Hennigan’s Former Coach Dishes on the NBA’s Youngest GM
Friday, June 22, 2012
"We heard from the television station and the paper in Orlando, and they said (Hennigan's hiring) was pretty close to happening," Foley said. "And when I heard that I was just so thrilled for Robbie. He's such a great kid, and to come so far so quickly, it's really something."
Foley and Hennigan led St. John's to a state championship in 2000, becoming the first Central Mass team to win a state title in 27 years. In his 30 years with the Pioneer program, Foley has coached numerous standout players, but he will always remember Hennigan as one of his favorites.
"Number one class kid from the word go," Foley said. "Great family, the father and mother are great people. He was kind of the perfect kid at St. John's, and was a really quiet kid. Very unassuming, and it's just interesting to see a nice kid like that go so far."
Foley credits Hennigan's work ethic for climbing the NBA's executive ladder so quickly. At the age of 30, Hennigan is the youngest General Manager in the NBA. Foley, who Hennigan calls a "pure basketball mind," says his former player is walking into a tricky situation in Orlando.
The Magic recently parted ways with GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy, while star center Dwight Howard has been hot and cold about his desires to stay in Orlando. Foley says that Hennigan will have plenty to do when he first gets on the job, but this position could also be very rewarding.
"He's got his work cut out for him with the Howard situation, and he's got to find a coach," Foley said. "It looks to be one of the more difficult jobs to take, but, on the other hand, I think it's where you want to be. He's pretty much starting from scratch, and that's where they were with the Thunder, and look how they built that team from scratch."
Hennigan is known throughout the league as one of basketball's best talent evaluators. His input led to the Thunder drafting star guard Russell Westbrook, shot blocker Serge Ibaka and 2012 Sixth Man of the Year James Harden in recent years. Foley says that Hennigan has always had an eye for identifying talent early.
"As for him developing talent, we've always felt that a lot of coaches look for finished products," Foley said. "But, can you pick out that kid that in his junior and senior years is going to develop and be a really good player. I remember Robbie back in those days would go down to the freshman and go out of his way to be nice to them, and figure out which one there would help us later on… I guess that's what Robbie's all about."
Foley says he hasn't had the chance to speak with Hennigan since he accepted the Magic job, but would like to in the next few days. The legendary coach has many memories of Hennigan, on and off the court, but what stands out was the way Hennigan played the game and led his team.
"I remember how hard he played, but even more than that, how intelligently he played," Foley said. "He was my best defender. He was the best I ever had at avoiding a screen. He always played the top player on the other team, and the way he melded with his teammates and how they got along, that was a big reason we won. For that team to win the state championship with Robbie as the only kid to play college basketball, that speaks volumes about the way they played together."
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