Courtesy of Luke Loucks
Luke Loucks enjoyed a great deal of success during his four years on the Florida State men's basketball team, advancing to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, playing in two ACC Tournament championship games and winning the school's first and only ACC title in 2012.
In his first year of work with an NBA franchise, the former Seminole point guard got to experience an even greater journey -- he served as a film and player development intern this season with the Golden State Warriors, who cruised to the 2017 NBA Championship with a 4-1 series win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Loucks recently spoke with Warchant managing editor Ira Schoffel about his experience with the Warriors, what it was like playing professionally overseas for the last few years, and much more. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
Q: So, I know you had been playing overseas for the last few seasons since you left FSU. Why did you give that up? And how did you end up with Golden State?
A: Last April, I had just finished up in Germany. I actually played most of the season with a ruptured disc in my back, which was not the most comfortable thing. I had surgery in Germany and then flew back to Tallahassee to kind of recover and start training again for next season, which would've been this year. While I was there, I was catching up with all the coaches and sitting in Coach Ham's (Leonard Hamilton's) office, talking to him. Right around that time, Jeff Peterson, who played with us, had just gotten promoted to assistant general manager with the Hawks. And Coach Ham, in a very Coach Ham way, kinda sat me down and said, "Hey Luke, would you ever want to do something like that? Work in the NBA?" And then he looked at me and said, "Don't answer now, just think about it." (laughing) He knows what's better for me than I do in my own life.
So I kept rehabbing and worked out for a few European teams and their GMs out in Vegas during the summer. And while I was there, the NBA summer league was actually going on, so I kind of thought about what Coach Ham said, and I just cold-called a couple NBA people and cold-emailed a couple people out of the blue. What the heck? Why not? I wasn't giving up on playing by any means, but I just wanted to see what opportunities might arise. So I decided to send an email to Golden State just to see what would happen. I mean, if I want to work in the NBA, why not try to work with the best team and the best organization that is out there right now?
So I emailed their assistant GM, Kirk Lacob, and he surprisingly wrote right back. A lot of people don't respond to emails or answer their calls, but this guy called back in like five minutes. He said, "We're playing a summer league game tomorrow afternoon. Why don't you come out and sit and watch the game with me and we'll talk?" So I did, and he kind of explained what they were looking for, that there was going to be an opportunity for an internship. I talked to a couple of other teams about other opportunities, but once Golden State said they would have a spot for me, I was through the roof. I said, "Let's go ahead and do it."
Q: That's interesting that Coach Hamilton saw coaching qualities in you. Did you grow up thinking about a career in basketball after you were done playing?
A: You know, I did, whether it be in coaching or in the front office. You spend your whole life working at it and trying to ... it just kind of makes sense to not throw all of that away. I knew I always wanted to be around the game in some capacity. I didn't really know what route. But it was funny, our coaches always kind of threw shots at me while I was playing at Florida State. Like, "You're gonna be coaching in four years." And I always kind of resented it because all I wanted to do was play. I wanted to play for as long as I could.
But looking back, it made sense. You put in all those hours, and I was never gonna be some great athlete that was going to have a 15-year career in the NBA. But I didn't think in those terms. I was young, I just wanted to hoop. That's all I wanted to do. But they kind of saw it in the background that yeah, he kind of has the background of someone who could work in basketball.
Q: So if this opportunity hadn't come, you'd still be playing basketball somewhere?
A: Yeah, I'd probably be kicking around Europe somewhere in some small, mid-level league trying to chase a little money. But again, I was never a player who was going to make millions of dollars playing. It was more for the experience and seeing the world, getting to travel and obviously compete and do something you love.
Q: Was it fun?
A: It was so much fun. Yeah, we had a blast. My wife (Stevi) got to come with, and we got to see parts of the world we probably would've never seen if I had never played. So that experience alone, just for the four seasons that I did it, was so much fun. I wouldn't change it for anything. At the same time, we kind of knew we were at that chapter in our lives where it was time to maybe change gears. So the timing was right.
Q: So, what does your day-to-day job entail?
A: I'm part of a group -- we have our film director and one other gentleman in the same position as me who played at Fordham. The large majority of our job is breaking down film and scouting. So we break that film down for our coaching staff, and we also get on the court every day as players. The skill development coaches will throw us in against some of our players, whether it be in scrimmages or defensive drills or one-on-one. Whatever it may be, they kind of use us.
Q: So you're basically locking down Steph Curry at practice?
A: (laughing) Yeah, exactly. Never got a stop in my life. It was funny -- the first couple of weeks, they threw me in against KD (Kevin Durant) in a little post-up game, one-on-one. It was so much fun. I think we did four spots, and we're going to five (at each spot). I'm on defense the whole time, so good luck, right? I think I got two stops out of 20. He scored 18 out of 20 times. And I was just laughing like, "What am I doing here? I'm guarding Kevin Durant." But little things like that are what make the job so much fun. Because you're in that film room for hours upon hours, breaking down film, but then you also get to get out on the court and help the coaches out and do whatever they need.
So it's a great learning experience. From a film preparation perspective, you're breaking down every single possession of every single game leading up to the game we play against these guys. So you know these teams in and out, you know the systems they run, you know the players, their strengths and weaknesses, what plays they like to run out of timeouts, what plays they like to run at the end of the game. All that stuff soaks in, but then you get to go on the court and see how Coach [Steve] Kerr and Mike Brown and Ron Adams -- all these high-level coaches -- and see how they see the game and how they want to use all that information to make a successful team.
I would say in this year alone, I've probably learned more about basketball than I did playing professionally for the last four or five years. It's an unbelievable experience.
Q: Obviously, you played with some great basketball players here, and you went up against a bunch of great players in the ACC. But now you're working with the best of the best. Is there anything that surprised you about their preparation or approach?
A: Oh yeah. Honestly, I heard coming in that this was a great group of guys and that they work hard. But you really have no idea how hard these guys work until you're seeing it hand-on. I mean, it is truly remarkable. And we're talking about Hall of Fame-level players. All-NBA guys. The best players in the world. They could probably honestly coast and still get by winning a lot of games. But these guys are in on off-days working out.
Draymond Green, coming into the Finals, was working out at 10 o'clock at night on an off-day. Just to see that, how hard these guys work, it's literally non-stop. These guys are always prepared. They go through every little detail, every single game, just to give themselves a better shot at winning. That kind of surprised me. I didn't think they would be lazy by any means. But I didn't realize how dedicated to their craft every single guy on the team would be.
And I'm sure they were a little bit hungrier and wanted to win it because of how it finished last year. But it was impressive. I mean Draymond, the day after we won the Finals, was in the gym lifting at 10 a.m. the next day. He might not have even gone to sleep. It's wild.
Q: I think most people who watch the NBA figured Golden State was gonna win, so it wasn't exactly a shock to see them do it. But still, having watched all the work that they put, how neat was it to watch that work pay off and see them get it done?
A: It was incredible. It was honestly unlike anything I've ever seen. Just that celebration and the happiness. The NBA season is such a grind -- 82 regular-season games. And then, what did we play, 17 playoff games with the one loss. So these guys are playing close to 100 games, on top of their workouts, practices, lifting, recovery ... all that stuff kind of adds up emotionally. And then you get to your ultimate goal and reach it and win a title ... to see the emotion in the locker room was unreal.
The celebration was nuts. You can't really explain it unless you see it. It was so awesome to see. They had some ungodly amount of champagne. I think it was like $150,000 worth of champagne, and it was literally gone in five minutes. The whole floor of the locker room was soaked. Cigars are being smoked. Players are screaming, kicking things ... it was awesome. It was so much fun.
Q: You guys were a little more low-key when you won the ACC title at FSU?
A: (Laughing) Yeah, it's funny. A couple people asked me to compare those two. And the ACC title will always hold a special place, obviously, for our team. Just because we were on the team and we were a part of it on the court. But in those circumstances, in the back of your mind, you're thinking, "We can't really celebrate that much because we have the NCAA Tournament in three days." So you can have some fun with it, and we had fun and celebrated. We were proud of what we did. But we also knew it wasn't over.
Here, this is the ultimate end-game. We don't have a game next week. It's different because you're not on the court and you're such a small part of it. But the celebration, there's really no comparison.