Jeff Ruland is Albuquerque Thunderbirds new coach
The Albuquerque Thunderbirds announced today that they have hired Jeff Ruland to succeed Michael Cooper as head coach of the team. Ruland, a two-time NBA All-Star with the Washington Bullets and former head coach of Iona College (NCAA Div. I), becomes the second head coach in team history.
“I’ve been to where D-League players want to go, the NBA,” said Ruland. “Guys want to learn, and I can show them. I can’t make them, but I can show them.”
Ruland was head coach at his alma mater, Iona, the last eight seasons. He compiled 137 wins, an average of more than 17 wins per season, and guided the Gaels to three 20-win seasons, three MAAC Championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Ruland replaces Cooper, who left in April to return to Los Angeles to become head coach of the WNBA Sparks. Cooper led the Thunderbirds to a D-League Championship in their first season and the playoffs in their second.
“We are very excited to welcome Jeff Ruland as the new Head Coach of the Thunderbirds. He has a great combination of NBA experience and a proven ability to develop young men for success at the next level. We look forward to watching Coach Ruland bring another D-League Championship to Albuquerque.” said Sam Bregman, local owner.
Ruland spent five seasons in Washington and led the Bullets in rebounding and field goal percentage each of those five years. He was selected to the 1984 and 1985 Eastern Conference NBA All-Star teams and named to the 1982 NBA All-Rookie squad. His best season in Washington, and as a professional, came during the 1983-84 campaign when he averaged 22.2 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 58% from the floor.
During his 332-game NBA career that spanned eight seasons, Ruland averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 56.4% from the field. Following the 1983-84 season, Ruland suffered a left knee injury but continued to play. Before the 1986-87 season he was traded to Philadelphia and played in just five games before his knee injury forced him to retire.
Ruland came out of retirement in 1991 and signed with the 76ers. He played in just 13 games before a tear to his achilles tendon forced him to miss the remainder of the season. His last stint in the NBA came during the 1992-93 season when he played 11 games for the Detroit Pistons.
Following his NBA playing career, Ruland made the transition from player to coach when he was named an assistant coach to Fred Carter with the 76ers. He spent one season as an NBA assistant before returning to Iona.
“Coach Ruland is a great coach with a great personality,” said Thunderbirds President Billy Widner. “He has proven that he can develop players and win basketball games and our fans will love him. We are anticipating another great season on and off the court.”
“Jeff’s success wasn’t based on athleticism. He was a heady player who maximized his abilities through positioning, footwork and hard work,” said David Kahn of Southwest Basketball, LLC, which along with Sam Bregman owns the Thunderbirds. “The Thunderbirds players will need to look no further than Jeff’s career to know how much he can help them develop as players.”
The league’s assignment system will enter its third season in 2007-08. Over the first two seasons, NBA teams have assigned 53 players a total of 77 times, including 30 selections from the 2005 and 2006 NBA Drafts. Last season, a total of 47 former NBA draft picks played in the D-League. Lottery selections such as Portland’s Martell Webster (6th pick overall in 2005), Golden State’s Patrick O’Bryant (9th pick, 2006) and Seattle’s Mouhamed Sene (10th pick, 2006) all were assigned to their respective team’s D-League affiliate.
Entering its seventh season, the NBA Development League – the NBA’s minor league established to develop talent across all disciplines for the NBA – has relocated its headquarters from Greenville, S.C. to New York City to help foster the D-League's continued growth by giving it direct access to the support and resources of the NBA and WNBA. During the 2006-07 season, 19 NBA teams assigned 24 players to D-League rosters, and 14 NBA teams called-up 16 players (‘Gatorade Call-ups’) while 31 D-League alumni participated in the NBA Playoffs. Additionally, every referee hired by the NBA since 2002 has worked in the D-League, while coaches, athletic trainers and front office executives are also being developed. The 2007-08 NBA season will also include the first-ever D-League coach to be promoted to the NBA with Sam Vincent taking over head coaching duties for the Charlotte Bobcats.