CEDAR PARK, TX – Ken McDonald is currently the head coach of the Austin Toros. He has a win-loss record of 62-36 entering the 2013-14 season, good enough for a .581 winning percentage.
McDonald played collegiately for two years at Providence, from where he also graduated. The Rhode Island native then went on to play for the St. Paul Revelles in Killarney, Ireland. He worked his way up the coaching ranks, with assistant gigs at Clemson, Western Kentucky, Georgia and Texas. An assistant for over 10 years, he then went back to Western Kentucky as a head coach from 2008 to 2011 before becoming an assistant with the Austin Toros.
Last season as an assistant under head coach Taylor Jenkins, McDonald helped the Toros to a 27-23 overall record and to the semifinals of the 2013 NBA D-League Playoffs. Jenkins was hired to be an assistant by the Atlanta Hawks.
I sat down with Coach McDonald to discuss the constant movement of coaches in San Antonio, especially the latest offseason. The number of assistants leaving the Spurs organization for head coaching positions with other franchises seems to grow each year.
“Part of the whole philosophy with San Antonio is to develop players and coaches. The management team, obviously headed by R.C. [Buford], GM Brian Paleka, and last year was Sean Marks; they understand when you’re doing good stuff and you’re doing it at a high level professionally that you’re going to have that movement.,” McDonald said.
After five successful seasons with the Toros, four as an assistant, the NBA world saw the talent in Jenkins like they do with so many within the San Antonio Spurs organization.
“So they really forecast it and they get ready for the next wave, whether it’s from the front office side or the coaching side, that’s part of the process. They kind of know it’s going to happen and they have to deal with it.”
San Antonio saw two top assistants leave – Mike Budenholzer to Atlanta and Brett Brown to Philadelphia.
“They are kind of fortunate, to be honest, that they had Coach Bud and Coach Brown for so long a stretch of time, without them getting picked. Not that they didn’t have opportunities, but that’s uncommon.”
Budenholzer, who may have been the reason Jenkins left the Toros, faces a situation in Atlanta filled with cap room and a quality building block in Al Horford. They also recently resigned Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to long term contracts.
Oppositely, it was reported that some within the Spurs organization were worried Brown was going to be a lame duck coach.
“They just want it to be the right set up and the right situation, and sometimes you have to work out the certain goals that you’re going for as an organization. So I think once Coach Brown was comfortable with that, then he saw a great opportunity,” McDonald said.
With so many Spurs alumni on opposing benches throughout the league, the Spurs have a leg up.
“There’s going to be similarities. We have our tweaks from year to year and I’m sure that coaches that move on, as I watch them on TV they’re running a lot of the same stuff, but they have their stuff over time that they want to exercise,” McDonald said. “Everybody has a skill set that they’re familiar with; like Coach Brown has a lot of international experience. I’m sure he brings some of that together with the Sixers team. And Coach Bud knows every playbook in the league so I’m sure he picks from different teams too. But we know each other’s system’s pretty much.”
Coach McDonald is a talented, young coach and should rise up the coaching ranks quickly. He’ll keep moving up as long as he continues to grab the Toros by the horns.