By Danny Mills | An Aussie and a NBA Scout - My journey, insights on how to get here, thoughts on
Updated: Apr 13
Preface by Janx.....
If you’re a player or a coach in Australia with dreams of making the NBA, or wanting to help lead and guide others to maximise their chance to get there then this is your chance to hear it from an Aussie who is actually in the NBA. His role is that of scout with the Philadelphia 76ers, the man is Danny Mills. Danny is Aussie born and has also been an international NBA scout prior to his current position for the 76ers so his insights and journey are very unique and valuable for all of us readers.
Danny is someone whose conversations and insights on featured athletes I have really valued and the other week we had a conversation about his journey to get to where he is today. His story is inspirational for anyone wanting to do the hard work to achieve in any field of endeavour, and I decided to ask if he would blog to our site on his journey. His story on his journey will make for a great read in itself but I also hope he provides insights on how to get to the NBA as a player or a coach.
I have asked Danny to highlight his journey to his current position today, cool stories from life in the NBA, key knowledge and skillsets he developed along the way that helped him obtain his role with the 76ers. His insights and thoughts on the level of the NBL and how the gamestyle compares globally are going to be interesting. For young athletes (and coaches developing those kids) out there what kind of skills and qualities do NBA teams look for that they can develop? Danny also has an amazing educational opportunity, accessible, affordable, developed by some of the best known names in the NBA that I hope he will tell us about. It is worth considering if you want to learn skills to become a scout and/or just gain insights into how the NBA operates.
Over to Danny.....
PICUTRED: Before becoming an International NBA Scout, Danny was an Assistant Coach at pro clubs in Italy.
My Journey from Australia to the NBA
Growing up in Perth, Australia all I knew after about the age of 12 was that I wanted to play professional basketball, and I set out on a pathway that has led me to some amazing experiences. I started my junior career with the Wanneroo Wolves and had some initial success helping the team get to the U14 National Club Championships in Townsville, which was a big highlight for a group of 13 year olds. I then moved clubs across town to the Willetton Tigers. and was fortunate enough to represent WA Metro in all six under age National Championships from bottom age U16 to top age U20’s, while winning the U18 National title in 2000. The sacrifice as a teenager was huge, the 6am practices before school to the late night SBL practices on school nights, all the way on the south side of Perth, were all a part of trying to become the best player I could be. But truth be told, like many young Australian players, the real sacrifice is made by their parents, and the amount of driving and financial investment they must put in is huge, and I wouldn’t of had the opportunities I did without mine.
In 2002 I achieved a big goal of mine and went to the AIS (Janx: now called the Centre of Excellence) on Scholarship. What an incredible experience that was for myself, and the time I had there under Marty Clarke and Frank Arsego, and all of the lifelong relationships built, was really a big stepping stone in my career and I’m sure for many others who were fortunate enough to play at the Tute. After a year at the Institute I was fortunate enough to live a dream, like a lot of aussie kids are doing now, and head to the US on an athletic scholarship. I first attended Three Rivers Community College in Missouri, which was the alma mater of former Perth Wildcats import, Sunday Adebayo, who was a big influence on myself in helping me get there. After my freshman season, I decided to transfer and spent the following three years playing basketball at Oregon Tech, an NAIA school in Southern Oregon. There was an aussie influence there already, with guys like Todd Matthews, Matt Foster, and Greg Regan playing at OIT before myself. We had some success getting to an NAIA Final Four and two Sweet Sixteens before I graduated in 2007 with a degree in business marketing.
PICTURED: Danny Mills playing for Oregon Institute of Technology. A school with a big Aussie influence over the years that was a power program in the NAIA for quite a number of years.
PICTURED: Well known in South Australia's Premier League, former Norwood Flames player Todd Matthews, now Head of Basketball at St Peters College, and good friend to Coach Janx was another Oregon Institute of Technology great.
Being a dual citizen at the time I was in College, I was fortunate enough to represent Ireland in the European Championships during 2005, as the Senior National Team attempted to earn a promotion to the ‘A’ Division. Being just a Sophomore in College, I was the youngest on the team which was full of Pros from both the NBA and high level clubs in Europe (Mostly Americans with Irish passports:) What an invaluable experience that was for me.
After college I decided to step away from basketball. I was burnt out from playing, and although loved all of my experiences, I really wanted to explore what the Corporate world in America would be like to work in, and to put my degree to use. I took a Sales job with a company down in San Diego and absolutely fell in love with the city and working full time. After close to two years working in Corporate I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term, and I stepped back into basketball but in a coaching role this time, as a Volunteer Assistant Coach with the University of San Diego. It was my first taste of coaching and specifically college coaching and I truly enjoyed the process of helping kids get better and working with a staff.
After getting married the following summer in San Diego, my wife took a job in Sicily, Italy for three years on a US Naval Base, working as a nurse in the hospital. After only one year in coaching I didn’t know what that meant for my young career, but I was very fortunate to stay in the game and become an Assistant Coach with Capo d’Orlando (Italy) for the first two years, and then Sigma Barcellona (Italy) in LegaDue the last year. Those three years of living and coaching in Italy really made me appreciate the pro game more and I knew I wanted to try and work at the highest level possible, meaning the NBA, if I could.
Moving back to the States I worked for a year as a Video Coordinator with the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA Dleague and was then fortunate enough, to be hired by the Philadelphia 76ers as an International Scout, which put us back in Eurrope, but this time based in Berlin.
After two years working as an International Scout overseas, we then moved back stateside and I am now mostly focused on college scouting for the Draft, which has been an incredible experience.
Skillsets and experience you have that helped you get the role...
To work in the NBA is a huge privilege and honour and I’m grateful everyday for that opportunity. There’s such a small amount of people that get the opportunity to work in a Front Office, and I think every team is always looking for ways to improve, so every little competitive advantage is explored.
PICTURED: Danny with the Philadelphia 76ers. Here is the press release from the NBA program announcing his latest appointment: http://www.nba.com/sixers/news/141105-front-office/
Having a unique set of skills and bringing something to a team that adds value are some things that organizations really look for. I think I was very fortunate with my diverse experiences growing up in Australia, playing college basketball in the US and then coaching in Europe, that it allowed me to build a network of trusted contacts over many years, that you can use to gather information when you need it.
How are Aussies seen in the NBA, what skillsets and qualities do kids need to have to get there?
I think the results of the Australian development pathways have really shown over the past ten or so years, and we’ve seen a big increase in the numbers of Aussies now in the NBA and WNBA. The success of the AIS is known world wide now, and with the massive increase of Australian women and men now playing collegiate basketball in the US, it’s a testament to all of the great coaching and the junior structure we have in Australia. For a country of 24 million people, the results of Australian basketball both individually, and as national teams of all ages, are really second to none.
The NBL - A stepping stone, world wide perspective, playing style
PICTURED: Danny believe the NBL is a hidden gem. He should know. He is an Aussie that has seen and followed leagues all over the world as an Aussie born, NBA Scout.
The NBL is a hidden gem in my opinion. Because its not in Europe and we so are isolated from other parts of the world, it hasn’t been as a widely viewed as one of the top leagues outside the NBA for many yeas. The local talent alone is incredibly impressive, but it has always attracted high level imports, and I think the last few years especially we are seeing that the league is really heading in the right direction with the new ownership and is a viable option for foreign players who aren’t playing in the NBA or the G-League.
Advice to coaches, administrators, physical therapists etc wanting to get to the NBA.
My advice would be to be extremely patient and continue to work on your craft every day. It took myself years of working very low paying jobs to just try and get a foot in the door. Financially early on it’s not attractive, but if you have a goal and are willing to work long hours and be open to any opprtunity then you will always have a chance to advance your career.
I’ve learnt over the years that networking is a huge part of this business. At the end of the day it’s a relationship built business and it’s not always who you know, but more about who knows you, and most importantly who trusts you know enough to give you a chance.
I’ve always been a big proponent of continuing to learn your craft, whatever it is, and attending Coaching clinics and basketball conferences has been something I’ve tried to do whenever I could. Specifically for scouting and talent evaluation, the company TPG Sports Group has done a fantastic job of putting on great conferences during Summer League in Vegas called Pro Scout School. Pete Philo, who is a former 14 year NBA executive with numerous teams, runs the company and is able to attract high level presenters from both the NBA and top level International Clubs to present different topics to the attendees.
They have just launched their own Virtual Scout School which is a 12 month online course geared towards people who are interested in learning more about talent evaluation, scouting and how the Front Office works. For a minimal cost there are monthly topics that are covered by guest presenters and the opportunity to network and connect with people from all over the world who are all working in the basketball industry. I’d highly recommend anyone who’s interested to check out their website at: http://virtualscoutschool.com/sign-up-dm/ and sign up.
VIDEO: Virtual Scout School. We trust Danny's insights but we also have checked out this program for our own benefit and interest. The big time names involved in this program, the background of the program (beginning as Pro Scout School, an offline education program) and events they have run previously, subject curriculum and the cost is amazing. Even if you don't want to be an NBA scout but want insights into how the NBA works and scouting players anywhere at any level you can apply this knowledge too.