Adam Caporn never seriously thought he’d have a NBA career when growing up in Baldivis. He certainly didn’t think he’d be in the NBA after injury forced him into a premature retirement from the Perth Wildcats at just 26.
But when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Patty Mills and Ben Simmons take to the court for the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Caporn will be helping head coach Steve Nash in the quest to open the NBA season with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Being a NBA assistant is a world away from his first job as head coach of the East Perth Eagles when he was trying to figure out his life beyond the NBL. But it’s a clear sign of the talent and dedication he’s shown to becoming elite in his field.
“I thought I would coach on the side and get a real job. I had my sights set on that. I loved my time at East Perth,” Caporn told The West Australian’s The Dribble Podcast.
“I was part way through an engineering degree but who knows how I would have got that done and finished. I was going back to school full time and thinking about a future. I was doing bits of work here and there to find my way.
“I just remember having the sentiment of what’s the point of this? I couldn’t figure that part out. I really missed the thrill of competition.”
That thrill of competition has seen him go from winning a title with Matthew Dellavedova at St Marys University in California to helping Australia win a bronze medal at the Olympics. In between, he honed the skills of Australia’s best young players, such as Josh Giddey and Dyson Daniels, while in charge of the Centre of Excellence in Canberra.
But Caporn, 40, admits nothing prepares a coach for the moment they walk into a NBA locker room to work with players like Durant and Irving.
“I don’t think you earn their respect automatically and nor should you. I’m hoping to earn it with good work over the course of time,” he said.
“I’ve been through something similar with joining the Boomers. I joined them from the Centre of Excellence, really coaching under 19s. You just try and let your work speak for itself.
“I think if you’re desperate to impress in a quick manner, that is not a good approach. I think once you come in there, and you’ve done your preparation and you’re ready to work, basketball practice starts and you try to help out.
“Helping those guys is very different to helping under 19s. You just try to find a way to contribute.”
Moving across the world with wife Marcia and two young children has posed challenges. But Marcia was an elite athlete too, an All-American in both golf and soccer.
Having a strong bond with Mills, which was strengthened by winning the bronze medal, has helped his integration into Brooklyn. Caporn also had a year building his reputation through the Nets’ G-League team and while in charge during the NBA Summer League.
But while the NBA’s bright lights and excitement will send basketball fans into a frenzy this week, Caporn’s professional approach is helping him to avoid the hype.
“You can’t escape thinking like a coach,” he said.
“I’m really excited for it but I know the season is an epic deal and a marathon. I think the nature of coaching is you’re not thinking about yourself too much. You’re thinking about the enthusiasm of the players and helping them put in a good performance.
“But it’s pretty cool. Being in the NBA is definitely good fun.”