The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 1:50 pm

Mad Ants name new GM Taylor; Hankins to return as coach

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Tom Hankins, as expected, will return as the Mad Ants’ coach this season. There will be a new general manager, Chris Taylor, though he’s no stranger to the team.

Taylor, 32, had been the team’s assistant general manager since 2019, after he served as director of basketball operations for four years. Taylor’s experience with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants of the G League, goes back to 2012 when he was brought on as a basketball operations assistant.

He takes over the reins for Brian Levy, who is moving into a pro scouting position with the Pacers after six seasons as the Mad Ants’ general manager.

"I am incredibly appreciative of the Pacers organization for entrusting me with this opportunity and am beyond excited for the expanded role,” Taylor said Wednesday. “I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best in this business, and the guidance and tutelage Brian Levy has provided over these past few seasons as his assistant GM epitomizes that.”

Levy had been the general manager since the Pacers bought the Mad Ants in 2015, on the heels of Fort Wayne winning the 2014 playoff championship and reaching the 2015 finals.

Since then, the Mad Ants have gone 129-129 in the regular season and made the postseason twice, going 1-3 in playoff games, though there wasn’t a postseason in 2020 because of the pandemic and the organizational philosophy changed to one directed toward developing prospects for the Pacers.

Five of Levy’s seasons were spent with Steve Gansey as his head coach, but Gansey’s contract wasn’t renewed last year and he was recently hired to coach the G League’s College Park Skyhawks.

To replace Gansey, the Mad Ants tapped Hankins, 55, who had been a player development coach with the Pacers.

In the truncated 2021 season, which took place entirely in Orlando, Florida, Hankins led the Mad Ants to a 6-9 record and they didn’t qualify for the postseason tournament, though he helped develop players such as Oshae Brissett and Cassius Stanley for the Pacers.

“Coach Hankins and myself are already working hard piecing together a talented roster and experienced staff. The plan is to continue building on our foundational beliefs of a strong culture, competitive group, developing our players and staff, and giving our fans in both Fort Wayne and Indianapolis a team they can be proud to support," Taylor said.

His assistant general manager will be Tim Brown Jr., after he’d been a basketball operations coordinator with the Pacers.

The Mad Ants will play only 15 of their 24 home games this season in Fort Wayne, with the other nine at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Radical changes to the G League were unveiled Tuesday: The first 14 games will be spent trying to qualify for, and play in, a Showcase Cup tournament; then the teams will revert to 0-0 records and begin a truer 34-game regular season to qualify for a postseason in which the format hasn’t been announced.

The Mad Ants will open their Showcase Cup pursuit Nov. 6 at Memorial Coliseum against the Windy City Bulls and the regular season Dec. 27 in Indianapolis against College Park.

Taylor and Hankins have made two hires for the coaching staff in Maurice Baker and Charles Kissi.

Baker, who played nine seasons in the G League and was a member of the Santa Cruz team that lost to Fort Wayne in the 2014 finals, had been a player development coach with the Pacers since November. Kissi, a former assistant coach for the G League’s Raptors 905, had served as general manager and coach of the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Guelph Nighthawks.

Scott Simpson, who had been a Mad Ants assistant coach, is becoming an advance scout for the Pacers.

The Mad Ants’ roster isn’t yet known, but they will likely have Duane Washington Jr., a rookie out of Ohio State, and DeJon Jarreau, a rookie out of Houston. Both have signed two-way contracts with the Pacers.

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