Newble returns to the court as coach with Charge
BY JOSH WEIRD, CANTONREP.COM
Ira Newble wanted to rediscover basketball, and he’s found it as an assistant coach with the Charge.
A funny thing happened when Ira Newble got out of basketball.
He wanted to get back into basketball.
“You don’t realize until after you play how much you really love the game and how much you want to be around it,” said Newble, who has found his way back to the game as an assistant coach with the NBA Development League’s Canton Charge.
The D-League is a perfect place for Newble, a “self-made” player as described by Charge head coach Alex Jensen. Newble toiled in the CBA before an eight-year career in the NBA, including most of five seasons with the Cavaliers.
The 6-foot-7 Detroit native never really was a star on any level. After Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College and Miami University, he scratched and fought to carve out a professional career as a rebounder and defensive specialist.
“The route that I took, these guys can see that, and they can respect and appreciate it because they can identify with it,” Newble, 37, said of Charge players. “They can see that, ‘Yeah, I can make it to the NBA from being productive and working hard here.’ ”
Newble’s make-up and identity fit well with Jensen, who played professionally overseas after starring at the University of Utah. Both believe in the defensive end. Both seemed to squeeze the most out of their abilities. Both get frustrated when they sense maximum effort is not being given.
“He was given height, but most of what he got he worked for and earned, which isn’t necessarily the case for a lot of basketball players,” Jensen said of Newble. “It’s great that he played recent enough that our guys know he played in the NBA. When he says something, they automatically tend to listen.”
Newble last played in the NBA during the 2007-08 season. He played overseas the next two years, then spent all of last year away from the game, traveling a little and unknowingly stoking his fire for basketball.
When he heard that the Cavaliers bought the New Mexico D-League franchise and planned to move it to Canton, Newble reached out to the organization.
“Really, I was just looking for an opportunity to be around basketball,” Newble said. “It didn’t have to be coaching. It could have been scouting, anything to be around the game. This was a good opportunity because no matter what I decide to do — whether it be on the management side, scouting, coaching — being able to learn how to coach first is a good base to have before you branch out.”
Newble is enjoying the coaching gig, he said, which is interesting because he told himself he never wanted to coach when he was playing.
But his playing days, especially the later years when he was watching from the bench more often, proved to be expert training ground.
Among the coaches he played for were Gregg Popovich, Mike Brown and Phil Jackson. All three own NBA Coach of the Year awards, and Popovich and Jackson have a combined 15 championship rings.
From the defensive philosophies of Popovich to the Zen-soaked team camaraderie of Jackson, Newble tried to soak it all in.
“What I enjoy is I get to see the knowledge I can bring, I get to see these young players take it and use it on the court,” he said. “I get to see it in action.
“I’m not stroking myself or anything, but it wasn’t until you’re talking to the guys and putting them in certain situations that I realized how much I actually do know from playing.”
Newble still is in great shape and practices regularly with the Charge, as does Thomas Scott, the Charge’s other assistant coach. Play seems to pick up when Newble enters because of his physical style and relentlessness.
“He coaches the way he played,” Charge forward Tyrell Biggs said. “A lot of energy. If you’re not intense or not bringing the level of energy we need, then he’s going to let you know.”
Coaching has given Newble a new perspective on a dynamic he knew well from the other side.
“It’s surreal for me,” he said. “When I played, I was that guy that played hard and might have gone back at the coach. We’d have exchanges in a respectful way, but we’d have competitive exchanges.”
He added, laughing, “Now as a coach, I can see that, yeah, maybe I was wrong as a player.”