By Michael McCabe
Professional athletes who play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are the best in the world at what they do. They rely on intense workouts, practices, and meticulously developed pre-game routines to give their teams the best chances of winning. Keeping the players on track in Minnesota is the Quality Control Coach, Nathan Bubes ’12, where he assists the Timberwolves staff and Head Coach Chris Finch with execution and planning.
Nathan’s journey into coaching and operations began at Landon, where he developed his passion for basketball. He played for Andy Luther and John Botti but made the transition from player to Team Assistant in 11th and 12th grade. After Landon, Nathan attended Boston College where he received both his undergraduate and Master of Business Administration (MBA). During that time, Nathan was the Student Manager of the Men’s Eagles Basketball Team. Nathan’s job at Boston College required lots of video work. He would record games and opponents, and then convert them to DVD for the coaches to review with the players.
Boston College gave Nathan his first professional opportunity to learn the ins and outs of basketball operations. He enjoyed his job and wanted to pursue it after graduating, so he took a summer internship at George Washington University, working for their men’s basketball team. There, he met Hajj Turner, the current Head Basketball Coach at Landon.
After his internship at George Washington, Nathan received an opportunity to intern for the Los Angeles Lakers during their 2018-19 season. Nathan had reached out to a former colleague who was still at Boston College and asked him if he knew of any teams looking for assistants. It just so happened that his Boston College connection knew through word of mouth that Luke Walton, former Head Coach of the Lakers, was looking for help. Nathan was hired and he was tasked with helping the players, Lebron James and Anthony Davis included, with rebounding, towels, and video preparation.
After the 2018-2019 season with the Lakers, Luke Walton recommended Nathan to Head Coach Alvin Gentry of the New Orleans Pelicans. Nathan was hired by Coach Gentry and assisted the Pelicans in the Orlando “Bubble.” By then, Nathan had professional NBA experience, so he was hired as the Assistant Video Coordinator.
Before the start of the 2021-22 season, Minnesota hired Chris Finch, then an Assistant Coach under Alvin Gentry, away from New Orleans to be the new Head Coach of the Timberwolves. Coach Finch had gotten to know Nathan in New Orleans and made him an offer to join him in Minnesota with increased quality control responsibilities.
On any given day, Nathan is tasked with keeping the team running smoothly. Rather than recording video himself, he now delegates those responsibilities to others. He helps plan out practices, and texts the daily schedules to the players. He even helps make high-stakes recommendations to Coach Finch as to whether a foul should be challenged.
Nathan is enjoying his career path, which has him headed towards becoming a Head Coach. If that opportunity never materializes for him, he is confident that he could transition to a front office in some capacity. A role like this could involve any number of responsibilities, such as trades, player compensation, human resources, or marketing, to name a few. “I wanted to get my MBA so I could have as many options as possible,” said Nathan. “Coaching is great, but the business side of the NBA is interesting to me as well. I certainly would not mind a career in a front office. But obviously I love the track that I am on and hope it continues. Coach Finch is great, and I am learning from him and the other coaches every day.”
We asked Nathan to reflect on Landon and its role in igniting his passion for basketball operations. “Landon’s competitive environment pushed me to be balanced in my pursuits. There were teachers such as Andy Luther, John Botti, Ted Ogden, and John Gordon who pushed me. They taught me how to relate to those who are older. This has come in handy because I am so much younger than most of the coaches I work with in the NBA. I also remember how Operation Smile, which was run by Alfredo Benevides, was a wonderful experience for me. It taught me how to organize an event, which is a skill that I use here a lot in Minnesota.”
While basketball has become Nathan’s career and passion, he also noted that he gained a deep love and appreciation for golf at Landon. “I played on the golf team with Morgan Egloff ’15 (now playing on the PGA circuit) for Head Coach Jack Duquette. Golf is my other passion, and I still play to this day as much as I can.”
While Bethesda might always be a Wizards town; we will keep an eye on the Timberwolves and Nathan as they make a run for a championship. It will not be easy, as the Western Conference is loaded with great teams, including the defending world champions Golden State Warriors. However, with a Landon Bear working behind the scenes keeping the players on track, anything is possible.