General manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu and head coach Jarell Christian talk Capital City Go-Go

General manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu and head coach Jarell Christian talk Capital City Go-Go


General manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu and head coach Jarell Christian talk Capital City Go-Go


On Tuesday, the Washington Wizards officially named the general manager and head coach of their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. In an effort to begin connecting with the D.C. community that they hope to proudly represent, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Jarell Christian helped host a basketball clinic for grade school kids at Charles Hart Middle School in Southeast, close to their new facility where they will play their home games this season. Although not in attendance, Scott Schroeder has also been hired as an assistant general manager and has most recently served as the Director of Basketball Operations for the Agua Caliente Clippers, the L.A. Clippers G League affiliate. In Mensah-Bonsu and Christian’s first media availability, here is the best of what the duo had to say.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu

On becoming the GM is the area where he played in college:

“It means a lot. Having played my college ball here and I’ve lived here since I left GW and now to be back in the community as the general manager of the team’s first G League team is special. I think the biggest part for the team is developing. We want to develop our players and we also want to help develop this community, too. This [basketball clinic] is one of many events we are going to be doing here. I’m excited to get going and work with the community. This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us, I want the community to embrace this team. I’m excited about it and I just love the fact that we get to work with the community.”

On why he wanted the job:

“I played in the G League, I have an affinity for the G League and the players. I understand the grind, I understand what it takes to be there. I really feel like I knew what it would take to better serve these players and help develop them to become NBA players one day and develop them on the court and off the court as men. I really felt like my experience as a player and my experience off the court, too, would better aid these guys. I really feel like I got a responsibility to give back to them to help them.”

On if he can better assess talent as a former G League player:

“It helps. Definitely having been in their shoes and played and I’ve scouted for a couple years, I do feel like I have an eye for talent. Again, these guys are in the G League and it’s a place I sat before, it’s a position I’ve been in and I think it allows me to understand what they’re going through. What they’re going through on and off the court. So, I think my experience is what’s going to help me help these players.”

On having a new facility so close to the Wizards:

“It would mean a lot. I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place as the Wizards do, as the Mystics do. I think if these guys get to see Dwight Howard and John Wall, Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to work, to get to that next level. Having your own facility as a G League team is big because we’re still essentially a minor league team. It helps these guys work to where they want to get to. Definitely feel like it’s an advantage to having a home facility.”

On what he knows about Devin Robinson, Troy Brown Jr., and Thomas Bryant’s games:

“I know a lot. With Troy and Devin, they’re still developing and Thomas spent a year in the NBA and the G League. I think what’s important for us is to just develop them and get them ready to help the Wizards out. If and when they do send their guys down, we’ll be excited, we’ll be ready to help. I’m looking forward to seeing their development. Especially, Thomas, Devin, and Troy because I think they have a chance to be special so if we can help in that process, I’m looking forward to it. … If we can develop these guys to help the Wizards down the line, then we’ve done our job. That’s the whole point of the G League and that’s the whole purpose of the Go-Go.”

On building a strong foundation for the team:

“I really want the core of this team to embody what the Capital City Go-Go is, what the city of D.C. is. This team is for the community and we really want to have players who are local from the area so they can represent the team and the community can feel like they have one of their own on the team. Getting a local guy would be big in regards to what the team is made up of. I really want to make sure we do that and give back in that way. You can’t really have a team that is representing a city if you don’t have anyone from that city so definitely that is a PSA to everybody out there that we’re looking for some local guys.”

The Go-Go will have one or two open tryouts on dates to be announced in September: “The DMV area has a wealth of basketball talent,” Mensah-Bonsu said.

Jarell Christian

On getting the opportunity be a G League head coach:

“It’s tremendous, it’s a tremendous honor. Being the first ever head coach of a G League organization here is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I understand what comes with that. I’m extremely honored to be here. Ernie [Grunfeld] has been great, Tommy [Sheppard] has been great, and obviously my previous relationship with Scotty [Brooks] has been phenomenal so I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to be a part of the community.”

On his previous relationship with Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City when he was an assistant coach with their G League team:

“My first year into professional basketball, I was an assistant with the G League team and Scotty Brooks was the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder at that time. So I got a chance to know him through training camp, throughout that season. He and I developed a bond or a relationship that stood the test of time and to this day, we still talk often. Just another chance for me to reconnect with him and continue to grow our relationship.”

On how he will work together with the Wizards:

“That’s one of the really good things about me, my introduction to professional basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies so a lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation. A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we’ll implement with the Go-Go: offensive and defensive concepts, some of the play calls and terminology will be the same. So I don’t see there being any issue with any slippage with guys going up or down to know what’s in store for them.”

On the talent the team is looking for:

“We’ve got a really good guy in Devin Robinson that we have to develop. A lot of focus is going to be on him this year. He’s an extremely talented guy. He’s got to develop so a lot of what we’re doing personnel wise will be putting people around him to put him in better positions to be successful and ultimately, you make one person successful and it’s a trickle-down effect from there. Things that we’re looking for is guys with high IQ, guys that are athletic that can defend, and guys that can get up and down the court and run. Those things are a rarity these days. A lot of guys just want to do one thing, shoot threes or just score, but we’re looking for guys that can play both ends of the court. Devin Robinson is a great guy. He’s long, athletic, he can really shoot it. He’s working on some other things, but he’s another piece that we’re going to have to focus on.”

On hosting the basketball clinic:

“It means a lot, I got started with coaching in settings like this. Just summer camps, youth camps. That’s basically what I did when I was in college. This is coming full circle. This is what I’m passionate about. I see a lot of things they’re teaching on a fundamental level with these kids that we’re going to teach our guys on a daily basis.”

On Robinson, Brown, and Bryant:

“I’m rooting for those guys to be able to break that rotation. I’ve spent the last 48 hours with all three of those individuals, watched them play a little bit, started a relationship with them. High-level character and obviously they’re really talented basketball players so I love those three.”

On his ideas watching the trio:

“Any time you are a coach or you’re getting to a new situation, you got to do your homework. The past few days, I’ve been watching a ton of film, spending time with those guys and already, I’ve been able to communicate some things that I see that they could work on. Coach David Adkins, Landon [Tatum], those guys do a great job of developing the players. The work they’ve put in the last six to eight weeks with coach has been phenomenal and the growth they’ve had from those sessions, they’re showing up on the court.”

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