Within the next five to seven years, the D-League will be comprised of 30 teams and each squad will be affiliated directly with their parent club. While there are only 18 teams currently operating in the D-League, the pool is quickly drying up — 17 teams are now tied solely to an NBA franchise, creating even more urgency for others to set up their own operations.
The Canton Charge are one of those 17 teams currently reaping the benefits of a single affiliation, and according to their Director of D-League Operations, Mike Gansey, the Cleveland Cavaliers are thrilled to be connected to them.
“The Cavaliers see so much value in the D-League,” Gansey told Upside & Motor. “Teams who don’t have those affiliate teams right now are certainly wishing that they did.”
Gansey was a star at the University of West Virginia and after some time overseas and in the D-League, he had an opportunity to join the Cavaliers as a front office intern. He has since worked his way to what is essentially the general manager position for the Canton Charge.
The Charge have enjoyed sustained success as one of only two teams in the league to have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons, the other being the Santa Cruz Warriors (although in 2011-12 they were the Dakota Wizards). Each of the last four seasons the Cavaliers have called-up at least one player from Canton, showing great value and development from their minor league club, especially considering they can sign a player from any D-League team at any time.
“We are looking for high character guys first. There are loads of players with talent out there, but we are specifically looking at their character because we believe the rest will follow.”
The city of Canton is a great location for the club, something Gansey is more than appreciative of. “We love Canton. We are very, very lucky to have these fans and they continue to become more and more interested in the team.” That certainly shows itself in the numbers, with Canton setting a franchise record for attendance this season: a total of 72,345 fans for their 25 home games — an average of 2,894 per game.
That’s a whopping 13.6 percent increase from the 2013-14 season.
While the team only called up one player this season (Will Cherry), they still found value in sending rookies Joe Harris and Alex Kirk on assignment for development. Kirk was later traded to the New York Knicks, but Harris was with Canton throughout the NBADL season and logged integral minutes in their playoff run.
Gansey was quick to praise first year head coach Jordi Fernandez and the staff’s work this season, which included preparing Kirk and Harris for the big stage. “Jordi is great. He picked everything up so quickly and it really helped that the Cavaliers allowed him and his staff to join their training camp from day one.” That kind of access is given because not only do the Cavaliers see value in players at the D-League level, but coaches as well.
“The league is just as much a coaches call-up league as it is a player call-up league.”
Fernandez ran an offensive scheme that was a hybrid from what the Cavaliers run. Defensively, they tried to stay as consistent as possible so the likes of Harris and Kirk could come and go and not be phased by the transition. Canton had one of the league’s top defensive units, allowing only 95.2 points per game — a crazy feat in the fast-paced world that is the D-League.
As other teams scramble to add a D-League affiliate, the Cavaliers can sleep well knowing that their minor league club is well taken care of in the home-grown hands of Mike Gansey. Longevity is a key aspect of one’s resume, and soon an NBA team will give him the shot he didn’t get as a player — a call-up to the NBA.