SALT LAKE CITY — Martin Schiller wasn’t alone on his flight from Germany to the United States of America last fall.
Once his plane touched down here on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, the newly hired Salt Lake City Stars coach experienced the moment with his wife, Katja, and young daughters, Milou and Ida.
At that time, coming to America wasn’t just the title of a movie to the Schiller family it became reality for them once they sucked in the thin Utah air.
After previously living in Europe, they quickly found a way to adjust, but not without noticing any changes.
“The craziest experience, I don’t know,” said Schiller, who already spoke English. “I think there’s a lot of things but I think overall the size of things here (in America) is a big difference.
“The cars are huge, everything you buy in the stores are huge, the streets are wide and everything seems to be XL compared to Europe,” he described. “I would say that’s one of the biggest things.”
With a year of G-League head coaching experience under his belt, plus a summer of assisting with the Jazz coaching staff during pre-draft workouts and Summer League games, the 36-year-old feels much better heading into Year 2.
Open tryouts for the Stars are set for Sept. 22, the organization also holds the top pick in the upcoming 2018 G League draft on Oct. 20 then training camp will start Oct. 22.
“It’s an opportunity to both scout for available talent and to also offer members of the community a memorable experience,” Stars president Jonathan Rinehart said of open tryouts. “I hear from people all the time saying ‘I could be playing in the NBA or the G League if only the right people would see me play or just give me a chance.’ Well here’s that opportunity.
“We’re inviting anyone and everyone 18 or older who is looking for a legitimate shot, or even just someday wants to be able to tell their kids or grandkids they once tried out for an NBA G League team to sign up and show us what they’ve got,” he added. “Here’s your chance to play in front of Stars and Jazz coaches and scouts and take that shot.”
Despite Schiller finishing 16-34 in his first season with the Stars, Jazz coach Quin Snyder continued to encourage Schiller all throughout the season via text messages and other forms of communication. Snyder understood the value of that experience, having previously coached the Austin Toros of the then NBA D-League from 2007-2010 while learning from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“I really appreciated how he supported me, especially at the beginning when we were not that good,” Schiller said of Snyder. “There were a couple of phone calls and text messages that were simply very encouraging and I really respected that.”
Wins and losses weren’t the main concern; it was about using the G-League pipeline to develop guys for the Jazz — most notably Tony Bradley and two-way players Erik McCree, Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long. Twenty-five different players were listed on the Stars roster throughout the course of the 2017-18 campaign, which forced constant changes in Schiller's lineups.
“He really let me in,” Schiller said of Snyder. “I’m in the coaches meetings, during games I’m allowed in the locker room, and in training camp. I’m part of that so he really takes care of me, which I’m very thankful for.
“I’ve learned from him a lot of things, especially managing your staff.”Comment on this story
So with that advanced understanding of the job and overall comfort in Utah, Schiller continues to add more international flavor to the Jazz organization. At the time of his hiring, he became the fifth internationally-born head coach in G League history but that overseas experience and player development expertise makes him and the Stars a major asset to the Jazz organization.
Before joining the Stars, the Vienna, Austria native served as an assistant for the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the German Bundesliga from 2015-17 and the German National Team.
However, coming to America wasn’t so bad after all.
“It has been a very nice experience,” Schiller said. “Very, good cultural experience for me and the family.”