The Mad Ants’ Conner Henry was selected D-League Coach of the Year by his peers Thursday after he led the team to unprecedented heights in his first season.
This award is all about the team and the rest of the coaches on the coaching staff, Henry said. When I joined the Mad Ants’ staff, we had five returning players and three returning coaches that (president) Jeff Potter worked on bringing back from previous seasons. Those guys listened and bought into my message and worked extremely hard over this season, and as a result we’ve had success. I’m honored to receive this award on behalf of the Mad Ants’ organization.
The Mad Ants finished with the top record, 34-16, in the D-League and opened the playoffs with a two-game sweep of Reno to advance to the semifinals against Sioux Falls. The semifinals opened Thursday night at Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Mad Ants had never won more than 27 games and been to the playoffs only once before this season.
Henry dealt with the team losing three of its first eight games before stabilizing and winning the first division championship in team history. The Mad Ants are on a 15-game winning streak at Memorial Coliseum, which includes Sunday’s 115-93 victory over Reno that completed a two-game first-round playoff sweep of the Bighorns.
I’m so happy for Conner, Potter said. He has worked unbelievably hard since he arrived in Fort Wayne, and the results speak for themselves. He and his coaching staff have put out a phenomenal product for all of the Mad Ants’ fans, and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor.
Henry, who was an assistant coach the last two seasons with the D-League’s Los Angeles D-Fenders, replaced Duane Ticknor in the offseason after Ticknor accepted an assistant coaching job with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
Henry had also been a head coach with Perth in the Australian National Basketball League.
The coach of the year award is named for the late Dennis Johnson, who was a teammate of Henry’s with the Boston Celtics. Johnson was a former Austin Toros head coach who was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in August 2010.