PORTLAND — Spending countless hours shooting hoops in his North Deering driveway, Josh Longstaff dreamed of one day making it to the NBA. Naturally, he saw himself as a player, but only the best of the best ever make it that far.
Longstaff is still headed to the NBA, but in a different capacity. He was recently hired as a video coordinator for player personnel by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a member of the league’s Western Conference’s Northwest Division.
“It’s a great opportunity that I am extremely fortunate to have,” said Longstaff.
“I’m going to be working with the general manager, the coaching staff and the players,” said Longstaff.
Longstaff, 28, will be breaking down films to assist with scouting, player trades, college draft picks and free agent signings.
“I will be watching other NBA teams, college and international games. I will also be at every practice and home game to learn the coaching end as well,” he said.
Longstaff won’t be traveling at first. A lot of his work will be done off TV.
Longstaff has a playing and coaching background. He stepped down as Gorham High boys’ varsity coach last May after two seasons to take a sales position with Idexx Laboratories. After graduating from Bryant College with a degree in marketing where he played for Max Good, Longstaff spent three seasons as an assistant coach for Portland High, his alma mater. Longstaff was an all-state guard for the Bulldogs.
Although he loved his job at Idexx, the chance to work for an NBA team was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I was extremely fortunate to get a job with Idexx in a down economy,” said Longstaff.
One of Longstaff’s assistant coaches at Bryant was Brian Keefe, who is an assistant coach with the Thunder.
“We built a strong player, coach relationship at Bryant,” said Longstaff.
“I was a walk-on and I would work out early in the morning. Brian would be there to help me work out,” he said.
Longstaff visited Keefe in Oklahoma City a year and a half ago.
“I was lucky to meet some people in the organization,” he said.
Longstaff would later interview for a position with the team that he didn’t get, but he left with a good feeling.
“I really thought I fit in with the organization. I stayed in touch with certain people through e-mail.”
Two weeks ago, Longstaff got a call from the Thunder asking if he was still interested.
“They were thinking of creating a position and flew me out for a three-day interview. I spent time assisting the team in workouts. Just before I left, they told me what the job was and felt that my coaching experience was a plus. Longstaff was offered the job last week and he accepted a day later.
“It’s definitely what I wanted,” said Longstaff.
Joe Russo, Longstaff’s coach at Portland, is not surprised Longstaff got the NBA job.
“I knew Josh was pursuing something at the higher level,” said Russo.
“Once he got the interview, he had to sell himself. I knew they would be impressed with him because that’s the kind of person he is. He’ll start at the ground level and I’m confident he’ll move up.”
Longstaff was in Oklahoma City last weekend for team development meetings for the entire staff. Part of it included team-building exercises. One of his team-building partners was Mo Cheeks, the former NBA standout and head coach, who is an assistant coach with the Thunder.
“After doing the activity with Mo, I felt like I could call him my friend. There are no egos in the entire organization. They are all working for the same goal,” said Longstaff.
Longstaff wants to be an NBA head coach someday. A lot of assistant coaches started their NBA careers breaking down game film.
He’s willing to pay his dues beginning at the lower levels. Longstaff knows the hours will be long, but he plans to work hard, soaking everything up. Longstaff and his girlfriend, Melissa, will leave Portland on Friday by car. He plans to be at work on Sunday. Training camp begins Sept. 27.
“She can see on my face that this is my dream,” said Longstaff.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org