'I’ve been here seven years,' Mavs assistant coach Monte Mathis tells me, 'and this is the best (offseason-workout) attendance we’ve had and the earliest attendance we’ve ever had. ... You say ‘Run through the wall’ and they’re to the wall before you finish the sentence.' Yes, if you are starting to get fired up about Mavs basketball, Coach Mathis is here to help:
Monte Mathis has a pedigree.
The son of former NBA referee Mike Mathis was a baseball and basketball star at Cincinnati's Purcell Marian High School) (Monte will probably never be the school's No. 1 jock as Roger Staubach also attended there!) Mathis played at Kansas under Larry Brown before transferring to Toledo, and then bounced back to his other favorite sport, baseball, playing in the minors for the Braves and White Sox.
One of the most notable inside videos in recent DB.com history is our tape of Mathis trying to teach Corey Brewer how to dribble:
Monte Mathis has handles.
He started as a high-school assistant and then climbed the ladder from McNeese State to South Alabama to Toledo to Ohio State to Xavier before catching on with the Mavs seven years ago. He now begins his second season as the Dallas Mavericks' "defensive coordinator'' and does his work year-'round with the endorsement of stars like Dirk Nowitzki and the seal of approval, of course, from Rick Carlisle.
Among the reasons Monte is so admired?
When he talks of Mavs players who are told to "Run through the wall’ and they’re to the wall before you finish the sentence,'' he might as well be talking about his own approach as well.
As we launch our coverage of every aspect of Mavs training camp, my one-on-one conversation with Dallas assistant coach Monte Mathis:
On what the coaching staff is allowed to involve itself in during the summer -- and how involved the players are:
"We can do shooting drills, things like that. Robert Hackett, the strength coach, does all the strength stuff and agility and conditioning drills. But we can do the shooting drills. And then we get that done and then play open gym. The guys scrimmage. They pick up teams and go at it.
"I’ve been here seven years and this is the best attendance we’ve had and the earliest attendance we’ve ever had in a summer. They’ve been doing it for three-and-a-half weeks. That’s the earliest I’ve seen. A lot of it is the new guys wanting to get acclimated to the new city and the new team and the surroundings and the coaches, everything like that.''
On how part of the reason for the attendance is the quality of the players and the something-to-prove approach of some of the newcomers:
"Oh, absolutely. We’ve got some really good guys. Good hard-working, get-after-it guys. These are guys coaches dream of. You say ‘Run through the wall’ and they’re to the wall before you finish the sentence.
"Every guy that’s been in here has been going hard. Mayo, Crowder, Bernard James, Jared Cunningham, who didn’t get to play in Summer League but looks really good right now.
We’re going to hit the ground running. Guys are really in shape and looking good.
On who fits where in a crowded backcourt:
You know, it’s great competition with the guards that we have in camp and on the team. Great competition. In the end, it will work itself out, and we know we’re going to have depth. Great depth. Guys will end up assuming their roles. That speaks to the quality of these guys. It'll work.''
On whether this needs to be Roddy B's year:
Yeah, I think he’s ready to make it happen. He’s done a lot of growing in the last few years. He's had situations with injuries, and he's learned the ups and the downs of the sport, the length of the season, what it takes to be a pro.
Ultimately, the one thing here is, you can’t coach speed and athletic ability. You’ve just got to wrap all of that together as a player and it's the coaches' job to help Roddy do that.''
On Dallas' ability to maintain its reputation as 'the NBA's best passing team':
"No one is going to be Kidd coming in here. But one thing we've learned from these summer workouts: Darren Collison can pass the ball. O.J. Mayo can pass the ball. So we’re going to be that kind of team. We're still going to be that kind of team, unselfish, which is the way Rick coaches it and of course it stems from your superstar in Dirk being so unselfish.''
On the hiring of long-time NBA head coach Jim O'Brien, who will serve under Carlisle and alongside Mathis as the "offensive coordinator'':
"I had not met him before he came in.
We actually share an office now. He seems like a great guy. It's important, I think, for the players to see the staff getting together and sticking together, and we do. I’m going to stay with the defensive stuff but that’s not to say I don’t dabble in the offense and that Jim won’t dabble in the defense. Everybody will have a say. We'll all do this together.''
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