From Bass, Piano & Drum to Basketball, Hoops & Dunk – Journey of Alex McLean, an NBA Assistant Coach

by | May 5, 2020 | Sports Featured

A fast-moving sport, basketball, is not just a game but an emotional rollercoaster, not just for the players, coaches, or team management, but also for the fans. People emotionally attach themselves to the game, which either brings them to tears and makes them criticize the team’s performance, or in a victory dance with words of praise for the performance of players and the smart strategy of the coach. Whether a basketball team loses a match or ends up victorious, the players and the head coaches are the ones that enjoy the spotlight. The media and the fans discuss how amazingly the players performed or how intelligently the coach assisted the team, but only a few talk about the efforts of an assistant coach. These talented individuals have spent years playing the sport, and they help the head coaches make smart decisions, despite that, these are the last in line when it comes to getting attention, acknowledgment, and appreciation. In several cases, they come after the cheerleaders or ball boys.

Analyzing the competitors, studying each team player, positioning of individual team players, and replacement decisions are mostly based on the research and analysis done by an assistant coach. An assistant coach is not always the real decision-maker, but it holds true in the majority of the cases.

Mike Budenholzer, an assistant to Gregg Popovich, played a key role in taking the San Antonio Spurs to the top. Head Coach Frank Vogel’s assistant, Brian Shaw, is a major contributor to the success of Indiana Pacers. Assistant coach of Chicago Bulls, Ron Adams, worked alongside Tom Thibodeau to take the team where it stands today. These are the top assistant coaches in the NBA that have played a key role in taking their respective teams to the top. Several others are appearing at the top, but there is one who is gradually gaining attention, and that is Alex McLean. He is the assistant coach of the Washington Wizards and is working with head coach Scott Brooks. The fact that he never played basketball in high school is what distinguishes him from all other assistant coaches in the NBA.

From a Concert Bassist to an NBA Assistant Coach

Alex McLean was born on October 20, 1985, in New York, the United States. He went to Bay Shore High School and was fond of music. Despite being fit and fulfilling the criteria for the school’s team, McLean opted to play bass, piano, and drums. He was a concert bassist in high school. His family and his friends from school never thought Alex would play basketball, or let alone become an assistant coach at the NBA. He was a successful musician in school and received several notable opportunities to pursue his career in music. The young McLean turned down scholarship offers from highly esteemed music schools, including Cal-Berkley and Hofstra. In addition to this, he received interest from Julliard as well. Instead of going to music school, McLean chose to go to Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia. He earned his Bachelor’s in Science in Sport Management and later completed his Master’s in the same field.

Liberty Flames Men’s Basketball Team

While studying at Liberty, McLean joined the Liberty Flames men’s basketball team. It was the start of his 8-year-long basketball career. As a player in the Liberty Flames men’s basketball team, he was named to the first team, adding to his first-team honors on the Big South all-conference squad in the year 2008. He ranked second in the conference with 15 double-doubles. In terms of points, he acquired the seventh rank with 15.8 ppg. With a rebounding score of 8.8 RPG, he was ranked third. In addition to this, he stood on the second rank in field goal percentage with 56.0 percent. With his exceptional performance and top-notch game, he became one of three players in the league to be ranked in the Top 3 in terms of scoring as well as rebounding. McLean holds a single game record of 40pts and 19rebs which still stands today.

International Experience

In the year 2014, McLean joined the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and played actively under the Philippine Basketball Association – PBA. He ended his PBA career with an average of 22.8 points and 15.4 rebounds. He served as an import for the team for the first five games of Commissioner’s Cup. At the time of replacement, the team stated, “Sometimes, it’s totally different if you have a good import from having the right import…, Alex is a good import”. In the last game of the PBA, he scored 23 points and 16 rebounds. He helped the team gain a two-game skid with a convincing 96-79 rout of Meralco. In the year 2011, he played for the Chinese Basketball Association – CBA with Sichuan Blue Wales. In the same year, he also played in the QBF Emir Cup in Doha under the team, Al Gharafa. McLean and Al Gharafa went on to win the Emir Cup in both 2010 & 2011, McLean was named MVP in 2011.

Other than the Philippines, China, and Qatar, McLean also played in Poland, Greece, Argentina, Paraguay, Lebanon, Dubai, and Egypt. He is one of the few players that got such amazing opportunities without having an NBA, D-league, or even top-tier US NCAA Division1 experience.

Graduate Assistant at Liberty Flames

After retiring as a player, McLean was hired as a Graduate Assistant for the Liberty Flame in the year 2016s. It was an honorable position for him as he was once a player in their basketball team. He spent one year in the team until he got an opportunity to become Assistant Coach / Player Development of the Washington Wizards that played for the National Basketball Association – NBA.

Entering into NBA

In the year 2017, Alex McLean was hired as a G-League Assignment/Player Development Coach for Washington Wizards; an American professional basketball team competes in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division. In 2018, McLean was promoted to Assistant Coach/Player Development. It was how the 34-year-old Alex McLean became an assistant coach in NBA from a concert bassist in high school.

Yes, a coach is at the front line when it comes to preparing teams before every match and takes the decisions. An assistant coach is one of the most influential entities when it comes to making decisions for a basketball team. Alex McLean played basketball for eight years, after which he was promoted to the position of assistant coach. It takes an ample amount of hard work and dedication to become an assistant coach. Alex McLean and all other assistant coaches deserve attention, acknowledgment, and appreciation for the hard work they put in the game.

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