Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Ben Simmons Will Be Kevin Boyle’s Second No. 1 Pick, Fifth Top-5 Selection
NEW YORK — Only one coach in America has mentored more No. 1 NBA Draft picks in the last seven years than Kevin Boyle.
That would be Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has coached three of the past six No. 1 picks: Karl-Anthony Towns (2015), Anthony Davis (2012) and John Wall (2010).
But when Ben Simmons goes No. 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, he will become the second No. 1 pick coached by Boyle since 2011 when former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick’s and Duke star Kyrie Irving went No. 1 overall. (Irving, of course, helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA championship on Sunday night.)
Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self have combined to coach two No. 1 picks during that same span.
Also in that span, Boyle, a New Jersey native who now coaches national powerhouse Montverde (FL) Academy and will be in attendance at the Draft, will have coached two No. 2 picks — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky) and D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) — and a No. 3 pick — Joel Embiid (Kansas).
“Obviously, with the Sixers making the announcement that Ben’s going to be the first pick, the whole community’s very excited for Ben and for his family,” Boyle said, referring to reports that the Sixers told Simmons they will select him at No. 1.
“For me personally, to have two different guys picked No. 1 in Kyrie and Ben, and two guys at No. 2 in D’Angelo and Mike Gilchrist and the guy nobody knows about, Joel Embiid, he’s going to end up being a great, great player if he can stay healthy, it just makes me feel fortunate to be able to coach all those guys and help them get where they wanted to go.”
Ironically, Simmons and Embiid appear like they will be teammates with the Sixers, who are hoping to reward their fans after several years of tanking with a team that can contend in the East.
Sources confirmed to SNY.tv that the Sixers are looking to trade former Duke big man Jahlil Okafor — possibly to the Boston Celtics for the rights to the No. 3 pick (and possibly former Providence guard Kris Dunn). Because the Sixers will have a glut of big men with the addition of Simmons, they could move Okafor, who had off-court issues during his first year in Philadelphia, or possibly trade former Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel.
Boyle believes Simmons and Embiid could coexist well.
“First of all, Embiid can really shoot the ball,” he said of the big man who has battled foot injuries since being selected No. 3 in the 2014 Draft but was recently cleared to scrimmage. “He has three-point range for a guy who’s 7-foot.”
Boyle suggests that Embiid could take opposing big men out to the three-point line to guard him, leaving things more open for Simmons and his teammates to drive or shoot.
“People don’t know this yet, but if [Embiid] stays healthy I think they’re going to see that,” Boyle said. “And I think they could be a great complement at the four and five. Or they could go real big, with Ben at the one at times and Okafor at the four, and Joel at the center. The big question there is can Joel or Okafor guard a four. If they can, then it’s a scary team. Then you have 6-10, 7-foot, 7-1 in the lineup with two other guys.”
Simmons, meantime, credits Boyle with mentoring during his time at Montverde, during which the program won three straight Dick’s HIgh School National championships.
“Winning three national championships was really awesome, but also [I remember] how hard we worked every single day,” Simmons told SNY.tv of Boyle. “He really demanded a high level from everyone, all the time.”
Simmons added: “He always helped me understand what I needed to do at the next level to be great. He never let up on me, pushed me really hard.”
Boyle was linked to the Rutgers job this past spring, which ultimately went to Steve Pikiell, but Simmons agreed Boyle would make a good college coach.
“Yes, he would,” Simmons said.
Simmons also said top players would want to play for Boyle in college.
“I think they would, he has a really good track record in high school,” Simmons said. “The caliber of players he has coached really speaks volumes about how good he is.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.