent the last few weeks with Bailey on the Summer League roster, Bailey is someone to keep an eye on in the coaching world.

“I’m definitely glad I got to see him in action and play for him,” Kyle Fogg said of his time this summer with Bailey. “He’ll definitely continue climbing the coaching ladder. He brings a lot of value to the players and this organization.”

Part of that value is his ability to understand the position that some of the younger, more fringe players are in and what they are experiencing.

After playing four years at Bucknell University, the New York native spent more than a decade on the outside of the NBA, and his first experience with the league was adjacent to it, helping to mold and develop G League players. The guys on the summer roster refer to him as a “player’s coach” who can relate to what they’re going through.

Bailey has experimented with different lineups and actions over the last couple weeks during the Salt Lake City Summer League and the NBA’s showcase in Las Vegas. He’s tried out new things like putting Jarrell Brantley or Nate Sestina at the five and playing two more traditional centers together. The point being that he’s not afraid to just see how things work on the court.

On Tuesday, he was thrown a bit of a curveball. Juwan Morgan, Trent Forrest and Udoka Azubuike weren’t going to play in the Jazz’s final Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers. They were given the night off to rest and recuperate from minor bumps and bruises after a grueling week. Brantley was added to that list as a late scratch.

Then Paul White sustained a knee injury early on in the game and before Bailey knew it, he only had seven active players available for the rest of the contest. He needed to pivot his game plan, and fast.

“It’s not what I thought it was going to be, so I had to change pretty quickly, just in terms of subs and who’s playing and how we’re playing and plays we’re going to run (coming) out of timeouts,” Bailey said. “All of that kind of goes out the window. But it definitely helped me and it was a good experience.”

There’s a lot of trust and confidence that organizations have in the coaches they choose to head the Summer League program. Bailey made the most out of the opportunity the Jazz gave him this summer and it seems unlikely this is the last we’ve heard about him.