Jamie Young coached NBA talent for 23 years and is now an assistant coach with Le Moyne in their first year in Division I.
Jamie Young stands at half-court, hands grasping his knees, a whistle lodged in his mouth, his eyes darting back and forth following the basketball.
The Le Moyne men’s basketball team is running a classic four-on-four drill. The players on defense are yelling “ball, ball, ball!” as they sprint toward the player they are covering, clapping whenever the offense makes a mistake. Eight pairs of sneakers squeak in unison, echoing throughout the gym.
Young is silent as he observes, rocking a green hoodie, black athletic pants and white Jordans that look fresh out of the box. After the ball goes out of bounds, he stands up and signals to the players by waving his hands in various directions, like a conductor in front of an orchestra. On the next play, the offense gets a layup, and Young pulls the whistle out of his mouth to interject.
“Stop. What went wrong?”
“I gave up the middle,” responds one of the defenders.
“Right. Carry on.”
After 23 years working in the NBA, Young now works as an assistant coach for the Le Moyne Dolphins under head coach Nate Champion.
“It’s a pretty interesting story, I would have never thought I’d be here,” Young said.
Champion reached out to Young first, seeking help finding a coaching job when Young was still working in the NBA. Young was unsuccessful, but the two stayed in touch.
“Over the last, I don’t know, five or six years, we developed a relationship where we would talk, once a month, a couple of times a month, about basketball,” said Young.
When Young needed a coaching job, Champion reached out to Young once more, this time offering him a job as an assistant coach for Le Moyne College, a rising Division I program.
“At first, I was a little hesitant, but as the summer wore on and it became Labor Day weekend, I realized I probably wasn’t getting anything this year in the NBA,” Young said. “I didn’t feel like sitting on my couch for a year doing nothing. So I decided, with a push from my wife and son, they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you give it a try? See how it goes?’ So here I am.”
Young and Champion both grew up in Logansport, Indiana. Despite Young being 18 years older, the two knew of each other through their Logansport High School basketball ties.
“High school basketball is a big deal in Indiana,” Young said. “I played at Logansport High School, which had the smallest gym in our conference, but it seated 6,000 people.”
Young started coaching at Greenville University right after graduating in 1998 from Blackburn College, both Division III schools in Illinois. It was around this time that Young first met his wife, Jaynene. The two are now happily married with an eighth-grade son named Jamieson.
From the moment they met each other, Jaynene Young understood basketball was a major part of her husband’s life. At the time, Young’s brother Jason was playing college basketball at D-I Iona University. In March of 2000, Iona made the NCAA tournament, with Jason a starter.
“I just remember his dad making these really long road trips back and forth on the weekend from Indiana to New York to watch Jason play,” said Jaynene Young. “Basketball has always been deeply rooted in that family and the Indiana ties; it’s just always been part of who Jamie is.”
Young ascended from Division III straight to the NBA, becoming an assistant video coordinator for the Brooklyn Nets in 2000, due to his great connections. He was roommates with Frank Vogel, current Phoenix Suns head coach, while working at a basketball camp, and also formed a close bond with an NBA legend’s son.
“I became very good friends with Brendan Brown, who is the son of the great coach and great announcer Hubie Brown,” Young said. “I ended up being the best man in his wedding, so we became good friends.”
In 2001, Young joined the Celtics staff as a video coordinator, replacing Vogel, who was promoted to assistant coach. Young remained with the Celtics for 20 years, spending six as a video coordinator, four as an advanced scout and 10 as an assistant coach.
Despite multiple staff overhauls, Young’s relationships with Celtics higher-ups helped him remain in Boston. One strong relationship he built was with Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations from 2003 to 2021. Another was with Doc Rivers, head coach from 2004 to 2013.
When Doc left Boston for Los Angeles, Young was forced to choose between leaving with Doc or staying with Ainge.
“My plan was to go with Doc to the Clippers,” Young said. “However, Danny came back and said, ‘I really don’t want you to go, I think you’ll like who I’m getting as head coach.’”
The head coach following Doc was Brad Stevens, a fellow Indiana native. The two coaches knew of each other due to their state ties, leading to another head coach keeping Young on the staff.
It wasn’t until Stevens moved to the Celtics front office that Young left the Celtics, heading to the 76ers to coach with Doc Rivers once again.
After two years, Rivers was fired, leaving Young without a job. As available NBA positions dwindled, Champion swooped in and offered Young a job at Le Moyne, where he started coaching this past October.
Young’s extensive experience has been valuable in his time with Le Moyne so far. Despite making a huge change of his own, Young has helped Le Moyne through their difficult D-I journey.
“He’s done a great job of being able to fit in with what we’re doing here, and it’s been a seamless transition,” said Champion. “Obviously, with him having the experiences he has and where we’re trying to go and making that transition to Division I, I think it’s really helped us to have him with all different types of experiences to talk about.”
With the Milwaukee Bucks hiring Rivers as head coach on January 26, halfway through the 2023-24 season, there is a pathway for Young’s return to the NBA. It’s unclear if he would be interested in leaving Le Moyne so soon, but a chance to get back to the league would be hard to pass up.
Looking beyond his current Le Moyne tenure, Jaynene Young knows her husband aspires to be a head coach, whether in college or the pros, but what will ultimately dictate where he coaches is his commitment to their family. One thing she does know for sure is basketball will continue to be a focal point of Young’s life for a very long time.
“I don’t ever see him hanging it up, I don’t,” said Jaynene Young. “I think Jamie will keep being around the game forever.”
When practice ends, Young stays late to individually coach Nate Fouts, a redshirt freshman. Four other players and Nate Champion stay to watch the grueling shooting drill. As Fouts runs and shoots from numerous spots on the court, repeating the process over and over, Young rebounds and passes the ball to him. Young makes both encouraging and teasing comments throughout.
“You remember what Patrick Mahomes did against the Buffalo Bills in 13 seconds? What can you do in 13 seconds?” says Young to Fouts, a Skaneateles, New York native. The players on the bench crack up, entertained by Young’s wit in the face of their out-of-breath teammate.
Despite 23 years in the NBA coaching grown adults, Young’s transition to coaching college kids has been seamless. Basketball is his passion, and he will always be all in when it comes to the game he loves, no matter the situation.
As Fouts struggles to muster up anything beyond a slow jog, Young continues to fire passes into the freshman’s hands.
“You tired yet?” he asks. “You shouldn’t be. There’s still a lot of time left.”