When I first spoke with Mark Price, for a Cleveland.com article published last April, he was working under Stan Van Gundy as an Assistant Coach with the Orlando Magic.
Prior to the 2011-12 campaign, Price had worked his way up the NBA coaching ranks—as Cleveland Jackson eloquently detailed yesterday—on staffs led by Mike Fratello, Mike Woodson and others.
Based on his extensive coaching experience, as well as his success learning the professional game as a player under a long list of Hall of Fame coaches, I assumed Price would emerge as a potential candidate for future head coaching positions all over the NBA.
Like most up-and-coming assistants, Price was named Head Coach of the Orlando Magic's Summer League Team just after we spoke.
The Magic, however, eventually fired Stan Van Gundy's entire staff just prior to the 2012-13 season. Price elected to keep his family in Orlando and not force his son—who has since signed a letter of intent to play collegiately at TCU—to relocate during his senior year of high school while pursuing other coaching opportunities.
Knowing this, I've thought for several weeks that Mark Price should be a head coaching candidate for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the event Byron Scott was fired.
I've discussed this possibility at length with Cleveland Jackson and others behind closed doors at Stepien Rules Headquarters throughout the month of April. Those conversations only increased in frequency and detail following Scott's firing on Thursday.
As anyone who stopped by on Friday is now aware, there are more reasons why Mark Price should be the Cavaliers next Head Coach than most fans initially realize.
But before we got too carried away in nominating Price for the job, we decided, I should at least find out if he was even interested in it.
To do specifically that, I called Mark Price on Friday.
He was nice enough to take my call.
He went on to be even nicer by answering my questions.
I told him that my website, StepienRules.com, is endorsing him as the next Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He laughed. Then answered my questions.
Throughout our conversation, Price made clear multiple times that he was in no way campaigning for this position. I cannot overstate this point, either. The actual context of our conversation is critical to understand before reading the transcript below.
This was me making a phone call and him being nice enough to field a few questions about coaching in the NBA before going back to his legendary life as Mark "Freaking" Price.
With this background and context in mind, our conversation was as follows.
StepienRules: Do you have any interest in the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job?
Mark Price: I would definitely be interested in the job, but they have not contacted me.
StepienRules: Since we last spoke, you were the head coach of the Orlando Magic's Summer League Team. How was that experience for you?
Mark Price: It was a fun environment. I had the opportunity to coach a group of young players, implement my vision for the team, and I enjoyed the experience. The Magic had let everybody else go at the time, and I had to put together what we were going to do from practices to the games, while also helping with the roster. So I got to touch on a lot of different areas of the job and it was a valuable learning experience as a coach.
StepienRules: Do you feel like your experience in player development on the NBA level would help you connect with a young core on a rebuilding team like the Cavaliers, for example?
Mark Price: Yeah, I do. This Cavs group actually reminds me a lot of my playing days when I came in with Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper, myself and a bunch of rookies—playing together as a young group and then growing together. So that experience as a player has always helped me understand the development side in the NBA.
I've worked with a lot of young players over the years as far as player development and coaching, and I definitely enjoy that. I've always had a good relationship with my players. I really love teaching the game and helping guys get better.
StepienRules: You've coached with guys like Mike Fratello and Mike Woodson, as well as most recently with another good one in Stan Van Gundy. Can you talk about what you've learned from Stan, along with the others you've worked with?
Mark Price: I’ve been fortunate to have played for a lot of great coaches—Hall of Fame Coaches. But I’ve also gotten to work, like you said, alongside a lot of great coaches as well. Guys who are doing really well right now too, like Mike Woodson and the Knicks for example.
Working with Stan Van Gundy was a great experience. I feel like one of Stan’s strengths is preparation and defense and there is not a more prepared guy, night-in and night-out, than Stan Van Gundy. I learned a lot being a part of his staff, working with Stan, and then I learned a lot working with Mike [Woodson] as well.
Every coach–coaches that you played for or coached alongside–you take things that you learned from those guys. I've always tried to combine those different things, while also incorporating my own personality to find what works best.
StepienRules: I read that you've worked with Rajon Rondo during the offseason over the years a little bit at the Mark Price Academy, as well as coached Josh Smith all the way back in high school?
Mark Price: Yeah, I was Josh’s high school coach his freshman year, so I had him when he was very young. You could tell at that time he was going to be a very talented player. I had no idea he was going to go from high school straight to the NBA, but he’s gone on to have a great career for himself.
Then yes, as far as Rondo, I started my player development seven or eight years ago in the summer and have had more and more pro guys coming by. Rajon has come through, Lou Williams, and a lot of other guys as well.
StepienRules: You mentioned the importance of defense as it related to your time with Van Gundy; Mike Woodson's Knicks have defended very well this season too; can you talk about your approach on that side of the ball as a coach?
Mark Price: Every good team in the playoffs has the ability to score the ball. If you’re playing in the NBA, you’re a good offensive player. But the teams who pride themselves on executing defensively are the ones who win and advance in the postseason.
It begins with developing a culture of commitment on the defensive end of the floor.
The pro game is about pin-down screens, pick-and-rolls, post-ups, everybody has a different little take here or there, but it all comes down to defending the same kinds of things. It’s just about developing the scheme and getting your guys to buy into that commitment to defend.
Photo: Stephen M. Dowell, ORLANDO SENTINEL / July 10, 2012