Proud homecoming for Bulls aide Griffin
Ex-Bull and head-coaching hopeful leads team to hometown of Wichita, where he developed work ethic
BY K.C. JOHNSON, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
The good-natured ribbing started flowing on the Bulls' recent trip to flashy Rio de Janeiro.
Next road preseason stop? Sleepy Wichita, Kan., population south of 400,000. And hometown of assistant coach Adrian Griffin.
"I told the players it's time they saw a real city," Griffin said, laughing.
Given how well-respected and well-liked the soft-spoken Griffin is, the players returned fire. One asked Griffin if Wichita, which the Bulls visit Wednesday to face the Thunder, had a curfew.
All joking aside, Griffin's ascent from tiny Wichita to Seton Hall to unlikely nine-year NBA career — including 145 games with the Bulls — to burgeoning coaching career will carry resonance come Wednesday.
"I'm very proud of my roots," Griffin said. "I think I'm a good example for a lot of kids. No matter where you come from, if you dream big and put a lot of hard work into it, your dreams can come true."
Griffin's current dream, to coach an NBA team, almost came to fruition this summer. He was a finalist with eventual hire Brett Brown for the 76ers' job.
"That was very educational," said Griffin, in his fourth season with the Bulls after spending two seasons on Scott Skiles' staff in Milwaukee. "You learn a lot about yourself. When you go on these interviews, it allows you to put your thoughts down on paper as far as what kind of team you want, what kind of culture you're trying to build, what kind of leadership you want to implement."
The multiple interviews with the 76ers followed Griffin's head-coaching stint for the Bulls' summer-league entry in Las Vegas and volunteer work, at Tom Thibodeau's invitation, at Team USA's minicamp.
"I probably had the best summer in my life, other than my children being born," Griffin said. "Just being around Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) and his staff for five minutes, you immediately realize why he's such a great coach. His charisma, his knowledge of the game and just the way he deals with people is just extraordinary.
"Then, working under Tom, you feel you're prepared and developing all the time. He doesn't just push the players to be the best. He pushes the entire staff to put in the time and hard work. I've learned a great deal from him."
Griffin's role models run deep. His late father, David Alan Griffin, Sr., served as head pastor at Shekinah Christian Fellowship in Wichita for 25 years.
"My father had a military background and he was a minister, so that wasn't a good combination for a hard-headed kid," Griffin said, laughing. "He taught me discipline and the value of hard work. Watching him every day in the church and dealing with people and seeing how unselfish and loving he was really set a great example for me and my siblings.
"My mom worked hard. I come from some very humble beginnings. The community was great. I had great coaches."
Plenty of Griffin's friends, family members and coaches will be in attendance Wednesday. They will see a coach committed enough to developing players that he stayed an hour after Monday's shoot-around to watch film with rookie Tony Snell.
"Griff will do whatever it takes to make you a better player," Luol Deng said.
This work ethic should help Griffin realize his ultimate goal.
"The way I see it, every year that I'm not a head coach, it's another year I get to learn under Tom," Griffin said. "That's a win-win."