After being away from the NBA for nine seasons, Daniel “Booby” Gibson is attempting a comeback in a different role. This time, as a coach with an eye at becoming a full-time scout. He’s gotten his first taste of what that life might be as he’s spent this season as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ G League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge.
Many NBA players pursue a career in coaching soon after their careers end. That wasn’t the case for Gibson. The abrupt ending to his career took him down a different path. Music became his main focus and an outlet to help him cope with depression.
Despite the time apart, the years away from basketball have only reinforced Gibson’s love for the game and desire to never be away from it again. This is something that current Charge players are thankful for.
“That’s my guy!” said Charge point guard Sharife Cooper with a smile when recently asked about what having Gibson on the coaching staff meant to him. “Just having somebody who’s been there before. Played in the league. Played here. It’s great to have people like that who’ve really played basketball in your corner. And he’s just a great person. You can talk to him on the court, off the court. Having someone like that on the staff is monumental.”
That sentiment has also been expressed by the coaching. “Booby has been really impressive,” echoed head coach Mike Gerrity. “He has a great feel and impulse for the game. He has a very good understanding and ability to relate to players. He’s just very good with relationships. They respect and listen to him. For his first time on this side, I’ve been very impressed with how much he’s been able to just bring that to the staff.”
In a recent interview with Fear the Sword, Gibson discusses his path back to basketball, his experience so far with the Charge, his goals in basketball and more.
You’ve had a lot of interests post basketball. What got you back into it?
That’s what a lot of people don’t know about my four Houston AAU teams. Even when I was living in LA spending more time with my son, I’d still spend summers, and some of the winters early on in the basketball season, with my kids back home. They really kept me close to it. Learning different ways how to teach shooting. Learning different ways to motivate guys.
And then after the pandemic happened, my mom had got sick during it. It kind of just shifted my gear a little bit. I wanted to just see how I could still be a part of basketball moving forward. I joined the ACP program [Assistant Coaches Program]. Ended up at the combine coaching, teaching shooting there. Boom. Coach J.B. [Bickerstaff] comes in. He happens to be there while I’m teaching some of the shooting drills. And he’s just like, ‘Booby I didn’t know this was something you was even interested in. If you’re going to do it you probably should do it with us.’
So he invited me to come to Summer League. That’s when I was around Darius [Garland] and a lot of those guys. From there it kept on going until Mike G. [Gerrity] gave me a call and asked if I’d be apart of his staff.
So what’s been the biggest learning experience you’ve had so far with this?
Ummm. I guess really, just finding different ways to motivate guys because you understand it’s a long basketball season. Guys are going to have their ups and downs and have their struggles. I know how to motivate them based on how I played. But it’s learning what pushes guys. Because everyone responds to things differently. Just finding ways to keep guys locked in and motivated even if they’re not playing or getting the minutes they expect. That part is toughest. Everything else comes natural from playing the game and knowing the game from a coaching aspect.
What’s been the most surprising part of being in the G League and this whole experience so far?
I can’t really say nothing really surprised me. They kinda warned me about the travel and everything like that. It made me think that it was far worse than what it is. It’s not bad at all. They just assumed me coming from playing in the league that I’m used to flying charter and all that. But I’m a country boy so it don’t matter to me.
As long as we can get to the gym and hoop that’s all I want to do. I mean, I’m a basketball fanatic. I’m in heaven just being around it every day and watch these guys grow and learn.
What do you hope the next step is for you after this season?
The beautiful thing about being with the Cavs is they allow me to coach and they also allow me to scout. That was something I was really working towards in the ACP program is really learning how to scout. Write reports and do player evaluations and stuff like that. So that I feel like going forward is what I want to veer into, but I also want to continue to do player development.
So I guess it’s still going to be one of those things where I sit down and talk to B YU [Charge GM Brandon Yu] or Koby [Altman] or whoever is in charge of making those decisions. And still come up and kinda create the position that makes sense where I’m still able to do some things on the floor but I’m also still moving up on that side on being a real full-time scout or being able to do player evaluations.
What’s drawn you into the scouting side?
I’m a basketball junkie. A basketball fanatic. I watch high-school, if it’s a girl’s basketball game I’m watching that. College, pro, you name it. If it’s on TV I’m probably gonna watch it. I got a nice little rolodex of players and styles and stuff like that. And so, when these guys ask me about specific players, most of the time I already know them and have seen them.
That’s just enticing to me to be able to help a team maybe find like find a diamond in the rough. And I personally feel like as ex-players, who better than us, that have experienced it and out there on the floor. Who might have an eye for the next kid coming up that someone else might look over. And so that’s kinda why I embrace the role because I feel like I get the opportunity to maybe give a kid a chance that somebody else might not’ve looked at. That’s inspiring.
What do you try to focus on when you look at a player? What do you bring that’s different compared with somebody who hasn’t played?
It’s really like the eye test. I initially look for like, you know, toughness and how they handle themselves in key moments of the game. Whether that’s the fourth quarter, winning time. Or if a guy is having a rough shooting night, how does it affect the way he plays on the defensive end of the floor? The intangibles.
Obviously shot mechanics are big for me because I’m a shooter. But yeah, it’s just more about fluidity and like, there’s just something about having seen so much basketball, when you see a kid is like, he reminds you of somebody else that played that position before. That’s kinda where I got a slight edge because I’m able to compare him with that rolodex that I have and figure out who’s who and what’s what just from experience.
What’s the biggest difference between today’s game and what it was like when you played? I was just looking at your stats, and was surprised you only had 3.6 threes a game.
Yeah, that’s the difference. Now a days you can just get them up. You know what I mean? There’s so much space out there on the floor that you can just get a lot of threes up.
When I was playing, coach was like, first six seconds you can get a three up. That’s a different mentality of firing it. You actually play with a lot more confidence knowing that your coach and your team wants you to shoot threes. So I think that’s the difference. I found my way and still ended up like seventh all-time with the Cavs as far as three-pointers made. So even without letting the clip fly like they do now. My efficiency when I did shoot was pretty high, so I’m cool with that.
Is that something you keep in mind when relating to guys now?
Yeah. I know the analytics of come into the game and kinda changed the way teams prepare and prep for other teams. Definitely, like you instill the most confidence in guys if you get an open one, you make sure you take them. And I’m a pretty good guy to teach shooting. I’m a pretty good guy to instill that confidence. We [coaches] each get a couple guys that we really work with and work on their mental and physical [traits]. I’m always giving them confidence to take that next shot regardless of if they missed a few before that.
Shifting gears a bit, what do you think is the best Cavs team you played on?
Damnnnnn. I mean, I’m just gonna have to go with the 06-07 squad. My first crew that I came in with. With Drew [Gooden], [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas, Sasha [Pavlović}, Larry Hughes was still here, Eric Snow. That crew right there was probably the best crew we had. Because man, we just locked guys up. We played great team defense.
If that team played this current Cavs’ team in a seven-game series, who wins?
We win for sure dude. We still have 23 on our team. This crew that they have though is special. But you have to remember, our crew was more seasoned vets too. You had Z and Drew who had been around for a little while. I think we’d tussle with them and get the edge based solely on experience. But them young guys are on the way. Darius, Don, Ev, JA, that’s a great nucleus and core to build a very bright future.
So does that mean you guys would be winning in 5?
I mean, they got some killers on they team. You know, I’ll be nice and say it’d go seven.
How often does someone bring up Game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals to you?
Here? It’s usually the second thing they tell you. ‘Booby we love you! That game 6 was crazy!’ They remember where they were when it happened. It’s definitely embedded in Cleveland fans’ man until this day. I went to Anderson Varejao’s retirement ceremony recently, and yeah, someone would bump into you and ‘that Game 6 man that Game 6’ so yeah, it’s a moment.
Does it feel good to still be reminded about that game?
Yeah! When I think about it I still get the same goosebumps. The same chills. That moment was special for me. Just being out there hearing everyone calling my name. I’m always humbled by the fact that they still treat me as if I’m playing right. I’m just humble every time someone comes up to me.
Game 5 and everything LeBron did was pretty incredible too.
That was the moment I asked myself, is he better than Mike, while it was happening on the floor. That’s how I felt. This is unreal to be a part of. When he’s making jump shots and stuff like that, you can cancel it.
They were throwing everybody at him that game and he couldn’t be stopped.
They tried the entire roster to try and guard him. Everyone tried and it didn’t work.
Are you surprised LeBron is still playing at this level all these years later?
It’s like I’m surprised, but I’m not surprised. You know what I mean? I used to check his locker and see if he had like a battery pack or something. Like a charging station because he just doesn’t seem human. He’s just built for this. He was born a basketball player. You know what I mean? A 6’ 8” freight train that can do everything.
It’s just great to see someone he invests so much into his body, so much into his routine. And to see him still be able to still be athletic, still be scoring 40 and 50. I’m just happy he got to break that record. He’s the most unselfish player I ever played with and for him to be breaking the all-time scoring record just shows his dedication. It’s great to see.
What have you learned most about yourself through this entire experience with the Charge?
That I just love, love, love, love the game of basketball. Being away from it, like you can do AAU and still work with your guys, but just the comradery of just being around your team. Working with them through the tough times. Bouncing back from the losses. You can’t really get that anywhere else. You know what I mean? That’s been the most special thing, just being able to grow with these guys and realizing, man, I really love the game. I want to be around it for the rest of my life.