The Hornets’ G League affiliate coach is returning. Why that matters for Charlotte

Jordan Surenkamp, head coach of the Greensboro Swarm, points to his players during the game against Wisconsin Herd on February 4, 2022 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) (Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jordan Surenkamp is going to spend plenty of time in the Piedmont again, and he couldn’t be more enthused about it.

Surenkamp is returning for a second season as the head coach of the Greensboro Swarm, which is the Charlotte Hornets’ G League affiliate. The expected move was officially announced Tuesday, mere weeks after Surenkamp completed a stint as the head coach of the Hornets’ summer league team in Las Vegas last month.

The Hornets utilize Greensboro as a teaching ground of sorts, where the likes of Kai Jones, James Bouknight and JT Thor were shuffled back and forth in their rookie years for extra seasoning. Developing younger players remains chief among the franchise’s goals.

Going with Surenkamp, who began his coaching career with the Hornets cutting up videos in 2018, provides some much-needed continuity and allows them to foster the rapport he’s already established during his tenure.

“I think it’s a huge benefit,” Surenkamp said Tuesday. “Obviously, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to get to do it again. But any time you can have some consistency in that position, I think it’s’ always important. From an organizational standpoint, I’m very clear understanding the goals that the organization has for Greensboro. What the expectations are, how they want things done.

“So from that standpoint, I think it’s pretty clear and it’s just a transferable thing from Year 1 to Year 2 that we can continue to build and grow on and help make Greensboro a very productive experience for guys that are not just assigned, but the two-ways and roster guys as well.”

Surenkamp spoke to The Charlotte Observer about a number of topics, including implementing the philosophies of coach Steve Clifford, what he’s seen from rookies Mark Williams and Bryce McGowens, and more.

Roderick Boone: You touched on this briefly, but how will your time as the team’s summer league coach assist you in knowing specifically what the Hornets want from you player development wise this upcoming season?

Jordan Surenkamp: I’ve developed really strong relationships with the front office even going back to my days as video coordinator. So the lines of communication, clarity, all of that is there. The relationships are very strong, so we will always have very engaging and productive conversations on kind of what the expectations are. Not just from the team and an organization as a whole, but also for each individual player.

Guys are there building those development plans, and (it’s) being on the same page with what that looks like and how we can work together in order to achieve those things. I thought we did a really good job last year with the young guys that we had there, and hopefully that continues moving forward.

RB: What’s it like juggling two-way players and a roster than can be in flux seemingly all the time and how much easier is it for you after dealing with it a season ago?

JS: The Vegas thing, as with the G League, your roster changes week to week. I think the important piece to that is just the transparency and communication, helping guys understand that there is a clear plan in place for them for their growth and development and making sure they understand what that looks like. Whether it’s in Charlotte at times or whether it’s in Greensboro at other times. So I think that’s a big piece to helping. But the other side as well is just consistency with what is happening in Charlotte from a basketball standpoint and what is happening in Greensboro.

I tried my best to do that last year with Coach (James) Borrego and that staff and I’m going to do that same exact thing this year with Coach Clifford and the staff here this year – is understanding the style of play, understanding the terminology, understanding the philosophy and how we are going to play on both sides of the ball. All of those things are extremely important so that when opportunities come for guys to get extra development time in Greensboro or it’s their time to come up to Charlotte and eventually get an opportunity here, all of those things are streamlined,

Very easily they can play in Greensboro one night and feel comfortable coming here to Charlotte and playing here the next, just from an understanding standpoint.

RB: How are you picking up on Steve Clifford’s philosophies and what he wants to implement this season?

JS: Going into summer league, it was obviously a quick turnaround. So there was a lot to learn in a short period of time. Coach Clifford has been and continues to be an incredible teacher and someone that I really value in our conversations. He’s very clear on what he wants. The expectations are there. The understanding of what he expects is there and how he wants things done. So to this point, I’ve been extremely grateful for his leadership and the conversations that we’ve had.

We are still a little ways away from the start of training camp. But these days to day conversations that I’m having with him at the arena and the meetings that we are having as a staff will just continue to solidify and clarify the details of what we want to do on both sides of the ball, and what type of team we want to be. His mentorship to me to this point throughout the summer, his support for me on the staff during summer league and now as we get closer training camp, just his clarity, his confidence his energy - all of that stuff has been absolutely fantastic. I’m really looking forward to working with him this season.

RB: You got a chance to see Mark Williams and Bryce McGowens up close at summer league. Now that you can take a step back, what are your thoughts on those two and how they can bring something different to the organization moving forward?

JS: I think Bryce and Mark are both fantastic kids and they are extremely high character. And I think that’s where it starts. If you what to be great, you have to have the willingness to be coached, the willingness to learn. Having an open mind. And those guys exhibit that every day. They’re quick learners. You can throw things at them and they will pick up on it quickly. And I think it was a really good experience for them in summer league to be able to get reps in every game.

Just to get a feel for what the professional game is going to look like, how it’s going to feel. Being able to go back and watch film with them, and help them clean up areas of their game, and continue to show them areas that we want them to grow in, all of those things are happening. They are here working hard everyday and I know they are excited to get going for their rookie seasons. But it just starts with the initial buy-in and trust and relationships you build with those guys, and willingness to learn and be coached.

And the rest kind of takes care of itself as you move forward with their development plans and kind of what the expectation is from them from an organizational standpoint. But they’ve been fantastic to this point and they are a lot of fun to be around. They are good kids. They work hard. Their energy is high and they are excited to be in the gym every day. So you can’t ask for more than that.