Calgary coach lines up NBA gig

WES GILBERTSON, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:08 AM ET

Calgary’s Dave Love rarely misses a Phoenix Suns game on TV or online and can recite the stats of backup big-man Louis Amundson with ease.

Fantasy basketball junkie?

More like a dream job.

Love, 35, is in his first season as a Suns shooting consultant and Amundson’s personal shooting coach, a part-time gig that includes countless phone calls and text messages, hours of reviewing game film and monthly trips to the sun-scorched Arizona desert.

“There have been moments coming back from trips or walking into the practice facility or when I’m rebounding for Steve Nash that I just think, ‘Wow,

I can’t believe I’m here,’ ” Love said.

Even the most diehard Suns fans likely wouldn’t recognize Love’s name, but the enthusiastic coach is playing a big behind-the-scenes role in Amundson’s quest to become a more trustworthy free-throw shooter for the NBA Western Conference club.

The two swap text messages after every game — “usually, they’re very cheerleader-esque in their tone,” Love said — and chat each week. The shooting guru makes the trip to Phoenix once a month to spend about three days with the team.

“He’s a really great, caring guy, and you can tell he puts a lot of effort into what he does,” Amundson said. “That adds to why I like working with him so much. You can tell he really cares about it and he wants me to be successful.

“As a person, he’s just a really great guy, and he’s willing to do what it takes. To have him care that much, it makes it that much easier for me to put the work in on my own.”

So how does an admittedly “mediocre” high-school basketball player from a hockey-crazed Canadian city wind up working in world’s best basketball league?

Love’s journey to the pro coaching ranks began in 1990, while he was the ballboy for the Calgary 88s and former Duke University Blue Devils captain Chip Engelland was starring for the now-defunct World Basketball League squad.

During practice, Engelland would share shooting tips with the teen. Turns out he knew what he was talking about.

Engelland is now in his fifth season as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and has served as a shooting teacher to some of basketball’s biggest names, such as NBA all-stars Tony Parker and Grant Hill.

Engelland encouraged Love to start his own shooting camps in Calgary and even arranged for him to attend camps at Duke and with the Canadian men’s national team.

And when the Suns needed a shooting consultant, he put in a good word for his former protege.

“I owe all of the credit to Chip Engelland,” Love said. “Without him, I don’t know what I would be doing regarding basketball, but it certainly wouldn’t be anything approaching what I’m doing now.”

Amundson’s stat line indicates Love deserves to be there.

The former UNLV Running Rebels star was a woeful 44.2% from the free-throw line last season, one of the worst marks among NBA regulars and more than 15% lower than stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, both notorious for their struggles from the charity stripe.

Through 57 games this winter, Amundson is shooting 57.0% from the line.

“It’s just taking care of all that mental scarring and really allowing him the time to believe he can do this in front of 19,000 people with the game on the line. That’s not a quick process,” Love said. “The physical part, even if it takes a couple of months or several months, is the quick process. It’s the mental part that takes some time.”

For more info on Love’s local shooting camps, log on to theloveofthegame.com.


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