Miles Simon has always been surrounded by exceptional basketball minds and superior on-court talent.
He starred for a Mater Dei team in the early 1990s that had six players sign with an NCAA Division I school.
Fast forward a quarter century and Simon still seems to land in the right place at the right time.
He was named head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team in late June. If that didn’t come with a lot of attention and responsibility, the franchise doubled down when they added free agent superstar LeBron James on July 1.
James and other veterans don’t participate in the summer league, but that didn’t prevent fans from streaming to Las Vegas for the Lakers’ summer-league opener on July 2 against the Sacramento Kings at the California Classic.
Golden 1 Center was filled to capacity for Simon’s debut.
“It was awesome, just the excitement level that I had in making the decisions,” Simon told reporters afterward. “I really had a lot of fun out there, and my group, and my staff especially, makes everything so easy on me because of how sharp they are.”
Simon learned a lot from Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, who recently competed his 36th season at the school. He also gleaned plenty from former Arizona coach Lute Olson, who coached Simon from 1994-98 and won a national championship together in 1997.
Playing for coaches like McKnight and Olson, and for top-level programs like Mater Dei and Arizona, will also build up a players’ competitive level, and Simon is no exception.
When asked if the final score of the summer league games were important to him, Simon was quick to answer.
“We come in with a goal to not only compete, but to win,” he said. “We want, as a Lakers organization, a competitive culture, guys that have a winning attitude about everything, and being able to compete on nightly basis.”
Simon has no shortage of winners on his roster.
Josh Hart led Villanova to the NCAA Tournament title in 2016, and Joel Berry II did the same for North Carolina in 2017.
Johnathan Williams was on the Gonzaga team that lost to North Carolina in the 2017 title game, while Moritz Wagner played for Michigan, which lost to Villanova in the 2018 championship game.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman also led Kansas into the Final Four last March.
“This team is very resilient, I can tell,” Simon said. “We have a lot of winners on this team, some national champions, guys that went to Final Fours.”
With the addition of James and several other free agents this summer, the Los Angeles roster will look a lot different than at the end of last season.
One of the first things Simon told his players before their first game was to put those thoughts aside.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Laker,” he said. “We are one of the greatest franchises in sports history, but I told them, ‘Block all that out, because these next couple weeks is all about these guys and their journey and how they’re going to start to make their mark, and their footprint, in the NBA. This is really, truly about these guys that we have in the locker room, wearing these uniforms.”