Much attention is given to successful players who have been through the Sioux Falls Skyforce system on their way to the NBA. A hat tip is also well-deserved for those who are part of the coaching ranks in the Association with time well spent in Sioux Falls.

We can start with Miami as the place with the highest concentration of Skyforce influence. Most notable is Dan Craig who was at the helm of the title winners in 2016 and is now the lead assistant to Erik Spoelstra of the Heat. Octavio De La Grana who was with Craig during that title run, Chris Quinn and Anthony Carter who have all been assistant coaches in Sioux Falls are filling similar roles with the Heat.

Pat Delany who came to Sioux Falls to lead the team in 2013-14 before taking a position with Charlotte is now with Head Coach Steve Clifford in Orlando. Two more former Skyforce bench leaders are part of the brain trust in Sacramento as Dave Joerger starts his third season as head coach with Duane Ticknor alongside as an assistant. Add to that Kings' court, assistant Bob Thornton who played for Sioux Falls during the 1991-92 season.

Sioux Falls through and through describes Nate Tibbets who starred at Roosevelt High School and the University of South Dakota as a player, then took the reigns as head coach of the Skyforce for two years in 2007-09. He is now an assistant with Portland and has been mentioned as a potential NBA head coach.

While his father Flip toured the sidelines as the head coach in Sioux Falls, Ryan Saunders also had various opportunities to closely associate with the team as a youngster. Ryan is currently an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Stephen Graham gets a nod for playing parts of two seasons with the ‘Force in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and graced the court for seven NBA teams. He is now in his third season as a player development coach in Denver.

Let’s step outside the Skyforce for just a moment with a few other NBA coaching notables that have connections to the state of South Dakota. A former Skyforce nemesis when he was the head coach of the Iowa Energy, Nick Nurse was once an assistant for the University of South Dakota. Nurse is now the head coach in Toronto. An assistant to Nurse on the Raptors’ staff is Nate Bjorkgren who played two years for the Coyotes. The most highly accomplished women’s basketball player in South Dakota history is Becky Hammon who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs and has been mentioned as a potential head coach in the NBA.

This article has been updated to include additional subjects.


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