In October, T-Wolves Gaming named Shawn Vilvens the General Manager & Head Coach. Vilvens most recently served as a Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach at Cincinnati Christian University while also consulting for the school’s new ESports Program, focusing on NBA 2K Talent Scouting and Coaching. Our Kyle Ratke was recently able to have a conversation with Vilvens.
Ratke: First off, what does it mean for you to be named the coach and the GM of the Wolves 2K team? It’s certainly a new thing around the league, especially for the Timberwolves organization.
Vilvens: For me, it’s a one in a 100 lifetimes opportunity. It’s not even something you get once in a lifetime. To do something that only a handful of people on the world are able to do right now. Coming into it, I’m super excited and having been to Minneapolis and been able to come in and meet the organization. I couldn’t be more excited about working with a world-class organization. I really couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.
Ratke: What was the procces like getting your name out there? I’m interested in how all that unfolded.
Vilvens: As far as getting my name out there, I was not a big social media person. I wasn’t really, because I coach in real life. I didn’t have a big Twitter presence, but I was involved in high-competition pro-am leagues. I knew a lot of the people who were facilitating and running those leagues, I knew people who covered pro ams. From that, I was asked if I could be used in an article about people who could potentially be good coaches for the 2K League. That was kind of where it call began, just based on my experience coaching real basketball and my experience in the pro-am circuit. The information was out there and then I went through the interview process and then Minnesota contacted me, I want to say last month about interviewing with them, that they were going to do an expansion. So I went throught the whole interview process with them. The whole thing was pheneomenal. The way that they were personable and welcoming and really the whole process was just awesome.
Ratke: Can you explain what it is, because I think there’s a lot of people out there aren’t quite sure, being a coach of a 2K team, what does that actually entail? Along with being the GM.
Vilvens: As far as the coaching aspect, a coach on the real basketball court and a coach on pro-am, there are a lot of things that rollover between the two. There are a lot commonalities or similarities between the two. You still run offensive sets, defensive sets in pro am just like you would on a real basketball court. A lot of the fundamental things in real basketball translate to pro am as well. How to play defense, where to position yourself, understanding where a mismatch is, how to manage the clock. All of those things translate between the two really well. The difference is that you’re not putting the same type of practice in. In real basketball, you’ve got to physically get up and get out and run and do that thing. It’s a grind in the physical sense where the pro-am side of it or the E-Sports side of it is, it’s definitely a mental grind. There’s a physical aspect of it, too, because of the hours you put in, but it’s a different type of a physical grind compared to real basketball. You still have to manage personalities, you still have to make sure the team is gelling and coming together and keep their eyes focused on one goal, whatever that goal may be. Every team that I’ve ever been apart of runs into adversity, so as a coach, you have to help your team navigate that and help your team deal with those bumps in the road as they come up and so you don’t come off track and continue to get better and progress and win, ultimately, is that goal.
Ratke: Is having a coach and a GM in the same role a common thing in the gaming community, or is that unique in this situation?
Vilvens: I’m not sure how common it is. I know of other individuals in the league who have that dual role, I know of people who are just coaches. As far as the percentage, I’m not sure what the split is of how many have the dual role. I know the Magic hired a coach, as far as I understand, the Pacers have a coach and GM who is the same person. Being GM/coach, there’s a team that kind of decides personnel and scouting and does recruiting and things like that. Being the general manager, it’s not like I’m making a decision by myself. There’s a team, there’s a discussion, we are putting heads together to decide who the best players are, where we want to go in the draft, how we’re scouting, who we’re scouting things like that.