Ryan Pannone is a professional basketball coach that was coaching the Erie Bay Hawks (NBA G League) as the Coronavirus struck. He has gathered a lot of basketball experience as he began his career with Oldsmar Christian School, Oldsmar, FL. His first break was being an assistant with Wallace State Community College (JUCO). He also was an assistant for clubs like Foshan Long Lions (China-CBA), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, NV), Erie Bay Hawks (D-League)and the Hebeisen White Wings Hanau (ProA). In the last two years he got further experience with teams Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League)
and BC Prievidza (Slovakia-SBL). He spoke to germanhoops.com during the Coronavirus.
Hi Ryan Where are you at the moment and how is your current mood despite the world turmoil at the moment because of the out break of the Corona Virus?
I am currently in Clearwater, Florida. My wife and I decided to come back down to Florida where I am from so it was warm enough to play outside with our son. We were stuck inside in Erie, because it was too cold. I am doing well, spending time with my kids & wife and staying busy trying to study as much European basketball as possible to improve and grow as a coach.
When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?
I did not, but I wasn’t informed on what was really happening. I was so focused on our season and trying to find ways to improve our players and team that I was not paying attention to what was happening in Asia.
How did you experience the last weeks? How did you follow and monitor what was happening in Europe?
The last weeks I have just been focused on being the best father & husband I can be while trying to grow and improve as a Coach. Trying to gain an advantage as Coach. As the virus started to spread throughout Europe I began to really understand what kind of problem it was going to be for us in the united states.
How have you experienced the day to day life in the States with the Corona Virus outbreak? How have you seen that corona effect on the culture there or was it not so much different happening in your day to day dealings?
The virus has allowed me to spend more time at home with my wife and kids, and spend time focusing on watching and cutting film for various projects. It has affected the way we interact with our parents, siblings and friends. The day to day life has taken a major impact as everyone is trying to stay isolated at home.
Did you become more aware about how you handle yourself in public in terms of shaking hands and not being in the line of fire with somebody coughing?
Absolutely. Focusing on having hand sanitizer with you at all times and trying to make sure you wash your hands often.
Basketball leagues have shut down all over the world. How is it accepting a shut down when the season isn’t going so well? In a way you will never really know how you would have finished the season.
For us in Erie we started to play the best basketball of the season. I would have liked to continue to see the growth in our team for the last 7 games.
Before leagues were shut down there was a BCL game in Bonn against AEK Athens and a Fiba Europe Cup game in Bayreuth without spectators. Do you see any kind of advantage having games played without spectators?
The advantage is for the team that plays hard and with high energy without needing fans to bring the energy. Some teams and players thrive off their fans.
How tough is it having the season end this way? What can you do as a coach now day to day when there are no games or full team practices? Is this time a big challenge for you as a coach?
It’s tough, I miss practice, I miss being on the floor. I am trying to focus on an end of year season review of our team on how we can improve for next year. I am also trying to pick a few weaknesses as coach that I can study and improve on. Trying to use this time to become a better father, husband and coach.
Lets talk about your current season. It wasn’t a great season for Erie Bay Hawks (NBA G League) as the team had a 13-30 record when the season ended. Is it making an excuse saying the team was too young to be as successful as you would have wanted to be?
As we all know it is difficult to win in any league with a bunch of rookies on your team. Your goal is to try to grow them week by week and help them be ready for the next level. It is also tough being an expansion team in the G-League. It is similar to a team moving up from 2nd division to 1st division. Our main problem was injuries. We had 11 players miss close to 80 games due to injury. Then players have to comeback on a minutes restriction for the first 5-6 games.
This was your first time as a head coach at the pro ranks. How challenging was the season and what did you learn about yourself during this season?
I was a head coach of BC Prievidza in Slovakia. The Challenges in the G-League are much different than in Europe. Lack of practice time, consistently changing roster & the amount of travel are all different than in Europe. Europe is a more tactical game, because every game matters. Every possession matters. The mentality is not the same in the G-League so the problems that you face are totally different.
It is no secret that in the G-League the talent level on G-League teams is very diverse. Often NBA teams have their eyes only on a certain number of players and the rest don’t concern them. How difficult is it in general to coach a G-League team and do you sometimes feel like your hands are tied not being able to coach the way you may like to?
I was very fortunate to have the New Orleans Pelicans management, Coach Alvin Gentry and Chris Finch and what their expectations were for our team. They wanted us to run their main offensive system and allowed me to put in some of my own sets & actions. They gave me freedom as a Coach to try different ATO’s and thoughts that I had. Your hands are not tied so much as a coach from your NBA organization, your hands are tied because of your lack of practice & preparation time for an opponent. In the G-League you have to focus more on your team and your system than the opponent.
You had your first stint with the Erie Bay Hawks (NBA G League) in 2014-2015 and since then you have coached in countries like Germany, Israel and Slovakia. How have you developed further as a coach and how are you a better coach today than 6 years ago?
The European game has had a major impact on my philosophy and beliefs. I love the way the European game is played offensively. I love how much pressure there is to win every game. The preparation and mindset you have to have for every game. The European basketball is the most beautiful basketball in the world to me.
You were an assistant coach with top club Hapoel Jerusalem in 2016-2017 and in 2018-2019. You had the pleasure of coaching ex top NBA player Amare Stoudimire twice. What do you remember most about coaching him and there has to be that amazing story that you will never forget about the kind of guy he was.
What goes unknown about Amar’e is his love for the game. I have worked with over 50 NBA players and other high level EuroLeague, EuroCup professionals, and nobody loves the game as much as Amar’e. He wants to workout & watch film all the time. He wants to be coached and to become the best player he can be. Amar’e would get approached in the airport by multiple fans, and he would sit there and have an authentic and real conversation with random people. He didn’t blow people off. He took pictures with every fan that asked. He is an amazing person.
In between your coaching in Israel, you coached a season in Slovakia with BC Prievidza. What kind of experience was that and what do you feel did your coaching gain most seeing the Slovakian style of play?
The experience was GREAT. We had amazing fans and atmosphere. It allowed me to gain successful head coaching experience which is hard to come by. It allowed me to show I can be successful as a head coach.
2015-2016 was your first coaching gig in Europe in Germany with Pro A team Hebeisen White Wings. There you were the assistant for Simon Cote. You guys had a good chemistry The team finished in 11th place that’ season. What was your wake up call to being a coach in Europe for the first time where you knew that you were far away from home?
Coaching in Europe had been a goal of mine for a while. My wife really wanted to live in Euorpe. The wakeup call was the ball movement and player movement that the European teams played with. The importance of team play and nobody is more important than the team.
You had your first professional gig with the Foshan Long Lions (China-CBA) in 2012-2013. In terms of basketball was it a huge culture shock coming from the States to China? Is the word defense a foreign word in that league?
The basketball in China is totally different from America and Europe. It is mainly centered around your 2 imports and if you have 1 or 2 good Chinese players. They really want high scoring games in China to entertain the fans. I really enjoyed my time living and coaching in China. It was a great growth experience to live there and work for Coach Joe Whelton. Coach Whelton had coached in Europe for 20+ years so he was the first one to teach me the European concepts.
You spent many years at Oldsmar Christian School as an assistant getting your first real experience as a young man. What do you feel did you learn in your early days that formed a coaching identity that you have kept since then?
I was an assistant for 2 years and a head coach for 5 years. The best experience was being a head coach, working on developing your philosophy and ability to manage a team and run a program. You get Head Coaching reps which are very difficult to come by.
You also paid your dues at Wallace State (CC) after many years at Oldsmar Christian School. What do you feel was vital that you were able to soak up as a coach that would help you make the next jump into the pro ranks?
It was a great opportunity to go back to being an assistant coach after being. A head coach for 5 years. To learn and grow was important for me.
Please name a player where you are most proud of how they were able to develop under you and beyond?
To be around Kevin Martins development over his career was amazing.
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore. Which 4 heads past or present would you chose?
Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley & Red Auerbach
What was the last movie that you saw?
I just rewatched Taken.
Thanks Ryan for the chat.