NBC Sports

What Mahlalela will bring to the Warriors' coaching staff

NBC Sports
Jama Mahlalela

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has made several changes to his coaching staff this summer, bringing in three new assistants, with at least one more addition to come. If you’re looking for a pattern, there is one.

Kerr is going international, perhaps because the way of the NBA.

In addition to Dejan Milojević, who came over from Serbia with a reputation for working with big men, there is Jama Mahlalela, who came from Canada and was lauded for his work developing young players with the Raptors.

You might want to learn the pronunciation -- JAM-uh MAH-la-lay-la -- not only because he’ll be deeply involved with Golden State’s young players, but also because he has distinct head coaching potential.

“I’m here because of Coach Kerr and his amazing leadership,” Mahlalela, who is as exuberant as he is intelligent, said during a segment of “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” to be seen following Giants baseball Wednesday night. “I’m excited to work with his staff and the great players we have here. We’ve battled in the past -- Raptors and Warriors -- so it will be fun to be on the other side of it and work collaboratively.”

Mahlalela, 41, was appointed to the Raptors’ staff in 2013, remaining for five seasons before being named head coach of the G League Raptors 905 squad. He was called back to the Raptors last December as an assistant under head coach Nick Nurse.

Working closely with such players as Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet, Mahlalela quickly gained a reputation for nurturing and coaxing the best of his pupils. His job with the Warriors will be similar, but expanded.

 

My role will be managing our development, but not just of our players but of the entire system, from our younger players through our coaches, all the way through some front-office development,” he said. “Just making sure that we’re all on the same page, that we’re all going in the same direction, and that’s toward a championship.”

Born in the tiny southeast African country Eswatini (then Swaziland), Mahlalela moved to greater Toronto as a child and learned basketball well enough that he was such a remarkable student-athlete in high school that he was recruited by the University of British Columbia.

In playing basketball and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, he left enough of an impression that UBC created the Jama Mahlalela Award, to be presented “in recognition of excellence in the areas of selfless dedication, leadership and spirit.”

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So maybe it’s not so surprising that he was named director of basketball operations for NBA Asia before he turned 30.

Mahlalela has been at Chase Center for nearly a month, working with current Warriors and potential draft picks. He’s ahead of the curve in at least one other aspect: He already found a home for his family on the peninsula.

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