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Former Buffs Mosley, Billups Traveled Different Paths To NBA Head Coaching Jobs

Jul 12, 2021
Former Buff Jamahl Mosley was named head coach of the Orlando Magic on Monday.

BOULDER — Colorado basketball hit center stage nationally again Monday when former Buffaloes standout Jamahl Mosley was officially introduced as the new head coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic.

Paired with the June 28 hiring of former Buffs great Chauncey Billups by the Portland Trail Blazers, Mosley's hiring puts CU in rarified company — currently, only three college programs can claim two current NBA head coaches.

The other two are Arizona (Golden State's Steve Kerr and Sacramento's Luke Walton) and Kentucky (LA Lakers' Frank Vogel and Detroit's Dwane Casey).

Both Billups and Mosley were recruited to Colorado and coached by Ricardo Patton at CU. (Joe Harrington was CU's head coach when Billups signed, but Patton — then an assistant — is generally considered to be the coach responsible for keeping Billups in state).

The two missed playing together by just one season.

Billups, one of the most celebrated players in CU history, played two years at Colorado (1995-97), leading Patton's Buffs to an NCAA Tournament bid and first-round win over Bobby Knight and Indiana in 1997. He then turned pro and was the third overall draft pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, selected by Boston.

Mosley played at CU from 1997-2001. A starter for most of his career, he is still in the top 30 all-time CU scorers (1,171 points), and his 22 rebounds against Missouri in 2001 are still the most ever in one game by a Buff in the CU Events Center (fourth on Colorado's all-time single-game list).

"They both were incredibly hard workers from Day One," Patton said. "If I had one wish, I wish Chauncey would have stayed one more year so he would have had a chance to play with Jamahl. I thought Jamahl had NBA potential when he came in, and I think it would have been great for them both to play together."

But following their CU careers, the two traveled very different paths for the next two decades before being named NBA head coaches just two weeks apart.

Billups went on to enjoy a 17-year NBA career with seven teams. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and earned NBA Finals MVP honors in 2004 when he led the Detroit Pistons past the Lakers in the championship series. 

Billups announced his retirement in 2014 and became a television analyst. In 2020, he took a job as an assistant coach under Tyronn Lue with the Los Angeles Clippers. His name quickly began to surface as a possible head coach, and in late June, the Blazers hired him to take the reins in Portland.

Mosley played four seasons of pro ball overseas, then turned his attention to coaching.

He received his first job in the NBA working for the Denver Nuggets under George Karl as a player development coach and scout. He was promoted to an assistant coach in 2007 with the Nuggets, then moved on to Cleveland, where he worked from 2010 to 2014 as an assistant coach. In 2014, he was hired as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, and was promoted to defensive coordinator with the Mavs in 2018.

Mosley steadily earned a reputation as an excellent communicator and strategist with the Mavs under Rick Carlisle. His name also began to surface in recent years as head coaching material, and that came to fruition Monday when the Magic introduced him as Orlando's new head coach.

"He was a terrific guy to coach," said Patton, who has maintained close contact with Billups and Mosley throughout the years. "He's the only guy I can ever remember having to kick out of the gym. He just wanted to continue to work. I remember yelling at my coaches one day, 'Turn the lights out.' I told Jamahl, 'Go home. Let rest be your friend.' That's what I remember most about him."

Patton is by no means surprised that both of his former players have become coaches at the highest level — and he has heard from a number of longtime acquaintances over the past few days.

"I've received a bunch of emails and texts congratulating me on their accomplishments," he said with a chuckle. "But it's a very proud feeling to know that you coached two guys who have done extremely well."

Patton said both displayed personality traits early on that will translate to becoming successful coaches.

"They were both great students of the game," he said. "They were both eager to learn and both had a great feel for the game.

"One thing I think they will both bring to their new position is that players gravitate toward them. When they were at Colorado, they earned respect right away because of how hard they worked and because of how much basketball they knew. I think that's going to fare extremely well with both of them in their coaching careers."