On a court full of NBA stars, there’s one person that stands out.
“I didn’t think this would ever happen.”
Not the biggest, or best player on the floor. Just a kid from Kentucky.
“When I was 16 I remember telling my dad that I was going to work in the NBA.”
The Philadelphia 76ers are visiting the Indiana Pacers and today’s shootaround is being led by Coach Tyler Lashbrook.
“I think about coming here as a kid. I came and watched A.I. when I was eight [years old] nine with a buddy. I remember sitting up in the stands dreaming about this and being excited about it.”
His path to making his way out of the stands and onto the floor wasn’t predictable and it wasn’t easy.
“To be here on the other side is pretty amazing. You drive past the arena and you work there. That’s where you go for games. It’s everything I had dreamed of.”
Tyler wasn’t a high school star. He didn’t play college basketball, and he doesn’t have a relative with connections. His road to the NBA began with writing.
“I started basically when I was a junior in college, writing letters to NBA GMs who probably never saw them, or laughed at them.”
As a journalism major at Western Kentucky University, Tyler caught a break writing for some online NBA blogs. That was his ticket to the NBA summer league.
“I ended up not writing anything. I told the guys this is what I want to do. I want to hound NBA people to see how they did it. Luckily, I met some people who were nice to enough to help me.”
After some hand shakes and connections, he later made some follow up calls. Calls that convinced someone to take a chance on him in Philadelphia.
“I got a call from the Sixers and spoke with them on the phone several times. Then I ended up getting asked to come up and packed my Toyota Scion with everything that I could bring and drove twelve hours to a city that I’d never been to and got a hotel.”
A temporary internship that was only guaranteed for a few months ended with the first in a series of promotions of the last six years. He has his passion for the game to thank for some of that.
“He’s very smart man. He watches the game and kind of looks for things that are a little bit different than what most normal people look at when people watch basketball. So he tries to take those things and we try to incorporate it them into our workouts.”
Shake Milton is a second year pro who works with Coach Tyler daily developing into a better player with his leadership.
“I mean he’s been great. He really pushes me to become a better player. I’m very appreciative for it. Off the court we have a great relationship. Off the court he just kind of helps me keep things in perspective. Especially with life as a young player in this league. There’s a lot of ups and downs. He kind of helps me keep my head level,” added Milton.
It’s a daily routine as the team travels the world, but home isn’t easy to forget.
“There’s stuff about Owensboro that’s just as good as Philadelphia. The BBQ is unbelievable,” said Lashbrook of his hometown.
Some may consider him lucky to be working at his dream job, but it’s hard work that Tyler reflects on most, and credits for where he is.
“I think the smartest thing anybody can do that has a dream and what’s to do that and doesn’t know where to start is to find people in the field you want to do, reach out to them, figure out how they did it hopefully you make a few connections and go from there. You’re going to send a lot of emails and lot of them are going to be unreturned, but at some point maybe somebody who does what you do reaches out and says hey here’s my advice. This is how I did it.”
More than half a decade into achieving his dream as a coach, the job has become a daily grind. But on this floor, the kid who sat a few rows up nearly twenty years ago still appreciates where he’s at.
“Every win is amazing and every loss is the end of the world. That’s sort of the reality of professional sports. You can get lost in that a little but then you look around and you’re staying at nice hotels and Joel Embiid gives you a high five when you walk in, and Ben Simmons is like ‘What’s Up man’. All of this is a part of your life. Sometimes you have to slap yourself and remember that you’re kind of in a dream.”
While Tyler’s happy to be where he is, he hopes to become a head coach in the league some day.
As he and the Sixers chase a championship, there’s another Owensboro native living out his NBA dream. State Champion and former Owensboro Red Devil Aric Holman is currently playing for the Texas Legends, the G League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks. He’s just one call away from making his NBA debut this season.
(This story was originally published on January 22, 2020)