Fireballs "Head Coach in Training" Alton Wilkes Ready to Work
- By Jron Magcale, Day 1, 2023
LOS ANGELES - Fireballs secured their current assistant coach and future head coach just recently when Alton Wilkes penned $9 Million/3 years deal ($3M per season, but subject to be restructured when Coach Odrzywolski retires), the assistant coach was signed as an assistant coach last 2020 and his first contract expired this season. The plan when he was hired that season was to see if he can be molded as a Coach Rudy O prodigy and in the future take over the helm. Coach Wilkes is one of the brightest young coaches who are still learning the ropes but with Coach Rudy O as a mentor the transition isn't that hard, as we all know Coach Rudy O has been the longest tenured coach in the JBL, his loyalty with the Fireballs is deep as he has been the coach of the team since 1995 a league record for longest tenured coach on a single team, 27 years going to 28 years next season (which is his last), it was discussed that Alton Wilkes was hand picked by coach Rudy O when they were looking for an assistant and with the front office's blessings they came after Wilkes.
"I am very happy to stay here in Los Angeles and learn from a legend and hall of fame coach in Coach Rudy O, he has been a great mentor for me and I can't picture myself coaching elsewhere." Coach Wilkes said after signing his contract.
The belief is that this season will be sort of a "training wheels" season for Coach Wilkes as it is reported that Coach O will give Coach Wilkes the freedom to run the team in his own style and term while Coach Rudy O will play a mentorship role more often. This means that part of Coach Wilkes philosophy will be showcased this coming season.
"Well, his system is similar to mine and we have almost the same philosophy and for the past 3 years we have been sharing ideas on trying to get the team in a position to succeed. He is an excellent motivator and gets along with everyone. He is smart and his knowledge of the game is pretty high, he was a point guard and is a legend in his own rights when he was playing, so he is really helping our guards a lot he is pretty close with Chris (LaCruz) and I will credit him on unlocking the kids' skills and pushing him to be on that next level. He was actually the guy who suggested to raise our pace and run more which was our key on that 2020 run." Coach Rudy O. said about the idea of Coach Wilkes taking over when he retires.
Alton Wilkes is lucky to have a year of head coaching internship before fully taking over, it means he will be allowed to make those mistakes and grow a little bit more. Having a world class mentor in Coach O helps a ton too. One of the greatest minds in basketball giving you tips can really be boost. The front office believes in him and that is a good back up.
"That's my dude, Coach Wilkes has been there and he has helped us all, taking time off on his vacays and work us out when we need it and giving us pointers not just about the game but being a JBL Lifer, ins and outs of the game and life away from the game. He have been there and done that, he was in the most highs and suffers lowest lows, so he knows what's up." Fireballs franchise player Chris LaCruz said.
This year will be a good test on what coach Alton Wilkes can bring and slowly install his system while being monitored by one of the greatest coaches the JBL has ever have, it also helps to have a solid cast of players that can his system and a front office that has trust in him.