James Posey brings championship experience to Wizards coaching staff

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Posey brings championship experience to Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- James Posey remembers being nervous as he was quizzed in front of the entire team by one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

He was in his first year as an NBA assistant coach, then with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Recently retired from his own NBA playing career, in which he had memorable playoff battles with several in the room, he could sense some skepticism.

LeBron James gave him a particularly hard time because, as Posey says, he did a "mind-blowing" amount of homework and so his questions were extremely specific.

"LeBron, he's smart. He's throwing stuff out there quizzing me and quizzing the coaches with different things and different situations," Posey told NBC Sports Washington.

"It came with preparation where I got better with each [scouting report] and with each gameplan to where I could communicate it to them. So, they see 'okay, he's not just here for the ride, he knows what he's talking about.'"

Posey won the third of his three NBA rings in Cleveland. Being part of the team that ended the 52-year championship drought for his hometown was a uniquely special experience. He remembers being so excited during the parade he had friends texting him afterward, joking that he thought he was one of the players.

Posey's first two titles were as a player: in 2006 with the Miami Heat and 2008 with the Boston Celtics. No one else in the Wizards' locker room has that type of hardware.

He is also the only assistant coach for the Wizards who played in the NBA. That experience is partly what attracted head coach Wes Unseld Jr., who hired Posey in an added position to his staff, one year after he put together his initial group of coaches.

"There's ways he can say things to players that maybe aren't as delicate as they should be, but I think the message is conveyed," Unseld Jr. said. "I think he has a good sense and beat of the pulse of the group, which is an important thing because he's been through it."

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Posey's 12 years of NBA playing experience are translated mostly through words now. Now at 45 years old, he doesn't run in scrimmages with the players anymore, though he does join them in shooting drills from time to time.

At a recent practice, he lined up with Anthony Gill and Isaiah Todd to take turns knocking down midrange jumpers set up by a rebounding machine. Posey found a rhythm as he worked through spots around the court, but it's a different story trying to keep up with young, world-class athletes from baseline to baseline.

Posey's duties with the Wizards include scouting an assigned group of teams, which he presents in team meetings just as he did in Cleveland. He also helps with player development, including 1-on-1 with Todd when both are in town at the practice facility.

The Wizards are the latest stop in Posey's winding coaching career which began in the then D-League with the Canton Charge, included five seasons with the Cavaliers and then one year in Charlottesville with the University of Virginia's women's team.

Posey got that job through a connection with Naismith Hall of Famer and then-head coach Tina Thompson. Posey first met Thompson when he was playing for the Rockets and she the WNBA's Comets. He asked to rebound for her one day in a shared gym and they have kept in touch ever since.

Posey landed the Wizards job through a link with team president Tommy Sheppard, who was in the public relations department of the Nuggets when Posey was drafted by Denver in 1999. When Thompson and her staff were let go by Virginia, Posey went to the NBA Combine in Chicago to network with league officials.

Sheppard introduced him to Unseld Jr. The two talked again in Las Vegas during the Summer League. Not long after, he got a phone call with an opportunity.

Posey is now back in the NBA, after some time in women's college basketball and also a stint as a podcaster and blogger. He sees all of it as a journey to collect experience on the way to his ultimate goal, one he's not afraid to proclaim.

"I want to be a head coach at the end of the day," he said. "I'm just keeping my head down, working hard and hopefully I'll show enough progress to where the opportunity presents itself. Outside of that, I have fun every day. Every day is another day in paradise. I love what I do."