July 25, 2023
The Sixers are hiring NBA veteran Mike Longabardi to be the new head coach of the Delaware Blue Coats, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Tuesday afternoon.
Longabardi is a well-known, highly-experienced coach who started his work in the NBA way back in 2003, after assistant coach gigs with Towson, Lafayette, and others dating back to the mid-1990s. His start in the league came with the Houston Rockets, a few years before Daryl Morey arrived as the assistant GM in 2006.
From there, Longabardi managed to latch on with some other notable figures in recent Sixers history. He was on Doc Rivers' staff with the Boston Celtics from 2007 until Rivers' departure in 2013, working under then-assistant Tom Thibodeau on the Celtics' defense before becoming the full-time defensive coordinator for Boston in 2009. Running the defense has been Longabardi's gig for much of the last decade, with stops in Phoenix, Washington, Atlanta, Sacramento, and most notably Cleveland, where he helped the Cavaliers win the title in 2016 as their top defensive assistant.
It is worth pointing out, however, that Longabardi's defenses have not exactly blown teams away in recent years, with many of his teams experiencing severe drop-off under his watch. Those Cavs teams, for example, became almost famously inept on defense by the end of their run. While one could argue Longabardi worked with a series of teams featuring iffy defensive personnel, those Cavs included, his tactical choices haven't exactly boosted teams beyond their expected results.
Those concerns don't seem to matter much at the G-League level, obviously, where Longabardi's primary job will be fostering the development of their young players and preparing them to play for Nick Nurse's big-league club. In that respect, it would seem Longabardi's long career working for many different teams is a major positive. Being able to catch on with so many different coaches over an extended period of time suggests Longabardi can be trusted to be in sync with Nurse, which will help any players jumping back and forth between the G-League and NBA clubs.
Helping with that transition back of forth should be Coby Karl, who has been the head man for the Delaware Blue Coats from 2021 onward. Karl is expected to join Nurse's staff with the Sixers, a source told PhillyVoice on Tuesday afternoon, a nice outcome for Karl after a successful stint running their affiliate.
As much as records in the G-League matter, Karl's track record with the Blue Coats speaks for itself. Delaware appeared in the G-League Finals during each of the last two years, winning the title this year behind Jaden Springer's MVP performance. When Rivers was still in charge of the team, he often noted the open line of dialogue he had with Karl was a big positive for the organization. Karl's exact role on this new staff isn't exactly clear yet, but he's still a relatively young 40 with plenty of time ahead to make a name for himself.
Nurse's staff in Philadelphia continues to take shape, and constructing a strong group is about creating top-to-bottom synergy as much as it is about tactical nuance. Though many of the faces will be new next year, Karl's retention shows the new head coach is willing to keep anybody around who can get on board with the vision he has for the team.
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