While every child dreams of being like Mike, Kobe or LeBron, rarely do you ever hear a kid say he dreams of coaching in the NBA. However, for the Portland Trail Blazers’ interim head coach Kaleb Canales, this dream fits the bill.
Canales became the NBA's first Mexican-American head coach when the Trail Blazers fired Nate McMillan last Thursday. He is also only the second active head coach in the league with Latino roots, the other being Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors.
"It's something that since I was I kid I always dreamed of and I asked God to give me the strength to be here in the NBA," Canales said regarding coaching earlier this week in a teleconference with the Spanish-speaking media outlets.
"Ever since I was a young, I wanted to be a coach and the day came sooner than what I thought it would. I'm very happy for the opportunity to be here with the Blazers."
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The 33-year-old from Laredo, Texas started at the bottom as a video intern in 2005, the same year McMillan took over as the team's head coach. By 2009, Canales was already an assistant.
The basketball junkie is known for his love of the game, once spending 144 nights at the team's practice facility during a single season.
Canales is taking over a team whose hopes to make it back to the playoffs were slipping away day by day. After a tough road stretch in which Portland lost four of five games, including three blowout losses at Boston, Indiana and New York, McMillan's fate as head coach was sealed.
Canales was surprised he got the position at this stage in his career, but it hurts that it came at the expense of the man who gave him a shot to prove himself in the league.
Having spoken various times with McMillan, Canales was careful to not divulge anything that was exchanged after McMillan was let go.
"One thing is, obviously, it's bitter sweet. I have a great respect for Coach McMillan and the foundation he's built here for us with the Blazers," Canales said.
Canales has a tough job ahead in trying to repair a fragile team that was shaken up during the trade deadline. After first shipping out Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for Shawne Williams and Mehmet Okur, the team then sent Marcus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet.
With no college or professional playing experience, people have reason to be skeptical about Canales’ ability to command the players’ respect, but Wallace feels otherwise.
"It doesn't matter that he has no playing experience. They're professionals over there. Those guys are going to play hard for him and will respect him," Wallace told Fox News Latino.
The Trail Blazers are four games behind the Rockets for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 18 games left to play. Under Canales, they're 2-3.
"You know the one thing we've asked the guys to do is to compete and to commit to playing together. We are staying in the moment and we are focusing in on those goals that we've set out for each other and we're holding the guys accountable to that," Canales said.
Canales would like to stick around longer and have that interim tag removed, but for now he’s taking it one day at a time.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.