From cleaning offices to the NBA
Former Hounds hoopster serves as top assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Mike Malone, ’94, was just a few weeks from entering training for the Secret Service the summer after he graduated. After passing the mental and physical tests, the one-time Greyhounds forward was headed down a different path from his father’s NBA coaching career.
Those who knew Mike Malone in his playing days might not have been surprised by his reluctance to follow in Brendan Malone’s footsteps. The Hounds struggled on the court most of his career. But Malone feels those challenges helped prepare him for the job he has today—as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
“You learn more about your team in losing than through winning,” he said. “You have to be able to get through tough times.”
Malone’s path to the NBA was a combination of talent, hard work, and fortuitous timing. Although he considers himself a New Yorker, Malone moved around quite a bit in childhood due to his father’s coaching career, ultimately graduating from Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey. “It wasn’t easy on the family,” he said. “My brothers, sisters, and I got used to changing schools and making new friends, but you knew you couldn’t get too comfortable.”
Fifteen years ago, Malone was living in Michigan, where his father worked as an assistant head coach for the Detroit Pistons. At the time, the Pistons practiced at nearby Oakland University, and Brendan Malone got to know Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. When a position opened up on Kampe’s staff, the elder Malone put in a good word for his son.
“I was interested in the Secret Service, but I grew up around the game and shared a love of it with my father,” said Malone. “I knew I would be happiest doing something I loved.”
After taking the job, the younger Malone continued cleaning office buildings to earn extra money.
“It was a full-time job for part-time pay,” said Kampe, now in his 26th season at Oakland. “I could see he had a future in the business. I wish we could have kept him here.”
Malone stayed at Oakland for just one season before heading to Providence College to join the staff of then-coach Pete Gillen. That led to coaching positions at the University of Virginia, Manhattan, and eventually the New York Knicks.
Now in his fifth season with the Cavaliers, Malone works with such standouts as forward LeBron James.