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Former Clearwater teammates on opposing sidelines for NBA Finals

Luke Loucks, a former Clearwater High and Florida State standout, is an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. (Courtesy of Luke Loucks)
Luke Loucks, a former Clearwater High and Florida State standout, is an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. (Courtesy of Luke Loucks)
Published May 31, 2018|Updated May 31, 2018

In December, Luke Loucks stood courtside, awestruck, watching Okaro White go through warmups at Miami's American Airlines Arena.

Loucks, a former Clearwater High and Florida State standout, could not help but admire how his high school and college teammate persevered through years of playing professionally overseas to reach the NBA.

The reverence for White lasted a few moments before Loucks had to refocus.

After all, Loucks was on the opposing sideline as an assistant with Golden State.

"It was so cool to see Okaro, a guy who I played with for so long, starting in the NBA," Loucks said. "Then it hit me. I had to remember I was coaching against him."

Six months later, the two meet again, this time with something bigger at stake: an NBA title.

Loucks is a two-way player development coach for the Warriors. White, after spending the first half of the season with Miami, is now playing for Cleveland.

"It's pretty amazing that two guys from Clearwater get to face each other in the Finals," Loucks said.

They each each sent congratulatory texts during the week and planned to meet before tonight's opening game.

"Okaro wanted to know where to go shopping and get some tips on the best restaurants in town," Loucks said.

Their careers have followed parallel paths. Both chased NBA dreams through stops in Europe and the D-League (now G-League), though they never played together after college.

Still, Loucks and White kept tabs on each other. Last year, Loucks wondered if his professional career was over.

After playing an entire season in Germany with a ruptured disc, Loucks returned to Tallahassee for back surgery. During Louck's recovery, he talked to Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton about transitioning from a player to coach, particularly with the NBA.

"I invested so much in the game that I didn't want it to go to waste," Loucks said.

He reached out to former Seminoles who were in the NBA for advice, including Jeff Peterson, now an assistant general manager with the Atlanta Hawks.

Loucks sent an email to Golden State, inquiring about any coaching positions. The Warriors offered him an internship breaking down film of opponents.

That opportunity led to a position on the staff as a two-way development coach. The job means Loucks works with players under two-way contracts, meaning they spend the bulk of the season with the G-League and no more than 45 days with an NBA team.

One of those players is Quinn Cook, a former Duke standout who Loucks played against when he was with the Seminoles.

White also made the most of his NBA opportunity last season.

Miami, desperate for a healthy body, turned to White, signing him to a series of 10-day contracts. More than a role player, White played significant minutes. Miami started winning, too. That prompted the team to sign White to a two-year contract.

White had foot surgery a month into this season and was traded to Atlanta on Feb. 8. Waived by the Hawks, White signed with Cleveland on April 6. He has not played a minute for the Cavaliers and has been on the inactive list for all 18 playoff games.

"I might not be playing in the series, but just to be a part of the finals and have a chance to win a title is a blessing," White said. "It's a tough process. Think of how many players never even get the opportunity to be in this position.

"I'm happy for Luke. We've had a relationship on and off the court for more than 10 years. We made the transition from playing to coaching, which is not easy to do and is doing well."

White constantly thinks about what it would like to hoist the trophy.

Loucks already knows the feeling, and would like to have it again.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of people back home rooting for us," Loucks said.


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