In the least shocking twist in human history, apparently it’s a nightmare to coach LaVar Ball’s sons. Chino Hills head coach Stephan Gilling went into detail about how difficult the patriarch of the Ball family made this season on him.
Despite a 30-3 record and the national recognition brought by Ball’s sons LaMelo and LiAngelo, Gilling sounded exasperated in an interview with USA Today Sports. His first year as the head coach at Chino Hills sounds as if it was impossibly stressful despite notching 30 wins.
This section of the story is particularly telling:
“Double team! Double team!”
The first-year head coach had won his first nine games of the season, but after a pair of close wins at the mid-December Tarkanian Classic, the Huskies faced another test against Roosevelt (Calif.) High. They went into the locker room at half trailing by 12. Chino Hills had been double teaming Roosevelt’s shooters for the first half, but Gilling needed to make an adjustment.
“I go into the locker room, and I tell the guys to stop double teaming – just stay with your man,” Gilling said. “You do that, we’ll definitely get stops and come back and win.”
Yet, there was that voice again in the second half: “Double team! Double team!”
When Ball would shout for the double-team, Chino Hills players reluctantly followed his instruction. Gilling would yell, “Stop trapping!”
That exchange was captured on video:
After the team finally listened to its coach and mounted a furious comeback to win 76-68, Ball was incensed that Gilling had the team ignore his instructions. There is something important to keep in mind here: Ball is just a parent, not a coach or an assistant.
After a confrontation with Gilling outside the locker room, the elder Ball entered it against the wishes of the coach and refused to leave. Gilling gathered his team, except the Ball boys, and went back to the hotel. Then things got worse.
Gilling let loose with the following story:
“An assistant coach comes up to me and tells me that he sees LaVar rallying the team up. I guess he got them out of their rooms on the 18th floor and tells the team that it was his system that won. That we’re doing what he says. ‘I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!’
“He pretty much downplays me at the same time. My assistant coach sees him and says to him, ‘That’s not right. Is there any middle ground?’ He says, ‘No, there’s no middle ground.'”
That incident sparked a season-long feud between the coach and the parent of his two stars, and Ball has had no problem blasting Gilling publicly since. Ball told USA Today Sports the following last month:
“One of the things too that you have to be very careful about is when they not around you anymore as kids and they grow up to be men. Maybe they got some other alternatives in their head now … And this is basically the coach over at Chino Hills High. Now, all of the sudden, he’s 30 years old, and he’s got his own mind. He said, ‘I don’t need the Balls’ help no more. I do my own thing.’ Now, he’s having problems over there.”
After the Las Vegas incident, Gilling said he noticed things with LiAngelo and LaMelo changed. He even said there were games where the two players wouldn’t talk to him. He claimed he felt bad for the kids, since they were clearly caught between the team and their father.
Gilling said after the season he attempted to reach out to LaVar and clear the air, but his calls haven’t been returned. Meanwhile, Ball has blamed the coach for his team’s loss in the playoffs that left Chino Hills short of repeating as state champions.
Here’s what LaVar had to say about Gilling’s coaching job:
“Man, we were supposed to go to Sacramento, but that coach is hard-headed. He wanted to do things his way. If we would have gotten along, we would have been in the state title easy. But he’s trying to have a little resistance towards me. And I’m like, ‘Man, try and do it your way. That’s why you lost three games.’
“Because once he run and just play and when my son really wants to play for you, we’re gonna do good. But when you have any kind of resistance towards me, and you the head coach, it don’t work out that good. I already knew he was going to lose that game.”
Those quotes prompted Gilling to finally reach out to the media and discuss the situation publicly. Something he had refused to do until now. It doesn’t look like this relationship will be repaired any time soon, especially with Ball now getting a national platform to rip the coach mercilessly if he so chooses.
The fact that Ball is attacking a high school coach publicly for, you know, trying to actually coach his team, might be the worst thing he’s done. Making ridiculous claims about Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and LeBron James is one thing, they’re public figures and famous athlete. Stephan Gilling is a first-year high school coach who doesn’t have the platform to defend himself.
Meanwhile, as his son Lonzo and UCLA are prepping for a Sweet 16 matchup for Kentucky, all anyone can talk about is LaVar Ball and his mouth. I’d be completely fine if LaVar just disappeared. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening any time soon.