BY HENRY MILLER | STAFF WRITER
Joseph Blair became an instant hit with fans, management and players when he took over as coach of the RGV Vipers before the 2018-19 NBA G League season.
He led the Vipers to their third league championship. His GQ style on the court (the coach had more than 50 suits in his wardrobe) was equally matched by his flair for strategy.
On Wednesday, however, the Vipers announced that Blair had joined the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant coach.
“Coach called yesterday mid-afternoon to let us know he accepted an offer from the 76ers, where he would be focused on the offense,” Vipers General Manager Rene Borrego said. “He was very happy and always had a reputation of defense. He liked the idea of being able to work on offense.
“He knew how to treat the players and everyone in the organization. He was respected and loved and we will miss him, but we are also very happy for him.”
Blair spent the three years prior to this past season as a Vipers assistant. He was named the NBA G League Coach of the Month in January and February of this year.
“First and foremost, it’s a blessing,” Blair said. “I am just ecstatic, and I can’t help but to acknowledge the Rockets organization and the Vipers organization, because without what I have learned there and the experience in the Valley in the last four years, I would never be able to position myself to step into this role.
“So, I thank everyone involved in the organization. That goes from (former GM) Bert Garcia to Rene Borrego, the fans, to front office, back of house and everyone that was part of my growth and were so kind to me and gave me the opportunity. I am just really thankful and excited for the next chapter of my life.”
In his first season as a head coach, Blair led the Vipers to their third league title, becoming the winningest team in the league. RGV averaged 128.4 points in the 2018-19 G League playoffs, 18 3-pointers made, 56.2 rebounds, 24 assists, 10 steals and five blocks per game.
Blair is the fourth coach in Vipers history to be called up to the NBA. He joins Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors head coach), Chris Finch (New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach) and Matt Brase (Houston Rockets assistant coach).
Borrego said the style the Vipers have played over the years — very similar to the Rockets — has been a siccess, and coaches, players and trainers alike have benefited from it.
“It also helps that the facility — both the new arena and our practice facility — we have has what coaches, players and everyone needs, the tools. We want it to be a great place to work and seeing another coach move up is great,” Borrego said.
“We’ve always looked to be a developmental program and we want everyone who works here to enjoy being here, being a part of the community and we want them to get better and their craft and move on to the next level.”
With Nurse leading the Raptors to the most recent NBA championship, combined with Blair’s move up the ladder, the Vipers have developed a reputation as a launching pad for the NBA.
“We have a pretty good track record,” Borrego said. “If you come here, you will be treated well, you will be given all the resources you need to be respectful and we have your back here. It’s not like that at all places. We pride ourselves on that.”
Borrego said the Vipers have been in contact with the Rockets to find a replacement, adding that he believes that will happen after the summer league, which starts Monday and ends in mid-July.