Santa Cruz Warriors head coach Casey Hill has made the drive to Oakland this offseason to conduct daily morning workouts with Golden State players Festus Ezeli and Ognjen Kuzmic.
The son of former NBA head coach Bob Hill, Casey led Santa Cruz to the NBA Development League Finals this past season. His future is bright, according to Santa Cruz general manager Kirk Lacob.
“Steve (Kerr) likes him,” said Lacob, who’s also a Golden State assistant general manager. “Steve really seems to wants to keep him on as the head coach.”
The Santa Cruz Warriors were named this season’s NBA D-League Development Champion on Wednesday based on a points system that awards teams for players and basketball operations staff call-ups. Take away the numbers and look at Santa Cruz, which has sold out the majority of its games at Kaiser Permanente Arena, as a sunny place of opportunity for players and coaches alike.
Journeyman Hilton Armstrong was Santa Cruz’s most recent success. He earned three call-ups to Golden State during the season and was eventually signed through the postseason when he got minutes and made contributions. And he thoroughly enjoyed himself in Santa Cruz, even showing up to community events on his own.
“They can look at Hilton and say there was a guy who’s career was falling apart,” Lacob said. “He got a chance to not only join an NBA team, but play in the playoffs with them.
“We’ve shown there’s a chance that if you work for us, we’re going to work really hard for you.”
In all, Santa Cruz players earned eight call-ups between Armstrong, Seth Curry and Dewayne Dedmon.
Golden State used its affiliate to help develop young players such as Kuzmic, Nemanja Nedovic and Kent Bazemore, who got a chance to play more after being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hill and his players in Santa Cruz got a chance to shine, and for that the organization earned recognition.
“To be validated from a quantifiable position is great because it speaks to what we’re doing,” Lacob said.