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Ahearn leave De Smet, will coach the Spurs’ NBA G League in Austin, Texas

By: Warren Mayes

Blake Ahearn got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Ahearn, the former De Smet and Missouri State standout, will leave his high school alma mater to coach at the professional level.

Ahearn is headed to Texas to be part of one of the most successful franchises in professional basketball.

Ahearn, 33, was named head coach of the Austin Spurs, the NBA G League minor league affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not announced.

“I am very excited,” Ahearn said. “I’ve worked my butt off my whole life and this is such a great opportunity for me. I’m antsy, I’m excited to get to the Spurs’ facility and get to helping those guys.”

He reports to his new job at the end of August.

Ahearn joins the Spurs after serving one season as the head coach of his high school alma mater in De Smet.

Ahearn led De Smet to 12-16 record last season. De Smet finished 1-7 in Metro Catholic Conference play. The Spartans finished second in their district.

Telling his Spartans goodbye was difficult. Ahearn knew it would not be easy and it wasn’t.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve done,” said Ahearn, who lives near De Smet. “I knew that would be the case. I knew it would be hard. It’s very emotional for me. It didn’t take two words before I lost it.

“I care about the school and I care about them. It was tough.”

John Pukala, De Smet’s interim athletic director, said he is happy for Ahearn.

“We are thrilled that one of our alums and current faculty members, Blake Ahearn, has accepted a position with the Austin Spurs, the G-League team of the San Antonio Spurs,” Pukala said. “We are always excited when a Spartan chases his dream and is passionate about what he does. We are grateful Blake shared that passion with us, even if it was just for a short time.”

It was really hard to tell his players he was leaving.

“It is very bittersweet leaving my alma mater, but at the end of the day it is a great opportunity for me and my family.”

Ahearn also spent one season as the head coach at Clayton High School. The Greyhounds were 7-17 under Ahearn.

Ahearn was a four-year starter from 2003-2007 during Barry Hinson’s time coaching the Bears. Ahearn finished his career No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list. He is No. 1 in school history with 276 made 3-pointers and an inductee to the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame.

He is the NCAA’s all-time leader in free throw percentage, connecting on 94.6 percent (435-460) of his shots from the foul line. Ahearn also holds the single-season record, shooting 97.5 percent (117-120) from the free throw line during the 2003-04 season as a freshman. He was named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2004 and earned All-MVC First Team honors his junior and senior seasons.

After graduation from Missouri State, Ahearn had an eight-year professional career that included stints with the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. He appeared in a total of 22 NBA games.

He also played in the NBA D-League, where he was MVP of the 2009 D-League All-Star Game. Ahearn also played overseas in Spain, Italy, Ukraine, China and Puerto Rico.

While Ahearn said he would have loved to stay at De Smet, but when a team that has won five world championships since 1999 offers you a job, you accept.

“Just the doors it opens up,” Ahearn said, “for me, at the end of the day, you want to be the best and learn from the best. I think being with this organization definitely sets me up for good things in the future.”

The decision, he said, was not easy.

“You know, it was a lot tougher than what people might think,” Ahearn said. “I think the Spurs and it’s a no-brainer. At the end of the day, it seems to be that way. But I’m leaving a school I went to and thought I’d be a part of it for a long time.

“The school is five minutes from my house. It was an extremely tough decision but when you get to work with the best in the world, that doesn’t come along everyday. The possibilities and what it can lead to is exciting.”

With three young children under the age of 5, any new job had to be special to uproot everyone.

“I’m familiar with that kind of life at the pro level,” Ahearn said. “I had a nice little break and got settled and get settled with my three little ones. I wasn’t searching for this. A couple of things have popped up recently and I didn’t take them because it was the right thing for me.

“To go to Austin, Texas, which is a great city and the Spurs are a great organization, to me this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

After declining a chance to coach the Atlanta G level team, a call came from the Spurs.

“To me, when a call from the Spurs comes, you listen and you talk to them,” Ahearn said. “I went through it with no expectation and at the end of the day, I’m changing my life.”

While coaching at the pro level was not his goal — playing pro ball was — Ahearn is intrigued by what lies ahead.

“I didn’t have any specific goals. My goal since I was a 5-year old was to play in the NBA. I accomplished that,” Ahearn said. “Then I wanted to catch my breath and see what happened. I take an opportunity when it presents itself.

“With this Spurs job, what it could lead to is I mean there ware so many avenues.”

Coaching high school athletes was enjoyable for Ahearn.

“For me, whether it’s high school or higher levels, it’s all about relationships,” Ahearn said. “I was once one of them in high school. A lot of people helped me on and off the court when I was younger. Hopefully I did that with my guys.

“I tell people more than a state championship or winning a big game is getting an invitation to one of their weddings down the road,” Ahearn said. “That will satisfying.”

Ahearn believes the De Smet program he is leaving is in good shape.

“Hopefully it’s better,” Ahearn said. “We have the possibility of having four or five freshman on varsity who will play minutes this season. I remember what De Smet was when I was there.

“I remember it being a packed place and being on top. That’s what I wanted to do — get De Smet basketball back. Hopefully, it’s heading in the right direction.”


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