Martin Schiller’s debut as head coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, back on Nov. 3, 2017, could not have gone much worse, as the Austin Spurs dealt them a 131-88 beatdown.
Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor couldn’t help but think back to that inauspicious night when Utah Jazz counterpart Dennis Lindsey called early Wednesday to relay some good news.
“We were joking this morning about how in Martin’s first game, I think we lost by 50 to Austin; and now, after his third season, he’s Coach of the Year,” Taylor told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Of course, Schiller wasn’t the only one being handed some hardware. The G League not only announced the Austrian native as its top coach on Wednesday, but also named Taylor the recipient of its Executive of the Year award. Voting was done by the league’s coaches and general managers, respectively.
For his part, Schiller humbly attributed his honor to Taylor’s work.
“We can’t overestimate coaching — it’s about players. Let’s be honest, it’s about the quality of players,” Schiller said. “And I thought the quality of our players, the quality of putting together the team just got better from year to year.”
In Schiller’s three years as coach, the Stars have gone from a .320 winning percentage in 2017-18 to .540 last season to .714 this season.
Though this G League season was ultimately canceled due the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Schiller and Taylor guided the Stars to a 30-12 record that was best in the G League’s Western Conference and second-best in the entire league.
Those 30 wins were the most since the developmental franchise transitioned from the Idaho Stampede to being a Salt Lake City-based affiliate of the Utah Jazz.
“Martin and Bart have worked tirelessly, often behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, to do all they can to put the Jazz in a position to win. Today’s recognitions are well-deserved,” Lindsey said in a statement.
The Stars roster put together by Taylor and guided by Schiller won the G League Winter Showcase in-season tournament in Las Vegas back in December. Schiller was named the Coach of the Month in December after the Stars went 9-1. They also won 14 consecutive games between Nov. 15 and Dec. 27.
This season, the Stars were a strong defensive unit, ranking second in points allowed and fourth in defensive rating; they held opponents to the lowest 3-point percentage and third-lowest field-goal percentage. On offense, they ranked third in the G League in both field-goal percentage 3-point percentage. As a result, they were second in the G League in net rating.
Schiller is also known for his developmental acumen in helping G League players become NBA players — a trend that continued this season with the call-ups of Juwan Morgan (Jazz) and William Howard (Rockets).
And though he acknowledged that he’ll perhaps be judged most by the work he’s done to get various former Stars players ready for significant roles with the Jazz, he measures himself by what he’s able to do for every player on his roster.
“The ultimate goal, obviously, is getting guys better for the Jazz, of course. But it is gratifying for a coach if guys just move on and make [more money elsewhere],” Schiller said. “There are guys from last year’s team whose names people will not remember — Tanner McGrew and Shonn Miller — who were like minimum-minute G League players in other programs and then go on to shine overseas and actually make good money. And that makes me, as a coach, equally proud as Tony Bradley and George Niang.”
Current Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder won the G League’s Coach of the Year award in 2008-09 with the Austin Toros, and Jazz assistant Alex Jensen won it with the Canton Charge in 2012-13.
Schiller is the second coach in franchise history to win top coach honors — Bryan Gates won it back-to-back in 2006-07 and 2007-08 with the Stampede. Taylor is the first front-office member in the organization’s history to win top-executive honors since the G League began awarding it in 2015-16.