After a 13-year NBA career, Corey Brewer made the transition
to coaching last offseason when he joined the New Orleans Pelicans
as a player development coach. He wrote this article about his
first season as an NBA coach and his work with the Pelicans' young
I wasn’t quite ready for my playing career to be over just yet,
but when I was presented with the opportunity to join Stan Van
Gundy’s staff as a player development coach for the New Orleans
Pelicans last offseason, it was too good of an opportunity to pass
up. I always wanted to become a coach and I never imagined I’d get
to cut my teeth in New Orleans, but here I am.
After my first season, I’ve learned quite a bit. I consider
myself lucky to have the opportunity to learn from Stan, who’s a
master of detail. I played 13 years in the league and had some
outstanding coaches — Kevin McHale, George Karl, Rick Adelman and
Mike D’Antoni, to name a few. I’ve learned so much from each of
them and have been able to blend their teachings with what I’ve
learned from Stan. And I can tell you, it takes a lot of hard work
and commitment to be an effective head coach in this league.
In New Orleans, we have such a talented group of young players,
the sky is truly the limit. Even though this is my first season on
a coaching staff, I know that 2020-21 was unlike any we’ve seen
before. As a player, I looked at practice as an opportunity to work
with my coaches and learn my teammates’ tendencies The
practice time was definitely limited this season.
Funny thing is, though, I actually played with a few of our
players, and since they were my former teammates, I think it gave
me an advantage. I played with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh
Hart in Los Angeles and with Steven Adams in Oklahoma City. The
trust and familiarity with those guys is already there, so that
Being around Zion Williamson helped, too. It’s hard to not be
excited when you're around someone like him. You can’t truly
appreciate him unless you’re around him every day. He’s just
As for the rest of the guys, B.I. is a budding All-Star, Lonzo
just had his best season and Josh is getting better every single
day. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaxson Hayes are
going to have long, productive futures in this league. With all of
these guys, I’m so happy to be able to play a small part in their
As a player development coach, I’ve worked with these players
and tried to help them reach their full potential. In all facets of
their game, the goal is to go from being “okay” or “good” to
“excellent,” and that’s true whether you’re talking about shooting,
passing or ball-handling.
Improvement requires a lot of work during the season as well as
in the offseason. So we’re just taking it one day at a time and
trying to be the best that we can be. We’ve made some great
Zion truly puts the work in. He’s been working on his shot a lot
and is so diligent; he really goes hard. He’s already so great at
attacking the basket and being physical, so the next step for him
is to add some midrange and continue to develop his three-point
shooting. If he’s able to become consistent out there, it’ll open
up things for him and his teammates. It’ll also make him literally
What’s incredible about him is the fact that even though he’s
been getting so much attention for so long, he’s so humble. He
really wants to be a great player and is really willing to put in
the work. If you didn’t know him, there’s no way you’d ever know
that he’s been a household name for so long.
You can tell that he’s not satisfied with where he’s been or
what he’s achieved. He approaches his career as if it’s just
beginning, and that’s so refreshing. His positive attitude along
with his unprecedented combination of size and athleticism is
He’s one of one. I’ve never see anything like him. But the best
part is that you know he’s not satisfied.
Brandon gets better each game. He’s only 23 years old, and his
focus for a young player is incredible. Along with Zion, they’re
going to make New Orleans a force to be reckoned with for years to
come. Brandon himself is going to be one of the top players in this
league for a long, long time. What’s been most reassuring about him
is that even though he’s been getting individual attention and
accolades, his focus is always about what he needs to improve on to
make the team better.
At the end of the day, he knows that in order for the team to
get to the next level, he needs to continue to improve, and that’s
his priority. We’ve been working with him on making quicker
decisions, getting to his spots and learning how to counter the
looks that defenses are giving him. He’s not a secret anymore;
other teams are building defensive gameplans around him and his
ability to adjust and learn how to read coverages is really what’s
going to help him remain productive and help the team compete every
He and Zion give us a one-two punch of young All-Stars that a
lot of teams don’t have. We’re grateful for that.
If there’s one thing that everyone has been wanting Lonzo to do,
it’s shoot more. His shot has come such a long way, and assistant
coach Fred Vinson is especially proud since he’s been working on it
with ‘Zo so much. The improvement has been amazing. Whenever I talk
to Lonzo, the main thing I tell him is to be more aggressive and
keep opposing defenses honest. He has all the tools to be an
effective scorer in the league, but he’s such a willing passer that
sometimes he comes across as being a little passive.
This past season, he took a major step forward, though, not only
with his shot, but also his ability to play at different speeds and
see the floor. He’s a budding floor general.
At the end of the day, the more aggressive Lonzo is, the more
aggressive the team is and that’s a net-positive for us. His game
fits so perfectly with Zion and B.I. that, with those three, we
have a chance to be a really good team. It’s exciting!
I had the opportunity to play with Lonzo in Los Angeles and his
shot has come such a long way since then. He plays the game at his
own pace and doesn’t really force anything; it’s just a matter of
balancing his patience with some aggression, but overall, he has
all the qualities of a truly great point guard.
Nickeil is going to be a big-time scoring guard in the league
for years to come. He doesn’t really get the same kind of attention
as some of our other players, but he’s gonna get there, trust me.
He has a lot of stuff in his game, and even though he’s still
figuring out his strengths, he’s going to be a dangerous, dangerous
Earlier this season, he scored 37 points against the Clippers in
Los Angeles, so you can see the potential. He’s had some other big
games, too, so you know his future is bright. Even right now, he
has a good midrange game, and once his finishing gets better, he is
going to be really tough to stop.
I’ve watched a lot of film with Josh, and like B.I. and Lonzo, I
played with him in L.A.
When you're playing with Brandon and Zion, you’ve gotta be able
to move off the ball and be a good cutter, because they just
attract so much attention. I think that’s the main thing that will
help him get some easy buckets for us, and that’s what most of our
film studies have focused on.
Josh is probably the best rebounding guard in the NBA today and
his jumpshot is getting better every day. He’s been incredibly
receptive to the pointers we give him on both ends of the court,
and defensively, he can effectively guard 1-4. He’s also a good
ball-handler and, overall, a very versatile player. He can
literally go to any team in the league and be super effective, but
I’m happy we have him.
Kira Lewis Jr.
Kira is one of the fastest guys I have ever seen. His speed is
elite. At this point, he’s still trying to learn the game a bit
more and learn how to slow down while maintaining his aggression,
and it’s a process. We know he can get to wherever he wants on the
floor, and that’s something that’s going to help him have a
productive career in the league, but he has to get better at
In terms of his shooting, he’s improved quite a bit, and once he
puts it all together, he’s going to be really tough.
In some ways, he reminds me of young point guards like John Wall
and Derrick Rose. When they first came into the league, they would
rely on their speed more than anything else, and even though that’s
a dangerous weapon, you’ve gotta have other assets in your game.
Kira understands that. I will say that this year has been so tough
for rookies because there wasn’t much practice time. Learning in
games is tough, so I give him a lot of credit for the strides he’s
Jaxson is an elite athlete, especially for someone with his
size. He’s just 20 years old and I think the main thing for him is
to get stronger. Steven Adams’ arrival has taken some of his
minutes away, but he has continued to work hard and he has all the
tools necessary to be a difference-maker for our team.