The San Diego Cavaliers are bringing the NBA finals to town. You’re probably wondering, huh?

We haven’t had an NBA team in town since Donald Sterling hijacked the Clippers to Los Angeles more than two decades ago, and our two Division I college teams aren’t considered NBA talent factories.

But you could call USD the Cradle of NBA coaches. Especially this year, with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the Eastern Conference title to advance to the NBA finals that begin Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Cavs head coach Mike Brown is one of three former USD players who served as a head coach in the NBA during the 2006-07 season. The other two are the Charlotte Bobcats’ Bernie Bickerstaff and the Sacramento Kings’ Eric Musselman.

Bickerstaff, also a former general manager, is a former player and head coach at USD. He also has been an NBA head coach at Denver, Washington and Seattle. Musselman previously was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Although Bickerstaff relinquished his coaching duties after the past season and is now just in the front office, and Musselman was fired, both have been around the NBA for many years. Musselman was an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies before the Kings hired him.

In addition, former USD head coach Hank Egan, who coached Brown at USD, is a Cavs’ assistant on Brown’s staff.

There are many other NBA connections for USD, including former player David Fizdale, who is an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks.

The challenge now for USD’s new head coach, Bill Grier, is to match these NBA connections with an NCAA tournament status as a regular participant or contender for a berth. With more NCAA tournament opportunities, Grier can point to NBA connections.

In other words, imagine USD baseball, which now enjoys such an NCAA tournament identity, with an alumnus who was the manager of a World Series team.

TOM SHANAHAN

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