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

Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook is sick of the unfair labels he believes he's been painted with by the NBA.

The Houston Rockets star point guard received two technical fouls and was ejected from Thursday night's 135-105 win over the Warriors at Chase Center. The second technical came late in the game. Westbrook elbowed Damion Lee while going for a rebound, and then appeared to stare Lee down after having the ball taken away from him.

Westbrook started walking toward the Warriors' bench and was hit with a technical foul while both were jawing back and forth. The All-Star point guard defended himself after the game, noting he didn't intentionally elbow Lee and that he believes he is held to a different standard. 

"I think it's a situation where, I hold myself to a very, very, very high standard," Westbrook said after the game. "I think with the refs, the fans, the media, the NBA, I'm put in a position where I'm not allowed to really do much. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy. If you watch the clip, obviously I hit Lee. It wasn’t on purpose. I was going to the glass. He got hit. He said something to me. I said something to him. I’m standing there. The guy snatched the ball out of my hand. Guys are coming up to me. I didn’t move. But I’m always the one that gets painted to be the bad guy in the whole situation.

“They asked me to walk towards the Warriors bench," Westbrook continued. "So, I’m just over their walking to the bench. One of their young fellas tell me, ‘Why you walking over here, talking mess with me?’ I turned around and said, 'What you say?’ Now, everybody’s running over to me. Then, (Kevon) Looney steps in front of me. I’m in a position, 'Russ is being Russ,’ which nobody knows what that means.

“I have to do a better job of holding myself to a very, very high standard,” Westbrook continued. “I’ll make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody to paint me as being a bad guy. I just think it’s unfair that after all that, I’m the only one that gets a tech or gets kicked out. That’s not fair. I don’t care what nobody says. There are certainly other people involved in it that were doing so many things that's not OK. But I’m the one that gets a tech, gets ejected and everybody else is cool and goes back to playing."

Westbrook now has 13 technical fouls on the season, putting him three away from an automatic one-game suspension that comes with getting 16 technical fouls in the season.

[RELATED: Dubs' early reviews on Wiggins filled with praise]

The best part of the light dust-up was the look on Klay Thompson's face as Westbrook was jawing with the Dubs' bench.

Teams are enjoying piling on the Warriors this season, but there's no doubt Klay -- who was ruled out for the season Thursday -- will remember this once he returns next season.

Warriors didn't show improvement Steve Kerr desired in loss to Rockets


Warriors didn't show improvement Steve Kerr desired in loss to Rockets

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just before the Warriors departed for the All-Star break, coach Steve Kerr outlined in detail what he wanted to see from his team during Golden State's final 27 games of the season. 

"I want to see an awareness of the mistakes that we're making and the wherewithal to correct them," Kerr said before the break. "We've got to stop fouling jump shooters, we've got to stop turning the ball over." 

The season's final months offer the Warriors a genuine chance to improve. Armed with Steph Curry's inevitable return and the growth of their rookies, the goal seemed within reach heading into the break.

Eight days later, Kerr's urging fell on deaf ears against the Houston Rockets. The Warriors habitually fouled and threw the ball away, culminating in a 135-105 loss Thursday night.

"Yeah, they took it to us," Kerr admitted after the loss Thursday. "They were great tonight from the beginning." 

The Warriors' troubles started early Thursday. Golden State turned the ball over nine times in curious fashion during the first quarter. 

Russell Westbrook stole Draymond Green's errant pass to Marquese Chriss 90 seconds into the game, leading to a Houston 3-pointer. Rookie Jordan Poole lazily threw a pass intended for Damion Lee out of bounds fewer than two minutes later. Fellow rookie Eric Paschall dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds seven minutes after that with the Warriors down 24 points. 

By the end of the night, the Warriors turned the ball over 21 times. 

When the Warriors weren't physically giving the ball to the Rockets, they were providing free points to Houston. Worse, they fouled James Harden -- the Rockets' best scorer -- an inordinate amount behind the 3-point line.

One notable mishap occurred midway through the third quarter when Damion Lee stepped into Harden's landing area as he contested the All-Star's attempt. He was called for a foul, and Harden hit all three free throws to give the Rockets a 24-point lead. 

The Warriors held Harden to just one free throw in a blowout win on Christmas Day. He made 14-of-15 from the stripe Thursday. 

"The other game was more of an exception," Kerr said. "This was more of the rule. He's usually going to get to the line. You try to keep him under double figures and I think we fouled him three three-point shots. That's nine free throws right there. We were undisciplined."

[RELATED: Dubs' early reviews on Wiggins filled with deserved praise] 

The Warriors' latest loss comes at a unique time in their season. Curry's status is expected to be updated in less than a week, allowing him a late-season return for a lottery-bound team. 

Kerr expected the Warriors to fight in the interim, but their response was lacking Thursday. 

"I thought we looked young tonight," Kerr said. "We looked inexperienced and made a lot of mistakes at both ends, but I thought Houston had a lot to do with that. They were terrific."