It wasn’t long ago that Damian Lillard recalled a story of former Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool welcomed him into the league, quickly showing him what leadership is all about. Vanterpool became Ryan Saunders’ lead assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday after seven seasons with the Blazers and Lillard gave him a glowing goodbye on Instagram to reflect their friendship.
Yet only months ago, Lillard shared an anecdote of his first time meeting Vanterpool upon being drafted by Portland.
“We were playing pickup before my first training camp, and even when Dave first got the job, he was the first coach to call me,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, soon relating a story about their first pick-up game. “…We were playing pick-up, it was the first week that I was in Portland and Dave was in Portland. I was scoring, I was playing good, but I wasn’t saying nothing, not one word. He stopped the game and said ‘you gotta say 10 words before you get to half court in every possession’ It was so uncomfortable for me because I didn’t know other players that well… that was the start of me being a leader and starting to be cool with being uncomfortable.”
Dame on Vanterpool: "He was the first coach to call me. We were playing pickup [b4 his rookie yr] He stopped the game and said 'you gotta say 10 words before reaching halfcourt'. It was so uncomfortable bc I didn't know the other guys. But that was the start of me being a leader" pic.twitter.com/L5QzF6gBYX
— Key Sang (@Phantele_) June 7, 2019
Vanterpool played a large part in developing one of the best scoring backcourts in the league in Lillard and CJ McCollum, and while a lot of their progress has been due to their work ethic, a large part of their dynamic is due to Vanterpool’s coaching and constant friendship, something they will miss from here on forward.
The Timberwolves wanted Vanterpool from the time they first interviewed him for the head coaching position, ultimately making a hard push for him to join Saunders’ staff, as new GM Gersson Rosas is quickly putting together a new regime in the Twin Cities.