Trail Blazers practice had just wrapped up for the day.
In the far left corner of the gym stood a smiling Jaylen Hoard after he just finished draining a three-pointer from the right wing.
Before Hoard could do a victory dance, Portland’s assistant coach Jannero Pargo was seen on the floor… Doing push-ups.
“There was a bet, and unfortunately I lost. I want to keep these guys confident. I don’t want to take too much from them,” Pargo said with a smile.
That sense of humor isn’t the only thing that has helped Pargo land his first NBA coaching job.
The newest addition to Portland’s coaching staff is giving the Blazers a fresh perspective.
When Portland lost assistant David Vanterpool to the Minnesota Timberwolves to be their associate head coach, Pargo was brought in two weeks later.
Vatnerpool was known as a players’ coach. He also had a very well known, special bond with Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Filling DV’s role was no easy task.
Pargo’s ‘reliability’ though has become a building block in how he has transitioned so well into his first NBA assistant role.
Lillard compared Pargo to a former Trail Blazer guard who was also a coaching intern for the Blazers in 2017.
“I think [Pargo] brings something different then what we’ve had in a long time,” Lillard said. “It’s kind of like what we had in Steve Blake, but Steve Blake wasn’t in the same position that he’s in… In the way that he’s like a veteran NBA point guard. So, he’s sharing things with us as guards and with the team that you’re hearing from an NBA player.”
“Just different parts of the game that you’ve just got to be an NBA player to understand,” Lillard added. “Like some things happen in practice where the coaches will break it down to us one way when we make a mistake, and with him he’s like ‘I know sometimes your man is over here and it’s hard to get to get to this spot, but,’ so he’s telling us from a perspective that we’ll understand a little bit more and be a little bit more receptive to him because he’s coming from our position.”
Blazer rookie Nassir Little echoed Lillard’s sentiment.
“What I like about him is he brings a lot of reliability,” Little said of Pargo. “He’s a guy that is still able to come out here and play like he’s a 20-year-old, which is really crazy. With him, he understands the game from a player’s perspective and that allows him to give us some good insight that we can put into our games immediately to help us right away.”
Just two years removed from his NBA playing days, Pargo realizes how crucial his 11 years of experience in the league is currently helping him be a better coach.
“A lot of players look at guys like, you know, they’re trying to tell them what to do,” Pargo said. “And… The first thing they’re thinking in their head is -- ‘where did you play at?’ For me, I can say I played 11 years in this league, and you know, I was able to do some things. So, when I say something they respect it and they kind of take it to heart and that’s a good thing to have.”
Lillard even went as far to say Pargo has similar qualities to Vanterpool.
“It’s energy, it’s fresh. It’s kind of like how DV was for us…. A mixture of Steve Blake and DV. It’s that type of impact for us,” Lillard said.
After being in Portland for just a few months, Pargo has made a big impact on the players as well as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.
“He came recommended,” Stotts said. “Unsolicited recommendations, from coaches [and] GMs in the league and when I hired him, a couple of other coaches out of the blue texted me and said he’s one of their favorites. So, I was very happy with the hire.”
Stotts knew how important it was to fill Vanterpool’s role, saying that Pargo, “played for a lot of different coaches, a lot of different systems. He’s seen it all… When we lost David, he kind of had that perspective and so we wanted to replace that.”
Not only was it Pargo’s experience in the league that caught Stotts’ attention, but it was also Pargo’s time spent coaching in the G-League that was also significant to Stotts.
“[We] didn’t really have a connection with him other than, I mean, I had never met him, obviously… But the fact that he spent two years in the G-League meant a lot to me. Every coach on our staff has spent time in the minor leagues and that’s important,” Stotts said.
Pargo took a lot away from his two years on the coaching staff for the Windy City Bulls.
“It was a great experience. It helped prepare me for this journey right here. Just learning and getting better as a coach, trying to think more like a coach than a player,” Pargo said.
HE’S STILL GOT IT
Over the summer, Pargo was at the Blazers practice facility working with the young Blazer squad.
Little appreciates that Pargo is still able to get out on the court and ball.
“In the summer we used to play one-on-one, and all that type of stuff. He’s super quick. That helps guys like me with our lateral quickness on defense and stuff like that. It allows me to be a better player,” Little said.
It’s apparent by watching Pargo shooting jumpers after Blazer practices that he can still play, but he knows he can’t ball every day.
“A lot of guys have been giving me a lot of flack, because I think I can still play,” Pargo said with a big smile.
The 39-year-old then joked, “I can play one day, but how I feel the next day is the problem.”
Lillard knew that Pargo could still hoop the first time he saw him on the court.
“The first day I came back in September he was giving them fits. I mean, he can still play,” Lillard said.
AN ALL-AROUND COACH
Just because Pargo played point guard, doesn’t mean he isn’t here to share his words of wisdom to every single player on the roster.
“Every guard thinks he’s a big man,” Pargo said. “We all wish we were 6’11''. So we kind of have post moves and stuff like that. I just try to teach the bigs stuff from a guard's point of view to give these guys a little edge when they may have a small on them.”
Overall, Pargo wants to bring a player-coach opinion, which has already earned him respect from the team.
“Just be a voice to the team. They get tired of hearing Terry so much,” Pargo said with a chuckle. “You’ve got to have guys who can rely the message, just with a different voice.”
It’s probably safe to say that just as the Blazers themselves welcomed Pargo with open arms to the coaching staff, Blazer fans would too welcome anyone who has been compared to Steve Blake and David Vanterpool.