Is Blazers’ Kaleb Canales the NBA’s First Mexican American Head Coach? We Think So

Mar 16, 2012
10:20 AM

Now THIS is a cool story. Well, not for Blazers ex-coach Nate McMillan, who was let go yesterday by the team, but for Kaleb Canales, who was named interim coach. And we think he is the first Mexican American to lead an NBA team. We did research it, but the only nugget we found was Mark Aguirre, who is half-Mexican and was only an assistant coach for the Knicks. Dick Versace was the first head coach of Puerto Rican descent.

Canales, a native of Laredo, Texas is the NBA's first head coach of Mexican American descent. What is even cooler? Canales started his career with the Blazers as an unpaid intern. He is now a head coach. From video intern in 2004 to assistant coach in 2008 and now coach in 2012.



This video from local Portland news talks more about the 31-year-old Canales.

The report continues:

“This has always been my dream so I’ve kind of worked for it and been very, very fortunate along the way to be able to be here,” said Canales who was promoted to assistant coach in 2009. “So when I told people that I was going to be here, they looked at me like I was crazy.”

Crazy, because Canales is not a former NBA player and his father is not a former NBA head coach. Nope, he got to the big time by starting his coaching career in high school at 22 and then coached college ball at 24. At 25 he landed a video internship with the Blazers and some say he hasn’t slept since.

“My rookie year I caught him sleeping on the couch,” said all-star guard Brandon Roy. “I was like, ‘You didn’t go home last night?’ And he’s like, ‘Naw.’ So he’s definitely like the hardest working dude.”

As one of the few Mexican Americans in the NBA, Canales takes his status as a role model seriously, especially in the state of Texas where he returns every summer to run a basketball clinic in his hometown of Laredo.

“They can’t be afraid to dream. You know, I was their age and I was dreaming and hopefully they can look at me and say, ‘You know, it can be done,’” he said.