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IU legend Calbert Cheaney departs Pacers to return to his alma mater
Cheaney, who remains the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer, will work for coach Mike Woodson. ... Plus, updates on several other Pacers staff changes.
The Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer is going home.
Calbert Cheaney, an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers since Nov. 2020, is returning to Bloomington to join head coach Mike Woodson’s staff with the Indiana University men’s basketball team.
Woodson is adding Cheaney — an Evansville, Ind. native who starred at IU from 1989-93 — in a non-recruiting coaching role as the director of player development, the school announced on Tuesday.
“I'm extremely grateful that Mike Woodson thought enough of me to be a part of the program that played such an important role in shaping me into the man I am,” Cheaney said in a statement.
“I've known Coach for a long time and I hold him in the highest regard. I have nothing but love and passion for this program and I can't wait to return and start working with our players and staff. Helping them get the most out of themselves is something that I enjoy and brings me great satisfaction when they see their work pay off on the court. My family and I are thrilled about this next chapter in our lives.”
Wherever Cheaney has worked, he still followed the program closely and discussed it often, including with me. He loves IU and this will be his second stint on staff as his alma mater. He worked for Tom Crean from 2011-13.
With the Pacers, Cheaney was one of three player development assistants — along with Jannero Pargo and Mo Baker. He joined the Pacers coaching staff during the pandemic and worked for first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren.
Then, following another coaching change after just eight months, Cheaney remained on Rick Carlisle’s staff for the past two seasons.
“I want to congratulate Calbert Cheaney on returning to his alma mater and joining Head Coach Mike Woodson’s staff at Indiana University,” Carlisle said in a statement. “We’re incredibly appreciative of Calbert’s innumerable contributions to our team during his time here, and after spending the last two seasons working with him, I can see why he’ll be such a great asset to the Hoosiers’ basketball program. I wish him all the best as he embarks on this new chapter in his career.”
Cheaney turns 52 years old this summer and both his son (Julian) and daughter (Sydney) have graduated from college.
Cheaney has been instrumental with the on-court development of many Pacers players. Most of what he does is not seen by those not employed by the team because it happens before practice, after games, on off days, and especially in the offseason. He was an active participant in pre-draft workouts.
For Woodson, it marks the return of another former player to the program. Last offseason, it was sharpshooter Jordan Hulls.
Cheaney can lean on his experience as a player, his decades spent in the NBA and the plethora of contacts he has — from Damian Lillard (seen in the top photo) to LeBron James, who was sure to dap up with Cheaney in February before pre-game warmups in Indy (see below.)
IU coach Mike Woodson:
“I could not think of anyone better suited to be part of this program than Calbert Cheaney. Every team or program he has been a part of after his playing career, he has had an immense impact on. As a player in college and as a pro, his experiences are as good as it gets. Our players can ask him, how do you become successful when you get to college? What can I do to help my team win championships? What do I need to do to be an All-American or National Player of the Year? How did you become a first round draft pick who played 13 years in the NBA?
“I think he can share his experiences of how teams expect their players to work every day and get the most out of their ability," added Woodson. "He's done it, he's lived it and I don't think you will find anyone who has a bad thing to say about him. He is a high-character individual who loves this program.”
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Isaac Yacob has been promoted from head video coordinator to player development coach, immediately filling the void left by Cheaney’s departure. Yacob is extremely tight with Tyrese Halibuton and just completed his first year with the team after the Los Angeles native came over from the Sacramento Kings.
Yacob’s role has been filled by Martin Tombe, who was with the team last season as a seasonal assistant. The 6-foot-6 forward played at UC San Diego and aspires to be a GM in the NBA.
Larry Bird is back in the fold. He attended their first pre-draft workout.
Shawn Windle, the director of sports performance, was not brought back after 18 seasons with the team. That’s in addition to two other staffing changes made right away.
Sarah Kessler, a performance data analyst for the past two years, is now the head performance coach of the Indiana Fever.