The NBA 2K League is full of amazing players but behind the scenes are the league's head coaches.
During games, they can be seen patrolling the sidelines, calling out plays and ensuring the players are doing all they can to secure a win.
The life of an NBA 2K League coach is no different than any other pro-sport. They worry about the next game, planning the next course of action and all the while, letting the players blossom into the best they can become.
Guiding Cavs Legion GC is Austin Peterson.
As a coach, Peterson, an Ohio native, oversees the team’s day-to-day practice routine and schedule, player performance, and strategy, as well as the overall team health and wellness program.
That is plenty for Peterson to handle but in this sit-down with the Spurs Zone, he reveals he embraces it all with the utmost professionalism.
Jeff: Let's get right to it. What is it like to be a head coach in the NBA 2K League?
Peterson: Well, we have a great group of guys first of all and this is my first job in the 2K League. I just know that these six guys that we have makes it fun, makes it enjoyable and they definitely make it easy on me. We have some of the highest I.Q. players in the league, some of the most mature players in the league, and some of the best communicators and leaders in the league. As a coach that's really what you want in all your players.
I think that working with Anthony Muraco to pick out the best fitting guys. It's not always about raw talent. And the games not played on paper, so the best teams from a pure talent stand-point don't necessarily always win. So it's not just about finding the best guys who can go out there and score 30 points, but the guys who can have all the abilities because there's a lot of sacrifices.
These guys in the offseason play Pro-Am. They're usually the stars of their Pro-Am teams, or when they play with their friends its like they're used to playing different positions, but a lot of sacrifice goes in, and these guys are more than willing to do it for a greater cause, and I think that just getting them to buy in has been one of my biggest goals for the year.
We always say, five guys moving on a string both offensively and defensively. And it starts with communication. They're great communicators, they know the game. You know, they almost know it too well to a point where they feel like they don't need to talk, and that's when we start to not perform to the best of our abilities. But this group of guys has definitely made it an easier job for me.
Jeff: During the regular season and in tournaments, what would you say is the most challenging?
Peterson: We prepare for every game the same. We watch the film on the last few games the teams played. Get some in-house statistics on the matchups, who we think we're going to guard. It really starts the week before. You're trying to scrimmage teams, schedule teams to scrimmage against during that week that you think would be beneficial.
So like, if we're playing a post-scorer on Friday, we're trying to scrimmage against other teams that have post-scorer build. So, it really starts the Monday or the Sunday of the week, just breaking down film and constantly communicating. Just getting everybody on the same page is all. I guess that would be my biggest challenge and just making sure everybody doesn't get too high or doesn't get too low, doesn't overreact to things especially that we can't control.
I definitely tell them it's an imperfect game, it's a great game, but it's an imperfect game. It's basketball and life. There are things that happen in the game that you can't control and as long as they focus 90% of the time on what they can control I think to us that's an advantage.
Jeff: On the sideline, whether the team is up big, down big, or it's a competitive game like, what is the one thing you always tell your guys as a head coach?
Peterson: Just keep talking, keep talking to each other. I mean, we just completed the biggest comeback in 2K history. We were down 24 to the Timber Wolves.
Again, it was just the belief that they had in each other, and the belief they had in the system, the infrastructure, and our preparation. We feel like we can win every game that we can go into. Until the clock hits triple zeros, one way or another, that's all that I ask of them.
Just keeps communicating with each other, stay present, be in the present. I feel like basketball, 2K and life are too often that we worry about. The future, which isn't here yet and the past which is gone. I really just try to keep them in the moment, which is a lot harder said than done.
It's challenging for me as well to move on whether it's quarter by quarter, possession by possession, game by game. It's like tonight. We just had a very emotional win and now we still have another, our job's not done, we still play at 10 o'clock tonight.
Another big game that will have a direct impact on playoff implications.
Jeff: In other words, the team needs to win now.
Peterson: Yeah, I mean absolutely. The goal is to obviously win every single game. Anytime that we step on the floor, just kind of hitting the reset button, getting them focused on their selves at 10. It's something that there's not a huge; guys need to go home, sleep, do whatever, leave the gym. Our guys are just here and now they have to focus on our next game. So, that's the challenging part.
Jeff: As a head coach in the NBA 2K league what would you say is one of the biggest misconceptions about a head coach in the NBA 2K league?
Peterson: I don't really know what other people think. I don't pay too much attention, but I know that explaining to my parents for the first time. They're like, "So, are you playing. You don't have a controller, well then what are you doing? Are you telling another guy how to play?" Because they never see 10 guys in my basement playing 2K, it's usually just me and a friend playing against each other. Just having to explain, it is basketball.
I think that the benefit of this league as opposed to some other eSport leagues is the casual sports fan can turn on the 2K League and see that oh this is basketball, this is 5 on 5. I think the league does a good job of broadcasting what they're about and showing the players on screens, "Oh there are 10 individuals. They're controlling these players."
I kinda just explain that its traditional basketball. It's just that our guys aren't physically taking the shots and setting the screens, but they are controlling the avatar that does. Just like any sport, you need a coach, you need an organization, you need structure, you need film preparation, you need game planning, and that's about what I do.
Jeff: Before you and I spoke, you mentioned to me that you got a lot on your plate. You work with the Canton Charge in the G League. How is that? How do you balance all that?
Come back next week for part 2 of this exclusive interview with Cavs Legion's Peterson.
San Antonio Spurs fans can get the latest on the NBA 2K League by visiting the official website HERE.