FORT WAYNE – Of all the kind words and all the comments and all the platitudes that were recited during Tuesdays news conference that introduced Duane Ticknor as the Mad Ants coach, the most telling came from Mr. Mad Ant himself, guard Ron Howard.
I just know that its always tough playing against his teams, said Howard, who has played all or part of the five NBA D-League seasons the Mad Ants have been in business. They were tough, and they were well put together. He didnt have the best five players or the best seven players on his team, but he had the best team. Those guys all played collectively together, and that made them extremely tough. You really didnt get the sense of egos. They were never arguing with each other, as you see with a lot of teams in this league. They were always talking with each other about helping, and they all accepted that. I would say that has a lot to do with what he instilled in them.
Ladies and gentlemen, the essence of Duane Ticknor.
A minor-league coaching lifer whose first visit into Fort Wayne came in the early 90s when he was an assistant with the CBAs Rapid City Thrillers, then repeated nearly 20 years later when he coached the D-Leagues Dakota Wizards, Ticknor is the fifth head coach in Mad Ants history. He replaces last years interim, Steve Gansey, who will remain as an assistant. It was Gansey who filled the void when Joey Meyer was released in early January.
Regardless of who has been at the helm, the Mad Ants have not had a winning season in the franchises five-year history. Last season, in fact, was their worst, with a 14-36 record, which was also the worst in the D-League.
And Ticknors reasoning? With the exception of the year they just missed the playoffs by one game or whatever that was (2010-11), I would say talent, he said.
The talent will be upgraded, the 57-year-old native of Vermillion, S.D. promised. But talent, alone, wont solve all of the teams problems.
Players will have to understand whats expected of them, he said. They will know whats expected of them when they come into practice.
You know what? If they dont want to do it my way, I guarantee there are a thousand players who want his job. So if they dont want to do it the right way, they will not be in Fort Wayne. Theyre going to do it the right way, and if they do it the right way, were going to have success here. I firmly believe that.
Ticknors coaching résumé dates back to his tenure with National American University in Rapid City, S.D., where he had a 139-66 record in six seasons.
After that, he began his minor-league career, coaching in the International Basketball Association, then the CBA, then into the D-League. Last season he coached in Korea.
In his 10 or 11 years as a head coach, Ticknor said he has been in the playoffs all but one.
Weve had good players, Ants president and general manager Jeff Potter said. Weve had good coaches. For whatever reason, we cant seem to get both together at the same time and have that right mix that will breed a consistent winner.
Thats why I think Duane will do well. Not only is he good at coaching, hes also very good at personnel, knowing the players, and knowing what works well for his system.