May 13, 2022
Candice Dupree explores coaching in the NBA Assistant Coaches Program
The seven-time All-Star begins her post-playing career
Candice Dupree didn’t envision herself as a coach until a few years ago. She didn’t think she had the patience. That changed when she became a mom to her four-year-old twins.
“The amount of patience that you have to have to deal with them is off the charts,” Dupree told The Next. “So that’s what kind of led me into ‘you know what, I think I might be able to handle this coaching thing.’”
With her interest piqued she decided to partake in the NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP).
Since ACP was founded by the NBA more than 20 years ago, more than 200 candidates have gone through the program. It allows current and former players the opportunity to not only explore coaching but to also make connections and network.
“The program is a gateway for players to find a career, pursue a passion that marshals their talents in a different way, allows them to stay in the game and make a transition once they’re ready to actually stop playing,” senior vice president of player development for the NBA Jamila Wideman told The Next.
Having played four seasons in the WNBA, Wideman respects the journeys of WNBA players and believes ACP has “absolutely embraced” former WNBA players, including Dupree.
“I think one of the biggest opportunities that ACP creates is a chance for W players to not only network in the worlds that are most familiar, that being the WNBA and oftentimes in the women’s college ranks, but also to get those opportunities within both the G League and the NBA,” Wideman said.
She added, “And I think one of the things our program does, is it embraces basketball players period, and having both W and NBA players and G league players be a part of it means that the diversity of their experience gets put on the table and becomes part of the strength of what every player that participates in the program takes away. Because of course, what Candice Dupree experiences is very different than Trey Mourning in the G League, very different than Jordan McLaughlin in the NBA.”
ACP is led in part by WNBA alumna Stacey Lovelace. Wideman noted that Lovelace brings her experience, insight, skill and talent from her playing career into leading the program and helping another generation of athletes transition out of playing.
“And so I think having Stacey be so visible for the women candidates but also for the male candidates is huge because it normalizes the notion that if you’re a basketball player, you’re a basketball player,” Wideman said.
Wideman noted that ACP serves as a talent pipeline, something the NBA is supportive of and working to continue to build. She believes this is just one of the ways that the NBA is working to create opportunities for women by creating opportunities for visibility.
This support and investment is part of the NBA’s mission to continue to ensure young players get the best coaching possible from both a technical standpoint as well as embracing players holistically. The league looks forward to continuing to help players transition from their playing careers and help them give back to the next generation.
Dupree wanted to get into coaching to help the next generation of women’s basketball players at the collegiate and WNBA level, but also noted she wanted to explore the men’s side of coaching. So far, she hasn’t found many differences between the men’s and women’s games.
A key part of ACP is hands-on experience, and at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, she was the only female coach working with her team.
“I really didn’t know what to expect … but everybody responded really well,” Dupree said. “If anything, they probably listened to me more than they did to the two other guys that I was working with.”
She noted that having just finished playing with the current generation made her more relatable because she’s knowledgeable about things like social media and NIL.
“[I was] a little nervous at first because everybody’s situation there is different,” she said. “You don’t know how hands-on [to be] or how much the other coaches are going to let you do.”
While surrounded by coaches that had worked at the tournament for years, Dupree didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. However, she was able to be very involved, putting in plays, deciding what defensive schemes to run, selecting the starting lineups and making choices about what lineup looked the best throughout the game.
Over the last five years, Dupree began thinking about her eventual transition out of playing and the people closest to her urged her to figure out what she wanted to do next and to network in the meantime.
Dupree played 16 years in the WNBA, averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists over the 494 games of her career. The seven-time All-Star and 2014 WNBA Champion ranks fourth in league history in minutes and games played, second in made field goals and sixth in total rebounds.
Though she is just starting her coaching career, Dupree looks up to Dawn Staley and Ervin Monier who coached her when she played at Temple from 2002-2006.
She described Staley as the “hottest coach at the collegiate level right now” and noted she’s had several conversations with Staley and picked her brain. Monier recruited Dupree to Temple and she now talks to him every other day.
“He’s helped guide me and pushed me and helped me figure out how this coaching thing goes because it’s so much more than just being on the court and making these players better,” Dupree said. “Like I never knew how much actually went into it until I started exploring it as of late.”
She has been learning the intricate details that go into the different aspects of coaching, including scouting reports, watching film, cutting clips and player development.
At the Portsmouth Invitational Dupree stayed up late watching film and cutting clips, but she was glad that she had a team that was asking for scouting reports.
“A lot of players won’t do that, like they just want to go and play,” she said. “I was happy that they asked, that means that I was doing my job well. And they wanted the information.”
The biggest advice she’s received is “don’t do it, Can” with regard to the collegiate level because of how different it is with players and NCAA rules and compliance regulations and “why the hell not?” regarding the professional level.
“You’re starting to see a lot of women that are breaking into the NBA ranks and so they’re just like, ‘soak up as much as you can,’” Dupree said about the advice she has received from Staley and Monier. “Obviously, if I need any help from them [Staley and Monier], they’re there. If I need to steal plays and everything else, I have that available as well.”
She added, “So it’s a grind, they definitely tell me it’s a grind. It’s a lot of late nights, scouting and trying to put together development plans, how you’re going to make these players better and win basketball games.”
The coach that impacted her the most was Roberto Íñiguez, who coached her overseas. Íñiguez was Dupree’s first coach who was a “yeller and screamer.” She watched how he did things and noticed that though he yelled, he also wanted what was best for everyone on the team.
In addition, he taught the game, breaking down basketball to the fundamentals and building back up from there.
“I respected the hell out of him,” Dupree said. She later added, “A lot of coaches don’t teach these days, they just expect because you’re talented, it’s just go out there and play and win games and they don’t actually break the game down.”
Having played for a lot of coaches, Dupree has been able to take away bits and pieces, both good and bad, from each coach, putting together what type of coach she wants to be and what she wants to stay away from.
“I don’t want it to feel like a dictatorship,” she said. “I believe in autonomy and your players having a voice as long as they’re putting in the work.”
The most significant thing Dupree has learned so far in ACP is the different technologies, including Synergy, FastScout, FastDraw and Sportscode. She had no experience with these programs before, but they are how coaches watch and break down film, put together scouting reports and draw plays up on the computer.
She has also had to adjust to sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time to get the work of the program done, something she usually doesn’t enjoy. Dupree prefers writing everything down with a paper and pencil and typing it up afterward, even doing so during the Portsmouth Invitational.
As the program continues Dupree looks forward to continuing to learn how to network. After years of playing — during which people approached her — she’s been learning to step out of her comfort zone and strike up conversations with people. What the program’s participants would say if they ran into a general manager of a team is one example of an elevator pitch they worked on.
Due to the number of scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational, Dupree had plenty of opportunities to pitch herself, strike up conversations and find out if teams are looking to hire new coaches.
Through the program, Dupree has reunited with Elaine Powell, who she played with on the Chicago Sky in 2006. Dupree has picked Powell’s brain to see how she puts her scouts together and breaks down film. While Powell already has experience with some of the software programs, Dupree, who has excelled in scouting reports, has helped Powell with hers as well.
Wherever she goes she wants her players to respect her, particularly if she gets hired at the men’s level.
“I want to have not just a seat at the table but a voice as well,” Dupree said. “I want to be able to take players and develop them and know that they’ll see and feel the progress. And obviously, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a progression kind of thing. But I’m very big with player development just because at the end of my career, I saw how many players came to the league and just didn’t know basic basketball.”
What’s next for Dupree? She wants to see where her networking takes her, but for now, she looks forward to continuing to learn in the program, which includes going to the NBA Combine in mid-May.