Warriors' Eric Paschall credits rise to Jay Wright at 'Coaching Corps'

Warriors' Eric Paschall credits rise to Jay Wright at 'Coaching Corps'

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the coach says he’s lucky to have recruited a player, and the player insists his good fortune is a result of his association with the coach, it sometimes calls for skepticism. To search for ulterior motives or, at the least, scrutinize for embellishment.

But in listening to stories told by Villanova coach Jay Wright of Villanova three-year Wildcats forward Eric Paschall, their sincerity is unmistakable.

So, it stands to reason that when asked which of his coaches he’d like to honor with a Coaching Corps Game Changer Award, Paschall identified Wright.

“If he didn’t take a chance on me at Villanova and help me out,” Paschall says, “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today.”

That position is power forward, in the NBA, for the Golden State Warriors. It’s the realization of a dream for the 23-year-old who grew up mostly in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He will honor Wright this week at the awards dinner in San Francisco.

Paschall took a circuitous route to Villanova, a college basketball powerhouse, with two of the last four national championships and Wright sending more than a dozen players into the NBA in his 19 years at the Philadelphia college.

Though Paschall had a solid prep career at St. Thomas More in Oakdale, Conn., he committed to Fordham University shortly before being contacted by then-Villanova assistant Baker Dunleavy.

“There are a lot of things that happen in your career that are luck. Pure luck,” explains Wright. “Eric Paschall is pure luck.

“We saw him in high school, and we liked him. We were moving slowly and my former assistant, Tom Pecora, jumped on him and got him committed to Fordham. which kind of bummed us out. But we were happy for Tom.”

Paschall lasted one year at Fordham. By choice. After leading the Rams in scoring at 15.9 points per game and being named Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year, he wanted out because Pecora had been fired.

That gave Villanova and Wright a second chance.

Pecora told Paschall that Villanova under Wright could offer an experience similar to that under Pecora at Fordham. Pecora, according to Wright, didn’t stop there. He reached out to the Villanova coach to see if he might be interested in Paschall.

“Hell yeah,” Wright recalls.

Paschall was immediately impressed with the coach, and not only because of his program. Wright may be the leading fashionista among coaches at any level, and Paschall took note of Wright’s “suit game” on the sideline.

What followed was immediate success on the court. While sitting out in 2015-16 to meet NCAA transfer rules, Paschall was making an impact during practices.

“Eric would be the (scout team) power forward or the big guy or even the guard,” Wright recalls. “Whatever position we put him at, we couldn’t stop him. We knew we had something special. No one else did. Our practices that season were so competitive and so tough because of Eric.”

Keep in mind, Paschall was having his way with teammates that won the national championship. They had trouble coping with his knack for scoring, his 6-foot-6, 250-pound physique and a vertical leap that approaches 40 inches.

Paschall brought many of his offensive tools to Villanova. His defensive tools required some work, which Wright and assistant coach Kyle Neptune were willing to give. With their aid, Paschall became a capable defender.

With Paschall playing a key role as a junior, the Wildcats won their second national title in three seasons. He was named to the Final Four All-Tournament team that year and then returned for his senior season, after which he was a unanimously voted All-Big East first team.

“Those four years at Villanova were not the easiest,” Paschall says. “But it taught me a lot. That’s his program. It taught me a lot in terms of having a good attitude every day That’s the one thing you can control.”

The Warriors are delighted with Paschall, their second-round draft pick No. 41 overall, who has earned significant playing time at power forward while also getting minutes at small forward.

“I know how much he respects coaching,” Wright says. “If you go through his career. Jerry Quinn at St. Thomas More, Tom Pecora, myself and now Steve Kerr. He always talks about how great his coaches were at every spot. That’s why he’s such a great player.”

[RELATED: Steph praises Paschall for defying expectations]

No coach thus far has made an imprint as deep as Wright.

“He’s a competitor. He wants to win,” Paschall says. “I know how he is as a coach and it’s very intense. He wants the best for his kids. I really appreciate everything he’s done in terms of how he presented Villanova to me. He kept it honest and put me through four years of college basketball.

“I feel (going to) Villanova is the greatest decision I’ve made in my whole life.”

You can donate to the "Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards," here

“Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards” presented by Levi’s airs Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

Yes, we're still talking about the on-court feud between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green when the two were Warriors teammates last season. Actually, Durant still is talking about it. 

The in-game spat that occurred at the end of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in November 2018, resulted in Green calling KD a "b--ch." KD appeared to say, "That's why I'm out." 

Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency last offseason, revealed on a recent episode of Showtime's "All the Smoke" podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson that he knew halfway through the 2018-19 season that he was leaving the Warriors

"I knew just about the halfway point through the year," Durant said. "I could feel, you know, the separation between the two. Everybody was just waiting on me to make a decision on free agency -- coaches, to my teammates, to the media -- it's like January and I'm like, 'Yo, I'm just trying to hoop.'"

Durant also went into full detail about what happened between him and Green. Draymond did receive a one-game suspension without pay for his actions, but KD clearly has issues with how Golden state handled the situation.

Here's Durant's in-depth explanation of what transpired (H/T NBC Sports' Dan Feldman). 

That play happened. I was going to grab the rebound. He came and grabbed it. I’m thinking he’s just going to toss it to me, and we’re going to run up court, and I’m going to shoot the shot.

Everybody knew that, and we all figured that would happen. And then when it didn’t, I was kind of shocked. And then I was just, “Whoa, Dray. Let me see that.” Like, “What you doing?” Then he turned it over. And I’m just so confused at that point, because he never, ever did nothing like that before. And everybody on the bench was confused, too. And then when we came back, I just heard him screaming. And I was like, “Hold up.” He’s usually screaming when he comes back to the bench. But what is he saying? Then, he started going off. And I’m just like -- maybe it’s because I was f---ing pissed that he didn’t give me the rock. Because I didn’t say nothing. It was just in my body language. I was just clapping and like, “F--k.”

Then, he started coming off the top with all of that stuff. And I’m just thinking, “Draymond is actually my friend, somebody I can call when I’m going through anything.” Like, “Yo, bro, come through.” Like, “Damn, bro, let’s hang out tonight.” And for him to say that type of s--t to me just threw me for a loop. And I just started isolating myself after that, because I didn’t feel -- they suspended Draymond. But it was just like they had to so it wouldn’t look bad to everybody else. And then nobody talked to me about it or really – we never really came to an agreement. We didn’t voice our opinion -- nobody as a whole -- because it happened in front of the whole team, and nobody really talked about it. It was just swept under the rug. And to me, it was just like, we a family. We’re supposed -- even if he said that, we can move past it. But let’s all talk about it. Let’s just say how we all felt about moment, because that was a huge moment in this whole dynasty. Don’t just sweep it under the rug because we want to win. That’s the reason why we’re not going to win. So, I was just like, “Let’s all talk about this.” It’s not that big of a deal. Just put it out on the table. We can move past it. And when that didn’t happen, I was just like “F--k it. Let me just hoop and worry about myself.”

We all know what Draymond is. It’s fine that you want to do that, that you want to show your emotions and wear them on your sleeve. But when it’s over the line sometimes, let’s just talk about it, so next time you can tone it down just a bit. And I feel like we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. Because we were so focused on just trying to move forward and win. And I get that, too. But if we’re a family ...

We done won two chips together, it’s bigger than -- this some s--t we can sit down and talk about.

Me and him sat down and talked about it, and we kind of, I gave him my piece on it. He told me how he felt on it. But it happened in front of the whole team. So, everybody got to talk about it. We know, s--t, turnovers happen. S--t happens.

That's the most thorough explanation that we have heard of the events during and after the game. What's done is done, though. Durant now plays for Brooklyn, which created a domino effect of the Warriors eventually acquiring Andrew Wiggins from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the NBA trade deadline. 

[RELATED: Durant believes he became Bay Area legend with Warriors]

As KD rehabs from a ruptured Achilles he sustained in the NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors, his Nets are fighting for playoff seeding. On the other side of the country, the Warriors (12-43) have the worst record in the NBA at the All-Star break. 

Next season, however, will look much different for both teams.

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Here's a sentence I didn't think I would write Sunday: Officiating decisions in the NBA All-Star Game brought out plenty of passion.

Not just for degenerate gamblers, mind you. The NBA's format change, where the winner had to score 24 more points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) in the fourth quarter than the leading score of the third, led to one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game in recent memory. The All-Stars brought it on defense, with Kyle Lowry drawing multiple offensive fouls. The intensity was perhaps best defined by Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding fellow All-Star captain and namesake LeBron James in isolation. 

Antetokounmpo's block on James originally was ruled a goaltend, prompting vehement disagreement from injured Warriors star Steph Curry watching with his wife Ayesha on vacation. Steph's reaction, posted on Ayesha's Instagram story, was catnip for Giannis-to-the-Warriors truthers. 

"Review it!" Curry, who played for Team Giannis in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, shouted. "That's not goaltending!"

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand just before Halloween, but the two-time MVP sent Warriors fans into a speculative frenzy when he appeared to say "Let's do it" to Antetokounmpo after the Bucks beat the Dubs at Chase Center last month. Curry insisted he wasn't recruiting another lanky swingman, telling Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he talked to Antetokounmpo about playing "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds."

Antetokounmpo, in case you haven't heard, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Teams reportedly already are clearing the decks ahead of his free agency, including the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote last month that the Warriors will be among the Greek superstar's suitors and do all they can to clear enough salary-cap space beforehand. 

[RELATED: Siakam jokes about Raps' anti-Steph defense in All-Star Game]

There are hurdles to clear. The Warriors already have four players (Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) signed to max contracts, for one. They can't exactly bet on the same salary-cap spike that left enough room to sign Kevin Durant in 2016, either, considering the league's television contracts are a half-decade away from expiring and commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA expects to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars from China's backlash to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support of Hong Kong protestors. 

Still, after seeing Sunday's shockingly competitive fourth quarter (this was an All-Star Game, after all), anything is possible in the NBA.