The Golden State Warriors are adding to their coaching staff by hiring former NBA player and 2015 champion Leandro “The Brazilian Blur” Barbosa as a player-mentor coach.
Barbosa was in the NBA for 14-years and played for Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and the Warriors. In making this announcement, he stated that he will officially retire from basketball to work full-time with the team. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, he last played in his home country of Brazil until their season was called off.
Becoming a Player-Mentor Coach
Barbosa will be given the unique title as a player-mentor coach as he steps away from being just a player and into a new role. In speaking with ESPN’s Nick Fridell, he noted that previous post-career conversations with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is what sparked the possibility of this outcome.
“We had a really close relationship when he was a GM for the Phoenix Suns, so every once in a while we used to talk. And he mentioned to me what I want to do after I played and I always told him that I wanted to be an assistant coach, not a head coach, but be able to talk to the players, kind of teach them, I think I’m kind of good at that. He gave me the opportunity and I talked to the family, my wife, and she said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
Given that Barbosa is still in very good playing shape, having just retired, the role will consist of being on the court with players during practices and aiding with their development, speaking with them about the off the court matters (hence the mentoring aspect), and sitting behind the bench during games to remain with the team.
“I also will be practicing with the guys because I’m capable, I’m still in shape … I will be talking to the players, all the experience that I have over the years that I play on the NBA [stage], I think I have a chance to talk to them and make them understand what this business is all about.”
Off The Bench To A Championship
Barbosa is fitted perfectly for this role as he was seen as a player who could perform on a high level both as a starter and coming off the bench. During his NBA career, he won the 6th Man of the Year Award for his 2006 – 2007 season averaging 18.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while playing 32.7 minutes per game.
His head coach at the time, and now former Houston Rockets coach, Mike D’Antoni spoke to the character of Barbosa revealing “You get really privileged to coach certain [players] and this is one of the good guys in the league,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve really had the privilege of coaching him and watching him mature into a great player.”
The total experience he gained from his career played beautifully on the 2014 – 2015 Warriors team as he was a key member coming off their bench. While his averages may not have been to the level of his previous 6th Man Award-winning production, his ability to control the tempo of gameplay, while remaining level-headed, and within his role during the high stakes play of the playoffs and finals is what helped put that Warriors team over the top.
Filing in for Steve Nash
Barbosa will have big, and familiar, shoes to fill walking into this role as its predecessor is now a full-time head coach. Before the Brooklyn Nets shocked the basketball world by hiring Steve Nash to be their new head coach going into the 2020 – 2021 season, he spent the last 5 seasons as a player development consultant on the Warriors staff.
Essentially, the same role Barbosa will walk into full-time. This could also be a source of comfort for him as Nash and Barbosa were teammates in Phoenix during some of the franchise’s most competitive years. When Mercury News asked about Nash, Barbosa stated “Half of my game is because of him.”
It could be said that Barbosa might not be the player he became without the mentorship of Nash. With his consummate experience over his career and the familial atmosphere of Golden State, his hiring could help their key players return to their championship level form while easing the remaining members into their roles as effectively as possible.