PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- As Pat Delany checked out of his luxury hotel room on a small island in the Bahamas on Friday, he glanced at the Weather Channel one last time and smiled. The ticker on the bottom of his TV warned of a potential snowstorm in South Dakota.
Hell be there soon enough.
Previously a scout for the Heat, Delany was promoted this offseason to a new position within the organization. He is now the coach of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, a team in the NBA Development League, or, D-League, which is the official minor league for the NBA. The Heat and the Skyforce entered into an exclusive partnership this offseason in order to better develop young players and coaches, and also to improve the Heats scouting footprint. The Skyforces season begins Nov. 22, and the Heats front office is excited about the potential of its new investment.
Its a win on all different levels, said Andy Elisburg, the Heats newly appointed general manager who has long been one of Pat Rileys key advisors.
The D-League consists of 17 teams, and this season 14 of those teams will have one-on-one affiliations with an NBA team similar to the Heats relationship with Sioux Falls. Once mostly an afterthought, the D-League slowly has developed into a legitimate proving ground for coaches, players and even referees who have dreams of making it to the NBA.
The new financial reality of the NBA also has had a trickle-down effect on the D-Leagues growing significance. As NBA teams prepare for a future with a stricter salary cap, it only makes sense to bolster the means by which to develop players from the ground up.
Danny Green, the San Antonio Spurs guard who shot so well against the Heat in the NBA Finals, honed his skills in the D-League. Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Alonzo Gee of Riviera Beach also got his professional start in the D-League. On the coaching side, the Memphis Grizzlies new coach, David Joerger, first made a name for himself in the D-League.
Its a chance of a lifetime to get head coaching experience at this level, said Delany, a 33-year-old who similar to current Heat coach Erik Spoelstra started as a video intern with Miami. Im forever grateful for this opportunity that the Heat has given me.
Of the 14 one-on-one affiliations between NBA and D-League franchises, none presents such an odd geographical marriage as the Heat and Skyforce. This season, a developing player on the end of the Heats bench could be in tropical Miami one day, and then be sent to snowbound Sioux Falls the next. There are several players participating in the Heats training camp who could be grinding away in Sioux Falls very soon.
Off to sioux falls?
Justin Hamilton, Eric Griffin, Charlie Westbrook and Jarvis Varnado are fighting for one of the final spots on the Heats 15-man roster, but whoever makes the team could be sent to Sioux Falls for playing time and development in the D-League.
Coaching those players will be Delany and his small staff, which includes former Heat scout Octavio De La Grana, already a coaching legend in South Florida circles, and Sean Rooks, a former player who has been an assistant in the D-League and NBA.
De La Grana, who is beginning his seventh season with the Heat, got his start with Miami Florida Christian High School. Rooks already has spent time in Sioux Falls as an assistant and last year was on Alvin Gentrys staff in Phoenix.