SALT LAKE CITY — As JD DuBois was thinking about going to the University of Utah in 2012 as a graduate transfer after a stellar career at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, he was dealing with a fair share of personal struggles.
Most notably, he had lived through a period of homelessness and had seen a number of childhood friends from the Los Angeles area get murdered. As he arrived in Utah, DuBois had hope that moving away from home would give him a fresh start as he entered a new phase of his life.
Fast forward almost seven years, and DuBois is now an assistant coach of player development for the Detroit Pistons after breaking into the coaching ranks last season with the Toronto Raptors. Detroit head coach Dwane Casey, who won NBA Coach of the Year last season with the Raptors before getting fired and then hired by the Pistons, said DuBois was one of the first people he called after getting his new job.
“He’s done a heck of a job,” Casey said Monday after the Pistons held shootaround at Vivint Arena before they played the Utah Jazz. “A lot of the guys there in Toronto owe him a lot. Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, he spent a tremendous amount of time with those guys in the summertime when he was in Toronto, and he’s doing the same thing with our guys to get them to that next level.”
DuBois is certainly grateful for the chance to associate with such an elite coach.
“It means a lot when you have a coach that trusts what you’re doing and a coach that you can learn from and one that allows you to learn from him day in and day out,” DuBois said.
DuBois said much of his work as a player development coach centers around building and helping to implement individual improvement plans for each player, where both short and long-term objectives are identified.
Rookie Bruce Brown is one of the players DuBois works most closely with. Brown said DuBois has helped him in a variety of areas, but especially with his shooting, thanks in large part to simply being available for reps.
“If we could get back (to Detroit) tonight, he’ll want to get in the gym,” Brown said.
The 28-year-old DuBois feels as though his proximity in age to many Piston players helps him relate to them, which Brown agreed with.
“When guys miss a couple shots or guys are struggling or guys’ playing time is up and down, I’ve been there, so I can kind of relate to them in a way, but also the person that we’re dealing with every day, I can also relate to the struggles that a lot of them are dealing with,” DuBois said. “Maybe not the same exact situation, but I can definitely relate.”
Having spearheaded various large-scale service projects in Salt Lake City over the years since he first arrived in the city, DuBois has more recently focused on creating opportunities to have conversations about mental health.
Last summer, he organized a panel for youth at East High School with therapist Dr. Corey Yeager aimed at discussing mental health, and is planning another one in Detroit for later this year.
“I know what mental illness and wellness can do, how that can shape you as a person and as a player, and I just want to speak to things that I can personally relate,” DuBois said.3 comments on this story
As he was helping prepare his team to play Utah on Monday, DuBois couldn’t help but reflect on the impact Salt Lake has had on his life and his ascent to an NBA coaching staff.
“I really think coming full circle back to play the Jazz tonight, this city gave me a chance,” he said. “I wanted to be grateful for where I was and work toward something each day. I didn’t know where that would get me, but being grateful for where I was at and each moment, each step along the way, I think has helped me make a fast leap."