David Vanterpool

We're gonna miss you, Coach Vanterpool

We're gonna miss you, Coach Vanterpool

It was reported earlier today that Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool is leaving after seven seasons and will be joining Ryan Saunders' staff in Minnesota. 

It was a tough pill to swallow for Blazers fans. Most of them thought he would leave for a head coaching job, not another assistant job. 

But this isn't just a lateral move. Vanterpool is moving up the ladder and experience as an associate head coach puts him one step closer to getting a head coaching gig.

It's classic happy for him, sad for us situation.

On Thursday night the Blazers Outsiders discussed how the movie impacts the Blazers. 

Take a listen in the video above. 

Trail Blazers lose assistant coach David Vanterpool to Minnesota Timberwolves

Trail Blazers lose assistant coach David Vanterpool to Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have hired David Vanterpool as their associate head coach to work with head coach Ryan Saunders and run the T-Wolves’ defense.

Vanterpool has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach under the Trail Blazers’ Terry Stotts and has been credited with the development of Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

The “associate head coach” title is a step up for Vanterpool, who has had numerous interviews for open head-coaching positions over the past two seasons.

“This is a great opportunity for David to increase and diversify his coaching profile in his pursuit of becoming an NBA head coach and one Terry and I had discussed at length with David prior to his decision,” said Portland President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.

``David was a valuable member of our staff and an important part of our success,” Stotts said. “In his seven years with the Blazers, he was instrumental in all facets of NBA coaching – game preparations, offensive and defensive game plans, player development and player relations. I am very happy for him and his new opportunity. We will miss him and wish him all the best.”

The Trail Blazers could possibly lose another assistant coach as Nate Tibbetts has been rumored to be a candidate for the Memphis head-coaching job.

REPORT: Minnesota adds Blazers assistant David Vanterpool to coaching staff

USA Today

REPORT: Minnesota adds Blazers assistant David Vanterpool to coaching staff

The Blazers coach staff just lost one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA. 

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Minnesota Timberwolves have hired David Vanterpool as their associate head coach.

Vanterpool has long been linked to head coaching vacancies around the league, and actually interviewed for three of those open jobs his offseason: The Phoenix SunCleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. 

All those teams eventually went in a different direction, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were impressed enough to offer him a key assistant role. 

It was reported by Marc Stein of The New York Times early Wednesday that Vanterpool had interviewed to join Ryan Saunders' staff.

Vanterpool joined the Trail Blazers as part of then-new head coach Terry Stotts' staff in 2012. In that time he has built great relationships with Portland's star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and has been a key part of their development since they entered the league. 

Coach Stotts, who just signed a contract extension, none has the unenviable task of finding someone to fill Vanterpool's shoes on his staff. 

Report: David Vanterpool interviewed for Minnesota assistant job

USA Today

Report: David Vanterpool interviewed for Minnesota assistant job

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool has interviewed for a spot on Ryan Saunders' coaching staff in Minnesota.

The news is a little surprising, as many people have expected Vanterpool to be offered a head coaching job, not a job as an assistant on another staff. 

In fact, Vanterpool interviewed for three head coaching jobs his offseason: The Phoenix Sun, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Coach Stotts just signed a contract extension and said during exit interviews that he would love to have his coaching staff back intact. The odds of this happening look worse and worse as the years go forward, with the both David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts being hot commodities around the league.

A lot of experts have said it is a matter of when, not if, those two land head coaching gigs. Let's hope for the Blazers sake, they're both back next season.

Woj Report: Cavaliers in Denver conducting interview with Trail Blazer assistant

Woj Report: Cavaliers in Denver conducting interview with Trail Blazer assistant

Adrian Wojnrowski reporting today that the General Manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers is in Denver conducting interviews for their vacant head coaching position. 

The juicy Trail Blazer nugget according to Woj:

"... and Portland assistant David Vanterpool, league sources said...The Cavaliers had received permission to interview another Trail Blazers assistant, Nate Tibbetts, but scheduling conflicts will push that meeting until after the Blazers-Nuggets Western Conference semifinals."

Both Vanterpool and Tibbetts have been linked to previous coaching vacancies in the past. It sure feels like only a matter of time before one, or both, get their crack at a head coaching gig in the NBA. 

Read Woj's full story here. 

More to come from Insider Dwight Jaynes and Trail Blazer Reporter Jamie Hudson throughout the off-season on the Trail Blazers coaching staff. 

WOJ REPORT: Cavs have received permission to interview Blazers assistants Tibbetts and Vanterpool for vacant head coaching job

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WOJ REPORT: Cavs have received permission to interview Blazers assistants Tibbetts and Vanterpool for vacant head coaching job

The Cleveland Cavaliers are searching for their new head coach and they are curious to see if their franchise coach could currently be in Portland.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers have received permission to interview Portland Trail Blazers assistants Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool for the franchise's vacant head coaching job.

This is nothing new for Tibbetts and Vanterpool. Both assistant coaches have been looked at as potential head coach candidates in the past few years.  

Tibbets has been an assistant for the Trail Blazers since the 2013-2014 season, while Vanterpool joined Portland’s staff in August of 2012.

Tibbets had previously been an assistant for the Cavs from 2011-2013.

Last year, Tibbets was in the final running for the Atlanta Hawks head coach position.

This week, Vanterpool was also linked to be in the running for the Phoenix Sun’s job.

More to come on the coach situation as they progress. 


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Lillard's trust in his teammates is the difference-maker for Blazers

Lillard's trust in his teammates is the difference-maker for Blazers

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Trail Blazers, heading into tonight’s Game 3 vs. Oklahoma City, have been playing as well together as they have over the past several seasons. Different players are stepping up to help Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum like never before. This team is connected – at both ends of the floor.

And it all started at one of the low points of the season. The foundation for the team’s current play was built during adversity. Dark days.

McCollum went down with a knee injury during a game at San Antonio March 16. And nobody was quite sure how quickly he would return. Jusuf Nurkic would be lost for the season with a broken leg March 27. What appeared to be a season when the Trail Blazers could make a run at the conference finals, people suddenly questioned their ability even to make the playoffs.

Just how many points per game would Damian Lillard need to score per game to get this team on the winning track and into a decent playoff seed? Forty points? Fifty?

Turns out that approach wasn’t the right direction. Lillard had a better idea.

“I go back to those first three games when CJ was out,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Before Nurk got hurt, but CJ was out. Those three games where he averaged 30 points and double-digit assists – being very efficient scoring the ball and setting up his teammates.

“I think that really set the tone for the rest of the season.

“Damian is very astute. Now he’s been in the league -- this is his seventh year -- I think he’s learned a lot. So I think he understood the dynamics.

“It’s not to say he wasn’t trying to score – we need him to score. But his understanding of the game and its dynamics had a lot to do with it.”

Lillard knows he’s progressed over time and those who have watched his career develop are aware of it. But the world may not understand how deep his intellectual approach to the game has become.

Maybe a few years ago, well...

“I would have taken it upon myself to try to have more big games,” Lillard said. “But I think it’s part of experience, learning and watching film and having a coaching staff that challenges you.

“Like now, when Nate Tibbetts mentions something to me like ‘Hey, I want to show you these clips. I want to talk about this.’ And we talk about it and so OK, I understand that.

“Dave Vanterpool says, ‘Dame, I need you to look at this.’ And Jim Moran says, ‘Dame, look at this.’ Dale Osbourne …they’ve all come to me and that has helped me advance my game as a point guard – mentally, and to know how to manage things better.

“Playing for a good staff, I went into that situation thinking, ‘I need to try to help my guys, where I can put them in a position to do what they do best, instead of me taking it upon myself.’

“And that will make us a better team in the bigger picture. And it will work out better for us. With Nurk and CJ out, it will work out better for us. And it was a perfect situation.

“That’s just what it had to be. If it came to where we weren’t going to win the game, my mentality was, if we get to the fourth quarter and we’re not scoring, then take it upon yourself.”

It’s all about trust – such an underrated ingredient in a team’s success. And Lillard gets it.

“Guys are capable,” he said. “Allow them to do what they do. Because they know the opportunity is going to be there.”

And they know their leader, Damian Lillard, trusts them.

“Exactly,” he said. ”That’s all the difference in the world.”

David Vanterpool enrolled in "Getting Schooled 101" at Team USA camp

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David Vanterpool enrolled in "Getting Schooled 101" at Team USA camp

Class is in session and Portland Trail Blazers assitant coach David Vanterpool is enrolled in "Getting Schooled 101".

On staff with Team USA this summer, the coaches were in over their heads trying to guard these NBA stars and Portland's own coach Vanterpool got an upclose look at some of the talent first-hand.

Even Blazers rookie Anfernee Simons is getting in on the roasting:

Good luck coach Vanterpool!


Mind over matter: Damian Lillard and the key to his late-game success

Mind over matter: Damian Lillard and the key to his late-game success

LOS ANGELES – By now, we know we are watching something special with Damian Lillard. One of the best stretches ever by a Trail Blazers player is becoming one of the best seasons by a Blazers player, which will likely go a long way in eventually cementing him as one of, if not the greatest clutch performers to ever wear a Blazers’ uniform.

On Monday, Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, including 15 straight in a three-minute span, to lead the Blazers to their seventh straight victory,  a come-from-behind 108-103 stunner over the Lakers.

When it comes to late-game performances, Lillard has become so good, so often, that his teammates have said they have moments in games where they are in amazement.

“I don’t marvel at a lot of things,’’ said Shabazz Napier, who won back-to-back NCAA titles at UConn. “A lot of things don’t get to me. But today was … today was spectacular. The one he did in Phoenix, I wasn’t so hyped. But today, I was like; Wow. In the game, I was like: Wow.’’

To those in Portland, we know it is not just Lillard’s physical talents that allow him to amass such an impressive collection of late-game heroics.

A large part of his success comes from a special mind.

After Monday’s heroics, Blazers assistant David Vanterpool gave some insight into Lillard’s mindset. Vanterpool has mentored Lillard from Day One in Portland. Nobody on the Blazers’ staff has spent more time with Lillard studying film, or going through workouts, or getting inside the mind of the now 27-year-old.

I asked him what stood out about this performance, or what we don’t see while we are watching it unfold.

Vanterpool thought for a second, then his eyes sparkled. He smiled.

“He knows that’s going to happen,’’ he said. “What he just did, that’s not by mistake. Mentally, he’s already seen it. He’s prepared, he’s put in the work, and that’s why it’s not a surprise to him.

“He already feels it, he already knows it,’’ Vanterpool said. “What he did tonight is more like him finishing a movie he has already seen in his mind.’’

He shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say “only the great ones have that.”

Minutes before, in the locker room, Lillard ho-hummed his way through interviews, matter-of-factly recounting what was going through his mind.

“I looked at the clock and there was a lot of time, and I said ‘I’m about to try take this on one, and bring it home,’ ’’ Lillard said.

He brought it home, all right.

Never before has Lillard played better, and never before has he deserved to be included in the conversation for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. He might not be the best player in the league, but considering what he does and what he means in Portland, there might not be a player who is more valuable to his franchise.

After setting the franchise scoring record for a month with a 31.4 average in February, Lillard has the Blazers in third place in the West, and particularly in the last month, he has flat-out willed the team to victories.

Up ahead are the Knicks on Tuesday, then a two-week gauntlet that features games against Golden State, Cleveland, Boston and Houston.

Right now, the Blazers have to figure that all they have to do is keep it close and get the game to Lillard Time. After that, the movie has already played in his mind.

“Regardless of how the game is going,’’ Lillard said Monday. “I’m always going to feel like when the time comes, I can make it happen.’’

The layers of Lillard: Behind the statistics is a growing floor general and leader

The layers of Lillard: Behind the statistics is a growing floor general and leader

To the naked eye, there was nothing special earlier this week when Damian Lillard recorded 19 points and 11 assists during the Trail Blazers’ 130-116 victory over Brooklyn.

But to the Blazers’ coaching staff, and to Lillard’s teammates, it was a performance that further entrenched his standing as one of the NBA’s best point guards and the beacon of the Blazers’ franchise.

Nuanced in play calls and personal conferences with teammates, Lillard put on a performance that coach Terry Stotts said showed Lillard’s value beyond traditional statistics.

“With Dame, I think it’s more than scoring,’’ Stotts said. “Everybody is talking about his (26.0 points) scoring … but I think Dame has become more of a floor general, a leader on the court. He does a good job calling out plays, getting people involved, seeing the game. ‘’

It is, in essence, the game behind the game -- subtle decisions and observations NBA point guards have to make in the snap of a finger throughout the course of a game -- often with game-changing consequences hanging in the balance.

So even though it was a rather pedestrian statistical line against the Nets (at least for Lillard) his coaches and teammates said it was yet another example of his brilliance.

And it started on the game’s third play.


Ever since his rookie season with the Blazers, Lillard has been schooled, if not hounded, by assistant coach David Vanterpool on the finer points of the point guard craft.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to David Vanterpool,’’ Lillard said. “Since I’ve been in the NBA, he’s been a guy who has constantly challenged me to be better – but not just working on my floater or shooting three’s off the dribble - it’s been more of the cerebral part of the game.’’

Vanterpool has led sessions to learn opponents’ plays and play calls. He has instructed Lillard to realize what plays are best to call when the Blazers have the opponent in the penalty. He has emphasized the need to recognize which players are hot or struggling, and when and how to call plays to either keep them going or break out of a slump. And he has taught Lillard how to study teammates’ body language, and understanding the value of rewarding a teammate who is playing hard by feeding him the ball.

“As a point guard and a leader, you have to be able to keep track of everything,’’ Lillard said.

Against Brooklyn, he noticed that on the Blazers’ third offensive play, the Nets changed their pick-and-roll coverage. Usually, he likes to attack early in games, but on this night, after it was clear the Nets were taking away his penetration, he shifted gears.

“In that situation, I have to see what’s going on, read the game, and make the right plays,’’ Lillard said.

Later in the game, as the high-paced Nets kept within striking distance of the Blazers, Lillard decided it was time to change the pace of the game and put pressure on the Nets’ weakness: defense.

“Down the stretch, I just called plays where they had to defend for long possessions,’’ Lillard said. “We were able to wear them out like that.’’

Stotts says Lillard’s play calling this season is his greatest area of growth in being a floor general.

“The first half, particularly first quarter, he has the freedom to make any play calls he wants, and I think he does a good job getting people involved or seeing matchups or whatever it is,’’ Stotts said. “He has extended that throughout the game a little more. At free throws he already knows what he wants to run.’’

In each season, Stotts says he has given Lillard more responsibility and more freedom in calling plays, in part because Lillard has come to know the system so well, but also because Lillard has a special trait: the ability to read and know his teammates so well.

The latest exhibit of that unique trait has been on display the last couple of weeks, after the Blazers acquired who Lillard now fondly refers to as his “big little brother.’’


When the Trail Blazers traded Mason Plumlee to Denver, nobody took the news harder than Lillard. He had grown close to the center both on and off the court and on the morning of the trade, Lillard wasn’t shy about saying how stunned and hurt he was by the move.

In Denver, the player traded for Plumlee – 22-year-old Jusuf Nurkic – heard the reports of how Lillard and other Blazers were stung by Plumlee’s departure, and uneasily wondered how he would be received at his new home. 

“I’m pretty sure they liked Mason, and I don’t have anything against that,’’ Nurkic said. “But all I need was a different situation and somebody who wanted me.’’

He found that somebody in Lillard, who immediately approached the big man on his arrival and began tutoring him on plays and welcoming him into the team’s fold.

Now, the two have become somewhat attached, both on and off the court, from review sessions on the court to playful interactions off it.

“I can tell that since he has been here he has gravitated toward me,’’ Lillard said. “At breakfast he will come up and say ‘Ah, Dame Dolla’  … or when we warm up – he’s next to me warming up. It’s like a big, little brother type of thing. It’s kind of funny. But I noticed it.’’

Nurkic seems drawn to Lillard, and goes out of his way to credit Lillard for his help in the transition to Portland and to note how this is the first time he has played with guards the caliber of Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“I mean, I can’t say enough,’’ Nurkic said of how Lillard has embraced him. “His leadership and his ability to motivate a person, it’s amazing. First time I’ve had someone like that who can impact my game.’’

While Stotts noted Lillard’s play calling in the Brooklyn game, Vanterpool was noticing another facet of Lillard’s leadership. He said he couldn’t help but notice Lillard wrapping his arm around Nurkic and explaining a mix up on pick-and-roll defense as the two walked to the sidelines during a timeout.

“It was a timeout so I could hear what Dame was saying – and he was saying – ‘Don’t worry about it, but you have to know that these guys are here, and this is what we want you to do,’’’ Vanterpool said. “Just him taking the time to talk him through that … it shows the way he has embraced him. I don’t know if people have seen it, Dame walking off the court with his arm around him, talking to him. He has embraced him in such a fashion – and honestly, everybody on this team loved Mason Plumlee – but when they see Damian embrace Jusuf, you have to embrace him, too. I mean, our guys want to, but if they didn’t, they still would because our leader is embracing and helping pick him up.’’

Lillard said he remembers the play and the situation – a side pick-and-roll where the Blazers typically want to funnel the ball handler toward the sideline. Nurkic wasn’t familiar with the Blazers approach, so Lillard said it was only natural that he point it out.

“I’m always going to do stuff like that, so we can nip it in the bud,’’ Lillard said. “And he understood. The next couple of times they ran that, he was able to figure it out and we stopped them.’’

Lillard said his embrace of Nurkic is rooted in knowing how much the center can help the Blazers, the need to move on from Plumlee, and from his own experience of knowing the value of being valued.

“I love Mase to death -- as a friend and a teammate -- I loved playing with him and I still do,’’ Lillard said. “I still follow Mase and have nothing but love for him. But he is not coming back. So I can’t sit here and be like, ‘Aw, man we traded Mason.’ We traded him for a really good player. I think what he brings to table – being able to score form the block and make plays from the block and how physical he is, and how much he cares – he cares about winning and what he brings to the team gives us a really good chance to win. You have no choice but to accept that – and he is a good dude and he is young.’’

Nurkic’s arrival also made Lillard think back to when he was a youngster on the Blazers.

“Being older than he is, it’s important for me to embrace him,’’ Lillard said. “I know when I was younger I wanted LA (LaMarcus Aldridge) to embrace me and put his arm around me and show me the way and … be riding with me. It was important for me to let him know that right away. Whether that’s conversation between us, or me coaching him up on the floor, making sure he gets ball on the block in transition, or getting him the ball. And also respecting what he wants out of me.’’


So in the end, what could look like a rather ho-hum 19-point, 11-assist night against Brooklyn was instead a layered performance of heady adjustments, reasoned play-calling and proactive coaching of teammates by Lillard.

Or in other words, a masterpiece of leadership and court savvy, which Vanterpool says only strengthens the living legend of Lillard.

“I have already told him he is going to go down as the best Blazer in history, in my opinion,’’ Vanterpool said. “I told him he is going to break all the stats and records and all that stuff, and to keep doing what he does, but also, become a great person. And he is doing that. He is becoming the type of person the company, the organization, and the fans can be proud of. And that’s going to mean even more than all the stats.’’