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Antonio Daniels Scratching Hard to Ignore Coaching Itch This Summer

New Orleans Pelicans broadcaster Antonio Daniels is scratching a coaching itch that has been persistent for years.

One never knows what can be learned from a conversation that starts based on basketball. Approached honestly, it is a lesson worth reliving, especially when getting to talk with current New Orleans Pelican broadcaster and NBA Champion Antonio Daniels. The former San Antonio Spur explained some of his life’s journey between NBA Summer League games and Sirius XM radio shows, and why his next move might be to the bench instead of another broadcasting booth.

Asking about the ‘Champ behind the Camp’ and his first experiences as a child provided the canvas of the blessing yet to come and those to be shared with others. As far as a first hoops heaven type of camp experience, Daniels shared simply, “there were none. We couldn’t afford it…I don't even remember my first camp as a kid, we couldn't afford to go to camps. You know, what got me in love with the sport of basketball is competition.” Now his week-long camps in San Antonio are some of the most affordable, most engaging camps in the country and he hopes to expand to program to New Orleans.

Daniels is one half of the best broadcasting duo in the NBA, partnering with Joel Meyers. However, he admits to having "the itch for coaching for a while. You know, I've had the itch to coach for quite some time because I love teaching the game of basketball.”

The "persistent" coaching itch helps inform the broadcasting approach. Daniels explained, “That's how I tried to approach my job. You know, I don't want to talk ‘at’ the fans as an analyst. You know, I want to explain the game to the fans as an analyst. And there's a drastic difference between the two."

“When you hear a broadcast with myself and Joe Meyers, I would hope that from my aspect of things, because it's my job to tell the why and the how. It is Joel’s job to tell them what happened. My job, hopefully, you leave a New Orleans Pelicans broadcast with more knowledge than you had when you started. Whatever it is that I'm trying to do, whether it's coaching and young lives that God has entrusted in me, or in the Pelicans broadcasts, you know, I want to teach the game. I want to teach the sport. I feel like that's one of the things that God has blessed me with.”

It started with his mother’s lessons about “always being the smartest one in the room. You have to find another room. It makes so much sense because it's like that means you're constantly in a state of being coachable. You're constantly in a state of learning.”

“Like even when we are not doing games, all I'm doing is watching league pass. Obviously, I have my own Sirius XM radio show. I have to watch for that but then also I’m learning from other analysts. Learning from analysts that have done this longer than I have and seeing how they approach their job. Seeing how they articulate the game to their particular fan base. Every day I'm listening to other broadcasts, other analysts and play-by-play guys. I'm trying to learn and take as much as I can from that as well. You never stop learning. I feel like when I stopped learning I might as well retire. I felt like that in basketball. When you feel like you've done all that you can do at a particular stage, rather physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally, it's time to find a new occupation.”

The former Bowling Green alum mirrors Willie Green’s coaching from a place of love process saying, “You know, a lot of times, you care for people who care for you.” The same lessons apply to media jobs. Daniels advised from a well-informed player-turned-media perspective, “When you feel like you only serve one purpose for somebody, it is what it is. It is what it is. You recognize that. Some of the best media members that I've been able to have relationships with, as a player, were the media members that actually showed that they care about me and my life. The conversation didn't revolve around sports.”

The Big Easy lives up to the name by “understanding players are people. They do a really good job of it in New Orleans. It is so easy to get caught up in all of what’s going on throughout the course of the season. People see the money. People see fame and all this other stuff. People say what they want to say via social media. But people have to understand that players, like before they were NBA basketball players, they were young men. Before then, they were boys just like everyone else. With the infusion of social media into sports, people feel like they could say whatever they want to say and players should be okay with it simply because they make money or they have fame.”

These players “hurt. Their feelings get hurt when they lose games, and they make mistakes. They carry it home with them. They take it on the plane with them. I can speak on this because it is a position I've been in. I didn’t play during the social media era but I talk to players about this all the time. Think about how difficult it is to play in the social media era now where everybody has an opinion on you. How you play and what you should do. What the coaches, what the general managers you know, what the organization? All the different kinds of stuff just to stay focused. Understand that players are healing too. They're humans, first of all.”

The 1997 MAC Player of the Year tells “media dudes all the time if you really want to get to know ballers, get them to open up to you, show them that you care about them. Ask them about their families. Learn their wives' and kids' names. When you show them that they care, they open up to you. And that's in any facet of life. That's what people do. When people think and they know you care about them, their perception of you is completely different. They value you because they feel like you value them back.”

The fourth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft does “not know how to be anything or anyone else.” How else does someone start wearing turtlenecks in the Gulf South and make it a trend? By being authentic. Zion Williamson “laughed about it” early in the season but “when the team started winning, I said to the team and I told Griffin at that time, I'm rocking the turtle neck for the rest of the year.”

In the end, Daniels would have “gladly wore a turtleneck during the NBA Finals” because he “loves New Orleans. I love the people in New Orleans. I love the culture of New Orleans. And I love the way that the fan base has welcomed me as an analyst.” He has spent most of his professional career in the Crescent City and hopes to bring his camp, and coaching talents, to the area sometime in the near future.

“That's just me. That's just who I am. I will never step out of my box. I will never sell my soul. I will continue to grow. I will continue to mature in my job and as a man, but I will always be who I am. It is hard work trying to be somebody else. And what I found in this profession, people will either like you or they won't. If they like you, cool. Life goes on. I got a job to do. And if they don't like you, it's cool. Life still goes on. I still got a job.”

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