Thirty-nine states. 17 countries. Four different continents. Basketball has taken Blake Ahearn just about everywhere.
Friday night he celebrated with the team and the community after he won his first championship as a head coach, leading the Austin Spurs to the G League title after a dominant four-game run through the playoffs.
“I’ve seen so much stuff on and off the floor,” Ahearn said. “You realize when you have a special group what that looks like and I think the guys that have been around a lot knew what this was and how special this was.”
The Spurs beat Raptors 905 in back-to-back games, first 105-93 in Austin last Sunday and 98-76 in Canada on Tuesday night. Nick Johnson was named Finals MVP after scoring 17 points in the clinching Game 2.
It’s the second G League title for Austin, which won what was then called the D League in 2012 when the team went by the Austin Toros
Ahearn would be a shoe in for the G League Hall of Fame as a player. He won a title with the Santa Cruz Warriors in 2015, is the all-time leaders with a 96 percent free throw percentage, fifth all-time in free throws made (1,028), sixth in points (3,889), 10th in minutes played (6,763) and is tied for 20th in games played (195).
His last stop as a professional player was with Budivelnik in Ukraine during the war with Russia.
“I was traveling at the time and my wife and two kids were sitting in the middle of an apartment to dodge bullets and bombs,” he said. “There were about 100 people killed a few hundred yards from our window. It puts things in perspective.”
Austin finished with the best record in the Western Conference and second best in the G League during the regular season.
The Spurs romped through the playoffs, beating the RGV Vipers in the conference semifinals, the South Bay Lakers in the conference final.
Jaron Blossomgame had a double-double in Game 2 of the Finals, scoring 15 points with 10 rebounds. Jeff Ledbetter added 16 points, Olivier Hanlan scored 14 points and Darrun Hilliard finished with 12 points. Derrick White had nine points, six assists and five rebounds in Game 2.
Ledbetter scored 10 points and was perfect from 3-point range to help Austin get out to a 10-point first-quarter lead. Blossomgame, Hilliard and Johnson all scored 11 points in the second half as the Spurs pulled away for the fourth straight game.
“I was just happy to be a part of it,” Ahearn said. “Our guys came in with the right mindset and sacrificed for the guy next to him and that that made them a closer group. How we did it by guarding and sharing the basketball, especially in the G League those are two rare things.”
White was recalled by San Antonio the day after winning the title. The rookie was an offensive power for Austin this season as the team went 18-6 in hit 24 regular season appearances, where he averaged 20.1 points, 5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Center Amida Brimah also wasn’t at the celebration after agreeing to a contract with KK Partizan of the Basketball League of Serbia on Wednesday.
Ahearn said professional sports are unpredictable and the only thing that’s for sure is attitude, effort and enjoyment and success determined by those. He thinks this year’s group in Austin were great from that standpoint.
“You can’t put that into words what it means,” Ahearn said. “I was a player once and there were so many situations I was in good and bad. I’m happy that our guys got to experience something like that because they were so good together on and off the floor. They did things the right way.”