Welcoming Vitaly Potapenko back to the Cleveland Cavaliers

I was standing in the Cleveland Indians Social Suite on Saturday afternoon wearing a BROhio t-shirt while discussing the NBA career of former Cavaliers center Vitaly Potapenko.

I had no idea that his return to the Cavs as a player-development coach was imminent. I didn't even actually know that Vitaly was coaching.

Imagine my delight when I heard the news on Monday.

What I felt the need to randomly mention for some reason on Saturday was how cool I always thought Chris Herren's reference to Potapenko was in his book.  

Herren was a teammate of Vitaly's later on in his career when they both played for the Boston Celtics.

On page 165 of the truly inspirational read, Basketball Junkie, Herren described Potapenko like this:

"Vitaly Potapenko was a regular guy, the Ukraine Train. He was six foot nine with a shaved head, and looked like he can be an enforcer in the Russian mob. A tough, blue-collar type, he wasn't afraid of anyone, and nobody f*cked with him."

How could you not be excited to have a guy like this back in the organization?

Not to mention, he also represented the Cavaliers in the 1997 Rising Stars Challenge held in Cleveland at Gund Arena.

Notable participants also included Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Marcus Camby, Antoine Walker, Derek Fisher, Steve Nash and Steph Marbury among others. 


At the 49-second mark in the video above, Vitaly makes his first appearance on a post-up where he is open but doesn't get the ball. At the 55-second mark, though, he does get the feed and brings the house down with a two-handed finish. At the 3:02 mark, Kobe sneaks by him for a basket but don't hate. It's Kobe freaking Bryant.

In the end, the Cavaliers big man helped the home team secure the 96-91 victory while Iverson earned MVP honors. 

The news of Big V's return to Cleveland after all these years as a player development coach on Mike Brown's staff was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Potapenko had been an assistant in the NBA and the D-League, most recently with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

In 1996, he was selected by the Cavs with the No. 12 pick overall out of Wright State–one pick before Kobe Bryant went 13th and two picks before Steve Nash was selected at 15.  
Zydrunas Ilgauskas was later selected by Cleveland with the No. 20 pick in the same draft. 
It's reasonable to assume that Big Z and Big V have stayed in touch over the years. Maybe Ilgauskas had something to do with bringing the Big Fella home, I'm not totally sure on that.
Potapenko kinda looked like a monster initially as a player before suffering a rash of injuries. After averaging 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in three season with the Cavs, he would retire in 2007 after averaging 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds over an 11-year career. 
No official announcement from the Cavs yet on the move, but Woj is usually right.
Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.