Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
After this past summer, Alex Louin sure is hoping the adage doesn't apply to her.
Louin (above) has played overseas for the past three seasons since graduating from Villanova, including for Grengewald Hostert, located in Luxembourg. (Photo: Courtesy of Alex Louin)
Louin, a Doylestown native who had standout turns at both Mount Saint Joseph Academy and Villanova and now plays professionally overseas, took a trip to Las Vegas in early August. The timing was everything, as Louin got to the bustling city in the heart of the Nevada desert right as it took its annual turn as the epicenter of the basketball world.
With the NBA's Summer League as a backdrop, Louin took part in the Sports Business Classroom's Business of Basketball program as she eyes the next step of her basketball journey.
"To be completely honest, my dream job would be coaching the NBA," Louin said. "It's something I always saw myself transitioning to and I knew it would take a lot to take me away from playing basketball but an opportunity like this, I thought it could help make it a seamless transition for me."
Louin, a 2014 graduate of Mount Saint Joseph and a member of the class of 2018 at Villanova, has played overseas each of the last three seasons. After starting her career in Luxembourg with Grengewald Hostert, she moved to ToPo Helsinki in Finland's Koriisliga before returning to Grengewald Hostert during last year's COVID-19 altered season.
When she isn't ripping it up overseas - Louin has averaged more than 20 points per game in all three professional seasons - the Doylestown resident is often passing her knowledge on by training current high school players. Her upbringing, so to speak, in the sport of basketball ignited a spark in Louin to start looking at coaching more seriously.
An ardent Sixers supporter and fan of the NBA at-large, Louin had always wanted to make a trip out to Summer League. Thanks to a tip from Matt Massimino, grandson of the late Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, a New Hope-Solebury alum and graduate assistant at Villanova while Louin was playing there, the opportunity presented itself.
Louin and Massamino, who now works as a Strategy and Evaluation Analyst for the NBA Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns, talked about her aspirations to work in the NBA and when the tip came through, Louin didn't have much time to think it over.
"He sent me the program the day registration was going to end, so I was the last one to get into the program," Louin said. "It basically shows you the ins and outs of coaching and being in the front office in the NBA. It covered everything from being a scout to working in analytics.
"He sent me everything, I booked my flights and three days later, I was there so it all came together pretty quickly."
During her senior year with the Wildcats, Louin interned with the Philadelphia 76ers. While the position was more on the corporate side, she still got to meet many of the people on the Sixers' who work within basketball operations, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how a professional franchise operates.
The week in Vegas was a busy one, as each day, the program attendees would catch a bus from their hotel to the Thomas & Mack Center - located on the campus of UNLV - start the programming at 7 a.m., only to return to the hotel around 10 p.m. after the day's slate of Summer League games ended.
"We had guest speakers come in every day, they even had two NBA GMs come in and talk to us, so it was just a ton of valuable insight," Louin said. "During the night portion, we were able to go to the games and meet with different NBA scouts and other front office or analytics workers and pick their brains, which for me was definitely the coolest part.
"You're sitting there with an NBA scout and getting a first-hand look at how it all works."
With the two courts the NBA uses for its summer showcase connected, it was easy to switch between games. Louin said the arena's secondary court almost had a high school gym feel and recalled one night where she was seated only a few rows away from Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were courtside observers one night and during pretty much every game she went to, Louin could pick out a player or coach she knew from following the league. She also admitted to having to not get starstruck on a couple occasions.
"The first game I saw, (Indiana Pacers coach) Rick Carlisle was seven rows down from me, Tom Thibodeau was there and Steph Curry walked right past me," Louin said. "He's my favorite player ever, so it was surreal for me, but you also have to keep from freaking out and keep your composure. You really have access to everyone and every game you want to see."
Out in Vegas, a lot of what the program's guests and presenters said truly resonated with Louin.
"One of the general managers who talked to us had a quote that's really stuck with me," she said. "They said that surrounding every NBA championship or ring are countless scars. Hearing the grunt work that goes into it and the mistakes and challenges you have to overcome, pretty much everyone who talked to us, it was fascinating to see how they paid their dues to move up in the industry.”
A standout for Villanova who led the team in scoring her junior and senior seasons, Louin (above) hopes to one day coach in the NBA. (Photo: Courtesy of Alex Louin)
While she's been able to do something she loves the last three years, playing overseas hasn't been devoid of challenges for Louin. Her first season abroad, she didn't join the team until December when its season was halfway over.
Living on her own in Finland where there were significant language and cultural barriers tested her resolve and fortitude unlike anything she had ever been through before. Even last year, Louin had to figure things out on the fly as her season in Luxembourg was shut down for several months, eventually sending her back home unsure if she'd even get to go back.
"I feel having been overseas for three years now on my own, in some ways isolated, I think I can do pretty much anything now," Louin said. "I just had a conversation with one of my former coaches at Villanova and I said that. I think she asked if I'd be nervous to move across the country or take this chance or risk and I said, having been through what I have playing in Europe, I'm confident I can take on anything."
Throughout her playing career, Louin has never had a female head coach. While she's sometimes thought about what could have been different if she had, at this point she's more interested in being part of the future.
More and more, female coaches are gaining traction on NBA staffs, most notably with Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs becoming the first woman to lead a team when she took over on December 30, 2020 after Gregg Popovich was ejected. She's not alone either.
Since 2018, Jenny Boucek has been an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, who just added current WNBA All-Star Kristi Tolliver as an assistant for the 2021-22 season, current USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb was an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Teresa Weatherspoon is a full-time assistant with the New Orleans Pelicans. In Las Vegas, Louin had a chance to talk with Lindsay Harding, a former WNBA player who now serves as a player development coach with the Sacramento Kings.
"We sat down for a while, she's been super-successful in everything she's done, so seeing people like that is an inspiration to me," Louin said. "They're paving the way for people like me and I'm hoping I can go on and do that for the ones coming behind me."
Louin was one of four women in the program, in addition to being one of the youngest who took part. Her fellow attendees provided their own insight, even if it didn't have anything to do with breaking down a play or evaluating a prospect.
The group got to see several Detroit Pistons games and Louin had pride getting to say she knew second-year forward Siddiq Bey, a former standout at Villanova, and former Wildcat Omari Spellman, who was playing with the Chicago Bulls' squad.
"It was a lot of, not necessarily a sports background," Louin said. "There were people from regular corporate jobs or backgrounds looking to transition into something new. A lot of them were older, so even just talking to them, they all said you should always want to pursue what you're passionate about in your work life or you might regret not taking that chance."
Having the chance to hear from current NBA general managers was certainly a major draw, but Louin was a little surprised how much she took to the program's look at the NBA's salary cap and CBA run by cap expert Larry Coon.
"It exceeded my expectations," Louin said. "You really get that intimate atmosphere. It was cool to be in such close proximity to these individuals who have reached such high levels and you've only ever seen on TV before.”
On top of playing professionally, Louin was also working toward earning her MBA the past three years. She finished the program last spring and even got to walk in the graduation ceremony at Villanova shortly after she got home from wrapping up her season in Luxembourg.
She's not sure what her next step is yet and while she's currently unsigned, she hasn't ruled out playing another season abroad. There's also a return trip to Las Vegas next summer if she wants it - Louin was named the program's Top Performer and earned a scholarship to go back.
Just getting in the door of the NBA takes plenty of sacrifice, drive and willingness to take risks, but Louin only emboldened her belief she has what it takes to do it.
"I think that's the driving factor of why I want to do this," Louin said. "I've had people ask 'well, what if you have to get a job across the country, doesn't that scare you?' That's nothing compared to the 17-hour journey to get to Europe, then the time change, the culture and language barriers.
"My experiences before have allowed me to get to that point where I'd be perfectly ready to take that chance."