GALT GRAD SETTLING IN WITH KINGS
GALT — Phil Ricci has been having one of the best times of his life in Las Vegas.
But the former Galt High boys basketball coach is in the Nevada city for work that he embraces with a passion, which he had when he played basketball for the Warriors in the mid-late 1990s, through Delta College and Oregon State.
Last week, the Sacramento Kings added Ricci as an assistant player development coach to head coach Dave Joerger’s staff. This week, the Kings’ rookies selected in last month’s NBA Draft and first year players were in Las Vegas competing in the NBA Summer League. The Phoenix Suns knocked off the Kings 66-61 in the double-elimination portion of the league’s playoff bracket on Friday night.
“It’s been great,” said Ricci on Thursday night after the Kings lost to the Dallas Mavericks 83-76. “It’s a learning experience at this level. A lot of time in the film room. A lot of time with individual players.”
Ricci and the Kings were expected to return home this weekend from Nevada. Going into the start of next week, Ricci will become a common fixture at the Golden 1 Center’s practice facility, located underneath the downtown arena in Sacramento. He’ll be working with rookies, first year players and any Kings player who is on the roster.
“I’ll be at the facility every day, no matter who is in town,” Ricci said. “Watching film, learning the offense.”
The 6-foot-7 Ricci will continue his coaching duties that will include working with players on the Kings’ roster and the Reno Bighorns, the Kings’ development league affiliate, for the 2017-18 season.
Being a professional basketball has been a part of Ricci’s life for
more than a decade. After the Kings cut him prior to the start of the 200304 season, Ricci spent a decade playing pro ball abroad in Spain, Japan, Korea, France, Israel and the Czech Republic, where he guided Nymburk to an appearance in the 2010 European Cup for the first time in club history.
“I’ve been involved with playercoaches a lot,” Ricci said. “I give them a lot of respect because it is a challenging job.”
At this time last year, Ricci had concluded a summer basketball camp at Galt High. Being a part of a pre-teen to teenager’s life on the basketball court is something Ricci will miss, as he begins his NBA coaching career.
“In high school, it’s try to develop, especially with my situation at Galt High, was work with a lot of young players,” Ricci said. “The kids are, eventually, going to develop.”
Ricci admitted to missing the professional basketball life.
“But I’ve been use to this, from the professional side,” Ricci said. “Now I’m dealing with guys already developed. I can teach the younger players.”
Ricci has been working with the Kings’ draft picks from last month’s draft that includes guard De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky, who was selected as the No. 5 overall selection. The Kings also drafted Justin Jackson,
Harry Giles and Frank Mason III. Part of Ricci’s coaching role is molding them to the fast-pace NBA speed away from the college basketball system.
“They’re young, very green, but they are willing to work,” Ricci said. “They love basketball.”
The early transition of playing in the NBA is progressing nicely for Fox and company, Ricci points out.
“How they separate themselves from other people and other point guards from around the nation,” said Ricci of the rookies’ speed on the court. “They’re picked that high for a reason. It’s something you don’t see everyday. There’s a handful of plays that these guys run because it’s summer league. They have a week of putting in their sets.”
Ricci has spent his coaching time with Kings coach Jason March, who has been head coach for the Kings’ rookie and first year players in summer league. March has been an assistant coach to head coach Dave Joerger for the last nine seasons that goes back to when Joerger was with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“His preparation, he’s on top of it,” said Ricci of March. “He’s on top of every single play that these guys are running. His work ethic, and all that he puts into the game. He’s got a lot of knowledge. Learning the concepts is what I’ve been getting out of it.”
Liberty Ranch High boys basketball coach Josh Williams is one of many Galt people who will be rooting for
Ricci to have a successful run as an NBA coach. Williams was a guard, and Ricci handling the center post on the 1997-98 Galt High boys basketball team that won the Sierra Valley Conference title and had a deep run in the SacJoaquin Section Division II and NorCal playoffs, has had conversations with his childhood friend since Ricci was added to the Kings’ coaching staff.
“When I first heard about it, it was very exciting to hear,” Williams said. “I told him I was so proud of him ... a friend and a Galt person getting a job in the NBA.”
Williams has been busy with his offseason workouts for his Hawks. But he’s taken time this week to view photos of Ricci on social media Websites and video clips of Ricci on Sacramento area and ESPN TV stations.
“This reinforces the idea that he’s doing great,” said Williams of Ricci. “This was something you kind of see was coming. He obviously has a lot of knowledge and skills in basketball. I think the Kings were smart by putting him to work. He’s extremely motivated.”
In the past week, the Kings, who have gone 11 consecutive seasons without an NBA playoff berth, signed veteran players George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, who will be entering his 21st season in the NBA when the regular season starts in October.
Contact reporter Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.
Galt graduate Phil Ricci on the bench during a Sacramento Kings summer league game on Wednesday.