The off-season for most people means downtime, but there’s anything but downtime for Brendon Yu, the Director of G League Operations for the Cavaliers and the de facto GM of the Canton Charge. Training camp is approaching and all the rigors of a new season are in full effect. We caught up with Brendon in Cleveland to give Charge fans the inside scoop:
You’ve been with the Cavs five years now, started out as an intern, and now you’re essentially the Charge GM so talk about getting your start here and working your way up.
I was incredibly blessed and fortunate to land a front office internship right out of college after being the student manager at Indiana for four years and it has just been an amazing experience and opportunity for me these past five years. To be a part of a championship in Cleveland, I don’t even know how to describe it, it was such an incredible moment for the city, the team, and the organization, and to know that I was a very small part of helping achieve that was awesome. Like I said, working with all these guys and learning from different players, coaches, and front office members has been a dream come true.
We don’t call you the Charge GM as your title officially because you do so much more for the Cavs/Charge than putting together our roster. Talk a little bit about some of the other responsibilities for the Cavs and the Charge that you take care of.
From the Cavs standpoint, I am also a full-time college scout on the road for 15-20 games each month, handling a few different conferences for that, so it is kind of a duel role. When I’m out looking for players for the Cavs, it also works because I am looking for players for the Charge because there are certain guys who fit the G League model and vice versa. Here at Cleveland Clinic Courts (CCC), I work a little bit with our analyst guys and our salary-cap guys trying to figure out ways to help the Cavs and what things we can take down to Canton to utilize as well.
2018-19 wasn’t a winning season for the Charge, but it is still viewed as a successful season for the organization. Why is that?
Obviously, we all want to win down in Canton, from myself, to the coaching staff, to even the guys up here in Cleveland… but we know at the end of the day, the main overarching goal is to find players for the Cavs and develop guys for the Cavs, not only players, but staff and coaches as well. If you take a look at the year we had this last season, especially with the Cavs having a lot of injuries, we saw a lot of guys who played in Canton, getting called up to the Cavs. For example, I think Jaron Blossomgame played 15-20 games with the Cavs & started some games. Deng Adel also started some games for the Cavs. Guys that we were able to acquire down in Canton and then convert to a two-way, they were able to contribute meaningful minutes with the Cavs and help us, which is always a positive. You look at Sam Jones from the coaching side, he has done an awesome job for us the last two years, his ability to grow and learn and help us out in Canton has allowed him to find his voice and learn the NBA game better and now he’s going to be part of the Cavs coaching staff this year. That’s a success in our eyes as well.
Really, it’s just been a great opportunity for the players themselves, even if it’s not necessarily making the NBA that year, they have a good, positive experience with our organization and the Cavaliers as a whole and share that with other players and free agents in the league about the support of the fans and the organization. In talking to the guys at the end of the year, I felt like they all left on a good note and that’s why we could see some back. If they’re not back, they’re moving on to bigger and better things whether it be in Europe or other NBA teams. So I know the wins and losses weren’t there, but I think there were other success stories to highlight last season.
This is Coach Nate’s 7th season with us in some capacity, first starting as an assistant coach under Steve Hetzel. He also played a part in those success stories you mentioned, but we also have a new regime in Cleveland who also recognizes his leadership and contributions to the Charge. Talk a little bit about him.
I think Nate has done an outstanding job with us the last few years. The lineups have been tough with all the two-ways getting called up by the Cavs to play and vice versa, but Nate is one of the most steady, calm influences I’ve ever been around. Nothing really rattles him, and I think that’s really important at this level when your lineup can change at the drop of a hat. You could be preparing for a team when all of a sudden, your best player gets called up by the Cavs or another team. He’s done an awesome job of being steady and a calming influence on hand. That’s the reason he’s back this year, we value his ability to develop players and develop staff. His coaching success speaks for itself. Look at what he did this summer with Great Britain where he was thrown into that job at the last minute and lead them to a 4-0 record with a team of guys put together at the last minute, having only 2-3 practices to prepare for the games against good teams. With this kind of success and track record, we’re really excited to have him back.
Now for somebody that’s new, Coach Beilein, and any Cavs fan knows if they’ve seen an interview with him one time, they heard that word ‘culture’ that he has been driving home. Obviously, he is setting a tone in Cleveland from the top, how is that going to trickle down into Canton?
Coach Beilein has called it a ‘renaissance’ up here in Cleveland and I think that’s one thing that will be easy to hear and see right away. A lot of the terminology he is using for the culture or renaissance will be the same terminology we use down in Canton right off the bat. We always have Nate and the rest of the coaching staff up here for training camp, helping out and learning. I think it’s a great opportunity for them, we’ve had a bunch of young guys in already learning and developing and having our coaches be hands-on with them as well has been great. Like I said, with Coach Beilein’s emphasis on culture, all our coaches will be well-ingrained in it. Our whole front office is about it. We’re really embracing the culture of development, which is great for the G League itself.
We know it’s early but any indication of how the roster will look?
We had our local tryouts on September 14th, it was a great turnout and awesome day. Getting to see the guys come up and play and we had a good amount of depth there and I think we’ll bring a couple of those guys to camp with us, at least. Now we’re working on filling out the roster in terms of who’s going to come on and be an exhibit 10 (affiliate player) or who’s going to come back as a returning player. Some of the names are trickling in from the draft, so we are beginning preparing for that as well. Then really, it’s just about finalizing our staff and getting that group together and making sure everyone’s on the same page there so that come October 28th, the first day of camp, we’ll be ready to roll.
The Canton Charge tip off their 2019-20 campaign with the Home Opener on Saturday, November 9th at 7:00 p.m. against the Lakeland Magic at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.