Former Chicago Bulls' star Luol Deng is coaching his home country's team in the Afrobasket qualifiers in Rwanda. After retiring from the NBA in 2019, the two-time All-Star for the Bulls became the president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation. Algeria backed out of this year's tournament and South Sudan took their place. With just five days to find a coach, Deng thought why not take the reins himself instead of rushing a coaching hire and a new system.
“I’m fine with being coach for now, but in the future I don’t think I’ll be the coach. This is just something that I wanted to do for our country and our players.”
- Loul Deng on his future as coach of South Sudan
In one of Deng's first games as a coach, he faced off with his former coach on the Cavs, Mike Brown, who heads up the Nigerian team.
After the game, Brown commented on how much grit the South Sudan team showed even though they lost.
“They’re scrappy,” he said. “They just kept fighting. Luol Deng is a guy who never gave up in his entire life. He got his guys to rally. They went on a run in the second half.”
This comes as no surprise since Deng always carried himself in that manner on the floor throughout his NBA career.
From the moment he retired from the NBA, Deng always wanted to help grow the game of basketball in his home country so it could be entwined with its magnificent culture. Even while he was still in the NBA, Deng worked with various charities in supporting the people of Sudan.
Deng was born in what is now South Sudan, which is the world’s youngest country. It won its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of fighting. Deng's father, who was a member of the Sudanese parliament, moved the family to Egypt to flee the Second Sudanese Civil War. While in Egypt, the family met former NBA center Manute Bol who taught Deng and his brother how to play basketball. The Deng family was eventually granted political asylum and moved to Brixton, South London in the United Kingdom.
In his early teens, Deng was one of the top junior basketball players in England. At 14, he moved to the United States. He went on to become a five-star recruit and was considered the second most promising high school senior in America after LeBron James. Deng played his college ball at Duke before making it to the show.
His career path over 2004-2019 consisted of ten years with the Chicago Bulls, including two All-Star appearances, one year with the Cavaliers, two with the Heat, two with the Lakes, and one with the Timberwolves. Deng also accrued international playing experience when he played for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
Deng enjoyed his best playing years in Chicago and was always a fan favorite. He averaged 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 2.5 APG over his tenure in the black and red. He earned high praise for being one of the toughest defenders in the league and being able to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in their primes.
As for Deng's current endeavor, South Sudan is currently 0-1 in Group play. Their next game is against Mali at 1 PM CST this afternoon. The game can be viewed on ESPN+.