On the heels of the 105-100 victory over the Wisconsin Herd tonight, Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey told The Journal Gazette that he’s going to let assistant coach Jhared Simpson take the reins for Thursday’s game against the Greensboro Swarm in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Simpson is in his third season as an assistant coach for the Mad Ants (21-26), who have two games remaining in the regular season.
Gansey will be one of Simpson’s assistant coaches Thursday, essentially, before taking back over for the regular-season finale Saturday at Memorial Coliseum against the Grand Rapids Drive.
“Jared has been busting his butt for three years and he wants to be a head coach,” Gansey said. “We’re trying to finish strong and it’s something he can learn from and embrace it and be in those situations.”
Before being hired by the Mad Ants, Simpson was in the Indiana Pacers' film department and worked with statistical analysis.
Gansey was honored tonight by the Mad Ants for reaching 100 victories as a head coach over four seasons. He’s actually now got a record of 101-97, and that doesn’t include his 9-26 record as the interim coach in 2011-12. In the postseason, he’s won 1 of 4 games; the Mad Ants reached the second round last year through a bye.
“I would have rather hung a different banner, like a division title or something else, and that’s something we’ll continue to work for. But I didn’t know that (banner) was going to happen,” said Gansey, whose Mad Ants missed the postseason this year, something that’s happened in two of his four seasons.
“(The banner) is just a testament to the players that have been a part of this organization for the last four years. (General manager) Brian Levy, Jason Manikowski, our strength and conditioning coach, and (player) Stephan Hicks, that’s four guys that got 100. So it’s a team award for coaches, everybody in the entire organization.”
The Gansey banner is alongside banners celebrating the Mad Ants’ 2014 G League playoff and regular-season championships, the 2015 Eastern Conference championship, two division titles and a banner honoring the retirement of Ron Howard’s No. 19. Conner Henry, who coached the Mad Ants from 2013 to 2015, before the Pacers bought the team, hasn't been similarly recognized.
As for the victory tonight over the Herd (12-37), the Mad Ants were led by Pacers rookie Alize Johnson, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. Omari Johnson had 17 points and seven rebounds. And Edmond Sumner totaled 15 points and nine rebounds.
“We’re just focused on playing together and playing hard. We just want to finish off the season strong. That’s the main priority for us,” said Travin Thibodeaux, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “We push each other every day. We want to come out here and improve on the court, not just talk about it.”
Wisconsin was paced by Michael Qualls’ 22 points.
“I liked how we competed the majority of the game,” Gansey said. “When we needed to get stops toward the end of the stretch, we did. We held them to 17 points (in the fourth quarter), but defensive rebounds have been our Achilles heel lately and we got those defensive rebounds at the end. Teams are still playing for opportunities and fighting for things, and I’m glad that we came home to not lie down, to continue to fight and get a win. Now we’ve got two more.”