When he's not crossing the country coaching or watching basketball, David Joerger relaxes on 40 acres of land near Bismarck, N.D.
While unwinding, the Staples native considers himself one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth because his avocation is his occupation.
"I've been fortunate to be able to make a living in the game of sports," Joerger said from Bismarck. "Someone's paying me to coach ball. I've got to keep involved in it. It's been a large part of my life for so long. It's neat how it has worked out."
If things work out for Joerger, he soon will be coaching in the NBA.
The 29-year-old has been coaching minor league basketball for six years, three as assistant coach and general manager of the Dakota Wizards in the now defunct International Basketball Association, and the last three in the Continental Basketball Association as the Wizards' head coach.
During the 2000-2001 season, Joerger was named IBA Coach of the Year, guiding the Wizards to the league title and a league-best regular-season record (30-10).
Dakota moved into the CBA in 2001-02 and Joerger was named coach of the month three times. He earned coach of the year honors as the Wizards compiled a league-best 26-14 regular-season record. Joerger became the youngest coach in CBA history to win a league title.
Last season, the Wizards again recorded the best regular-season record (31-14) and Joerger was named coach of the month twice but Dakota was eliminated in the conference final playoff series.
Joerger's two-year CBA regular-season record is 57-28. His .671 winning percentage ranks fourth in CBA history among coaches who have coached at least 80 regular-season games. His CBA winning percentage trails only George Karl (.727), Eric Musselman (.689) and Bill Musselman (.689).
Last month, Joerger added the responsibility of head coach of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) River Raiders of the United States Basketball Association.
He will coach 48 CBA games, from about mid-November until mid-March, for Dakota. The 30-game USBL season begins in mid-April and ends in late June.
Joerger conceded that back-to-back seasons will be physically and mentally taxing.
"But, basically, that's an NBA season," he said. "I'm a guy who likes to coach games, and I don't mind practice. I will end up coaching 78 regular-season games in seven months. An NBA season is 82 games.
"We're excited. We hope we're two or three years away from breaking into the NBA. We're knocking on the door."
Joerger believes networking with coaches in high places may be more important than winning in order to get to the NBA.
"They've got to know you to hire you," he said. "You just keep working on those relationships. I've gotten to know Eric Musselman. My resume has changed a lot as far as my references, the last five years. Every year you get to know more guys. You try to get noticed, not only by what you do on the court, but also by having contacts and hopefully they will hire you."
Another thing that may help Joerger get hired in the NBA is his ability to coach star players.
He has coached Kentucky's Wayne Turner, who played in four Final Fours; Ken Johnson of Ohio State and the Miami Heat; Khalid El-Amin of Minneapolis North, U Conn's 1999 NCAA championship team and the Chicago Bulls; Arizona's Miles Simon, MVP of the 1997 NCAA tournament; Courtney James of Minnesota and the 1997 Final Four; Chris Porter of Auburn and Golden State; and Oliver Miller of Arkansas, who played nine NBA seasons.
Joerger said it hasn't been difficult coaching talented players since they're trying to showcase their skills in hope of getting picked up by an NBA team.
"They have to be on their best behavior," he said. "Every night we play, someone calls for a tape or NBA scouts are there in person. Every game is like a job interview. Teams call me and ask what a player's practice habits are like.
"When they call a guy up he's going to be a bench guy. He's not going to play a ton so he better be a good guy. They're not bringing them up to waive John Stockton or Karl Malone. They want a guy to play defense and rebound.
"Players in the CBA are very hungry. They play hard. It's a fun level to coach."
It's a level where Joerger may not be coaching much longer.
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