The NBA Development League National Tryout is not typically a place for familiar faces. The more than 200 professional basketball hopefuls in attendance are simply hoping to catch an eye or two.
But the towering coach of Team 7 — one of 20 teams scrimmaging on Sunday in New York City — stood out. Stanley Roberts, the gregarious 7-footer, former LSU star alongside Shaquille O’Neal, troubled NBA player and recent college graduate, tends to do that.
Now 45 with a degree in sports management (2012), Roberts is the head boys basketball coach at Ascension Christian High School in Gonzales, La., 24 miles south of Baton Rouge.
The easy answer for why he was at Sunday’s event: He heard about the National Basketball Players Association’s coaching program from a friend within the league, applied and was assigned to the National Tryout.
The true answer is more complicated.
“I miss the game. I love it,” Roberts said. “Learning from Dale Brown and Larry Brown and all the coaches over the years, I just feel like I need to give back to the game.”
Several players-turned-aspiring coaches have used the National Tryout as a stepping stone. James Posey is currently coaching in the NBA Finals as a Cavaliers assistant; last season he was an assistant for their NBA D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, and months before that he patrolled the sidelines at the 2013 National Tryout.
Roberts, who worked as a trainer prior to his high school coaching gig, said he has worked with several players who have appeared in the NBA D-League, including Washington Wizards guard and LSU product Garrett Temple. Two years ago, Roberts even applied for a coaching position with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ affiliate.
He said he has no plans for how to climb the coaching ladder — only hopes.
“I’m gonna leave that up to God,” Roberts said. “Whatever happens, happens. High school is my stepping stone. Hopefully I can move on and coach in the Development League and move on to the NBA one day — hopefully. I haven’t really plotted a future for this just yet.”