Former Portland Trail Blazers coach Kaleb Canales left the NBA coaching ranks in 2021 to become Associate Head Coach for the Mexican National Basketball Team. Doing so, Canales followed his heritage and roots. But Canales hasn’t given up on his dream of returning to the National Basketball Association as a head coach. His desire and journey were chronicled this week by Katie Heindl of Global Sports Matters in an extensive article on the basketball lifer.
The post delves deeply into Canales’ outlook and philosophy, but also covers his history with the Trail Blazers, where he became the first Mexican-American head coach in league history, serving as interim in 2012:
When the Portland Trailblazers made Canales interim head coach in March of the team’s 2011-2012 season and the NBA’s first-ever Mexican-American head coach, he was tasked with repairing a fractured locker room. He’d been with the team since 2005 and an assistant since 2009, but in order to acclimatize quickly he took to sleeping in the Blazers’ practice facility most nights.
Ultimately, Portland did not promote Canales to head coach in 2012 after the team won eight of 23 games under him. But he was retained as an assistant, a rarity in a league where incoming head coaches tend to clean house in favor of their own selections. The following season, the Blazers’ record improved from 28-38 to 33-49, and while new head coach Terry Stotts held ample coaching experience, his quick adaptation to a roster that remained largely intact as the year before owed a great deal to Canales ‘ intuitive understanding of the team.
Canales continued onward to Dallas, New York, and Indiana before accepting the position with Mexico’s national team:
“My dad is Mexican, I’m Mexican-American,” Canales says. “My culture, my heritage, it was just really a dream come true to get the opportunity to put on that jersey, that shirt, be able to coach these young men and be part of an exciting time of basketball in Mexico. Basketball is ready to explode there.”
As Heindl chronicles, Canales isn’t satisfied to remain where he is, nor who he is. She quotes the coach talking about his outlook on career evolution:
Personal philosophies for leaders, Canales says, also have to adjust. As someone sunny by default, who has only grown more resilient in the breadth and miles his experience has afforded him, Canales has turned tenacity into habit.
“That’s one of the things that I’ve really tried to work on, not only as a coach, but as a person, right?” He says. “Our life changes throughout the years, our perspective shifts at times when we least expect it. Yeah,” he chuckles, “I think I’ve carried [that] a little bit at least to life.”
The piece is much more extensive than we can summarize here, and is worth a read for anyone interested in coaching or personal Trail Blazers.