Luhm: D-League honor finally puts spotlight on ex-Ute Alex Jensen
The NBA Development League announced its 2013 Coach of the Year this week.
Maybe you recognized the name: Alex Jensen.
A former high school star at Viewmont. A former player on some of the best teams in University of Utah history, including the NCAA runner-ups in 1998.
Right. That Alex Jensen.
Now don't worry if you didn't immediately put a face with the name.
Low-key and team-oriented, Jensen never has sought the spotlight and rarely has been the center of attention.
At Utah, coach Rick Majerus made the headlines, along with future NBA players like Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller and Michael Doleac.
When Jensen's college career ended in 1999, he also got paid to play. With the exception of one season with the Yakima Sun Kings of the Continental Basketball Association, however, his professional career took him far from home.
While Van Horn, Miller and Doleac earned millions of dollars in the NBA, Jensen made his living in Turkey, Spain and Japan.
He played in relative obscurity for nearly a decade before starting his coaching career as an assistant at Saint Louis University.
His boss? Majerus.
Needless to say, the media didn't flock to the young assistant. Jensen stayed in the shadows again and began a coaching apprenticeship that eventually led him to the D-League's Canton Charge.
Just four days before practice for the 2011-12 season opened, Jensen decided he would leave his job at Saint Louis and strike out on his own.
Majerus was less than thrilled, but only over the timing of Jensen's move.
When asked about it, Majerus referred to superstar LeBron James' decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami just 15 months earlier.
"I was Lebron-ed by the Cavs," Majerus told ESPN.
"I told them I'll drive Alex to Cleveland in March and pay his salary. But I couldn't lose him now not when he was in with three recruits and four days before the season."
Jensen admitted "the timing was unfortunate" and Majerus was "caught off guard." But he "had a gut feeling" it was "a job I could not pass up."
After Canton went 27-23 and reached the D-League playoffs in his first season, Jensen guided the Charge to a 30-20 record this season.
Canton won the Eastern Division and qualified for the postseason for the second time under Jensen. The Charge led the league in defense, limiting opponents to 96 points and 30.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Of course, Jensen reacted humbly to his Coach of the Year honor.
That's his way.
"Whenever there's an individual award given out, it's always about more than just one person," he said in a statement released by the team. "I had a great staff and organization working with me. I'm very thankful for that and appreciate their hard work and support."