FRISCO – George Galanopoulos probably will never forget his 31st birthday.
The date was Mar. 11, and that was the date when the NBA announced it was suspending the 2019-20 season until further notice because of the coronavirus.
“It was my birthday, actually, when we got the news that the NBA was suspending everything,” said Galanopoulos, who is the head coach of the G-League’s Texas Legends. “We had a birthday dinner with the coaching staff.
“They had taken me out. We were watching the Mavericks’ game (against Denver), actually. They had finished that game and everything just kind of had a domino effect from there.”
On Mar. 12, the NBA announced that the G League would also be suspended. At the time, the Legends were tied with the Stockton Kings for fourth in the Western Conference with a 24-19 record.
Because of the tie-breaker, the Legends were seeded fifth and were just half-a-game behind the third-seeded Austin Spurs (24-18) with seven games to play.
Six teams from the Western Conference advance to the playoffs. The Sioux Falls Skyforce (22-20) are seeded sixth, followed by the Santa Cruz Warriors (21-21), Agua Caliente Clippers (22-22) and Oklahoma City Blue (20-22).
“We were in position to make the playoffs, but who knows what would have happened those last seven games,” said Galanopoulos, who is in his first season coaching the Legends. “Five out of those seven games were against teams in playoff contention, so it was going to be a fun race to the finish.
“But we were definitely looking forward to playing in those meaningful games and seeing where it went.”
Indeed, the stars were aligned just right for Galanopoulos in his first season with the Legends.
“For my first year, personally, of being in this role I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be around every day, from the organization — top to bottom — the staff, the operations staff, the players,” he said. “It was an environment there and a culture that was conducive to guys getting better, wanting to come to work every day and everybody enjoying coming into work.
“When you enjoy coming into work, especially when you do what we do, it’s really, really gratifying. And when you look back on it – the season as a whole – that was the best part about it.”
Galanopoulos spent two seasons as the video coordinator for the Dallas Mavericks before becoming the Legends’ coach. He also was the head coach of the Uganda National Team for the past three summers, and has a unique way of preparing for games.
“I thought that one of the things that is conducive to winning basketball games is we didn’t focus on winning, we didn’t talk about winning much,” Galanopoulos said. “We just talked about doing the right things every day, treating each other well, treating each other with respect and coming in and doing our jobs, and it ended up in a successful year from our standpoint.
“We had a really young team this year, but had a good balance with a couple of veteran leaders on the team in Cameron Payne — towards the end of the year – and Brandon Fields.”
Payne was the No 14 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by Oklahoma City and played in the NBA through last season for the Thunder, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. He averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.3 blocks during the week of Mar. 3 when he was named the G-League Player of the Week.
Meanwhile, since the G-League season has been suspended, Galanopoulos has made good use of the valuable extra time he has at his disposal.
“I’ve been in touch with our players kind of reflecting on the season,” he said. “And also watching film and going back and re-watching our games and just seeing where we could have been better, where I can be better as a coach personally, looking back on certain decisions that I made in-game, whether it’s after timeouts or end of close games.
“So, it’s been a good reflection period and a good period to evaluate how we can be better for next season.”
Whenever he leaves home to take a walk while reflecting on the season, Galanopoulos also is practicing social distancing and avoiding human contact when possible. In the meantime, if this season can’t be salvaged, he’s looking forward to next season.
“I’ve learned so much in this role both about myself and about people,” Galanopoulos said. “One thing I’m really excited about for next year is just the opportunity to be better personally so that I can help the people around me — whether it’s leading the coaching staff, leading the team and helping the players and helping these guys individually to get to where they want to go.
“I think having that year of experience under my belt is just going to help me personally be better so that I can better lead the people in our organization.”
Now, about that birthday.
“I’ve got a lot to be grateful about for sure,” Galanopoulos said. “It was my birthday when all this stuff started to transpire. So hopefully (birthday No.) 32 will bring some better news than 31 did, but it was fun nonetheless to be around the guys.”