1994: M.S.S. Sports Management

Mike Wells, assistant coach to The University of South Florida Men’s Basketball program, has coached in the NBA, college and Olympics. He helped win two NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal. One day, Wells hopes to add “head coach” to his achievements.

During his 20-year career, Wells has spent 17 seasons coaching in the NBA. He played a role in the winning of two championships—1995 Houston Rockets and 2007 San Antonio Spurs. He also helped with scouting for the USA men’s national basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

In 1993, Wells received his bachelor’s from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio, a place he returned to later that year to complete his United States Sports Academy mentorship for the master’s degree program in Sports Management. The mentorship turned into an assistant coaching position for the MVNU men’s basketball team.

He graduated in 1994 from the Academy and an internship followed with the Rockets. Within five years, Wells worked his way from intern to assistant coach with Houston under the supervision of head coach Rudy Tomjanovich and Jeff Van Gundy. Wells served as assistant coach until 2003.

During his NBA career, Wells also served as assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers for one year; advance scout for the San Antonio Spurs for four years; and assistant coach/advance scout for the Washington Wizards for two years.

He has also worked with the USA national basketball team. Wells served four years (1998-2003) as the head scout for the USA under head coaches Tomjanovich and Larry Brown. Wells worked with the 1998 bronze medal winning team at the FIBA World Championships in Athens; the 1999 Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament of the Americas in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the 2000 gold medal winning team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He also helped Brown, the head coach, and Greg Popovich, the assistant coach, with the 2003 Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in San Juan.

He talked with the Alumni Network about his excitement about his new assistant coaching position at the University of South Florida (He was also an assistant coach for George Mason University in 2011.) and his hope to one day become the head basketball coach and lead his own team.

Alumni Network: What was it like working as a scout for USA Basketball’s senior national team?

Mike Wells: It was a fantastic experience and tremendous opportunity. To be a part of a national team that represents our country was an honor, and I was able to learn techniques from some of the best coaches in the country. I was fortunate to work with Rudy Tomjanovich, Larry Brown, Lon Kruger, Tubby Smith, Gene Keady, Dell Harri, Oliver Purnell and Roy Williams. Over the years, I was been able to pick the brains of my superiors around me. I have opportunities ahead of me because of that.

AN: Do you prefer coaching at the college-level or in the NBA?

MW: Overall, I have enjoyed working in the NBA and at the college level. However, it is a transition. In the NBA, I coached players from age 19 to 40. In college, the age of players range from 18 to 22—a smaller window that’s easier to dial in to what players need and do.

Coaching at the college level involves being up to date with NCAA rules and, in most circumstances, requires an advanced degree. For this, I am thankful for my master’s from the Academy. My hopes are to one day become a head coach, and that will most likely start at the college level. I’m very excited to get more experience coaching in the sport, while working at South Florida.

AN: Why are you thankful for your education from the Academy?

MW: By taking classes at a college dedicated to just sports, I was provided with great networking opportunities. Without the Academy, I would not be where I am today. I was able to meet Dennis Lindsey, the Utah Jazz general manager, who I hired while working for the Houston Rockets in 1997. I also met Sebrina Beyer, the director of public and media relations at the Chicago Bulls. Beyer was working for the Bulls when we were in school together, and she gave me connections with the NBA. I’ve stayed in touch with these people and others graduates of the Academy over the years, and I’m very thankful for those connections.

AN: What was it like working at Mount Vernon Nazarene University as an assistant coach while studying for your master’s at the United States Sports Academy?

MW: Scott Flemming, who is an Academy Alumnus and India’s national basketball coach, actually coached me when I played basketball at MVNU during my undergraduate years. He encouraged me to attend the Academy in order to push my education to the next level. Because of the Academy’s flexibility in class structure, I was able to work at MVNU and get my degree at the same time.