Kris Dellarciprete, better known as Iinsanitty on the NBA 2K League stage, didn’t expect it. No player in any sport can play forever, but for Iinsanitty, the goal of grinding out 2K was still fresh in his mind after Season 2 concluded. Then came the Pistons GT offseason decision to not retain the veteran player, which brought him closer to the “now what?” question than he ever thought he’d get at this stage in his career.
Dwelling on that question wasn’t in the cards though, as he quickly considered trying his hand at something he always wanted to do after his playing days concluded: Managing a team. His experience captaining Throwdown, the Pro-Am team that got its start around 2K14, and advice from his peers made such a transition seem logical. Making the decision to try even easier was Lakers Gaming’s situation, a team that was looking for a head coach to steer a roster of players who were Pro-Am teammates of Iinsanitty. A few emails and interviews later, and the “now what?” question was answered in an unexpected but not-quite-surprising way.
Iinsanitty is the very first NBA 2K League player to transition into head coach (NachoTraynor passed on playing in Season 3 to accept a Hornets Venom GT staffer position).He’s excited for what’s to come for Lakers Gaming this year, and he’s even more excited to begin a journey he feels well-suited for, even if it begins a bit earlier than he had anticipated.
Question: How does it feel to be a part of Lakers Gaming? How hype are you to make the transition from player to coach?
Kris: I’m super hype. I really can’t put it into words. From the moment I started the interview process with the Lakers, everyone I talked to, from folks in HR to Matt Makovec (Lakers GM), they’re such great people. They all treat me with the utmost respect. It really does feel like a family. They’re so on top of everything that’s going on, and they’re amazing people. From that standpoint, I couldn’t be happier with where I am. Me personally, Season 1 and after Season 2, if you asked me if I was going to be a coach this soon in my career in the NBA 2K League, I would have said no way. The timing though just felt right for me, Not being retained by the Pistons was kind of a shock, I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t see it coming. When it did, it opened my eyes. Playing in this league is an amazing experience and opportunity. But I always knew in the back of my mind that after my playing days were over, I wanted to still participate in the league, whether it be as a coach, a GM, or in the League office. I love sports, I love video games and 2K, and this is something I want to be a part of for a very long time. I don’t think I would have necessarily went for a coaching job if it was any other team but the Lakers. They’re such a huge brand worldwide. There was something in my gut that told me to go for it. I would have regretted it later on if I didn’t go for it. I just can’t wait to get to LA and get to work.
Q: Can you talk in more detail about the genesis of you landing this position as a player-turned-coach? It’s a League first!
Kris: It’s kind of a funny story. I’m in a very fortunate position because coming up in 2K, I really got my name out there with my ProAm team, Throwdown, which I started in 2K14. That branch of players and coaches is thick in the League. I’m very close with Jonah from Magic Gaming for example. Kyle Rudy from the Knicks. Pat Crossan from the Wizards. I asked their advice on whether or not I should go for a coaching position at all. They really came through for me with great advice on what coaching is like, what I could experience, because I was very uncertain. It’s a big leap from going from player to coach. Once you make that move, it’s permanent. Obviously there’s always a chance you could get back into the League as a player, but for me, I have no intention of being a player again. Once I made this decision I knew I had to make it work. So I’m very thankful for their advice, and for pushing me to reach out to the Lakers. When I initially reached out, it was near the end of them accepting applications. People were even telling me the application window was closed! I had no idea, so I decided to email Matt who runs the team now. I sent him a very detailed email describing who I am, where I’m coming from, and why I thought I’d make a great candidate for the next Lakers Gaming coach. I had no expectations for ever hearing a response. To my surprise, I received an email back within an hour I think. I was very fortunate in that aspect and from there, we hit the ground running. It was a lengthy interview process with multiple interviews on Skype and over the phone. It was a fun ride. I enjoyed talking to different people within the organization. Once I got the call that I got the role, I was ecstatic, running around my apartment celebrating. Called my mom, my girlfriend, but I had to keep it under wraps for a few weeks because the process had to complete on their end. I couldn’t tell Mootyy, Vert, Kev, any of my friends or Throwdown coaches. It was very hard to keep it to myself (laughs). Once I was able to tell people, it finally felt real. I am the first player-turned-coach, which is very humbling for me and that’s something I take a lot of pride in. hopefully I can inspire players down the road, especially once they decide their playing career is over. Maybe they too can take that leap into a successful coaching journey for them.
Q: What did the Lakers Gaming management group see in your skill sets specifically that you think sealed the deal for them? Was it your playing experience? Your familiarity with the current roster (having played with them in Pro Am)? Was it a combination?
Kris: I think it was a combination of everything you mentioned. I do have a ton of experience in 2K, having played the game competitively since 2K14. In 2K16 our team qualified for a $250K tournament as the No. 1 seed on XBOX. We came back in 2K17 on Playstation and made it all the way to the Finals in New Orleans. Even before the NBA 2K League, I’ve had a great deal of success. Back then, we used to play the game for fun and we had no idea that the League was going to be a thing. That’s where I met a lot of the top players in this League. We used to play on a website called Game Battles and be highly competitive even though we weren’t playing for money. Me being a player for two seasons, I know how everything works on the player side and the backend side, like travel schedules, how to deal with managing your time away from home, being able to help younger players coming into the league who’ve never been away from home before. I have a lot of thoughts and wisdom there. 2K aside, I graduated from Temple University in Philly in 2015 with a marketing degree, and after that I started my own marketing company for a few years before I entered the League. I have a lot of experience dealing with clients, interns, hectic scheduling. And even on the marketing side, that work is super important for my role as well, getting the Lakers brand out there and being professional on social media, knowing the right things to say and when. I think that, combined with my 2K experience, gave me a leg up on the competition.
Q: Can you talk about how your relationship with Mootyy is a net advantage to you coming on board as Lakers Gaming head coach?
I met Moot back in 2K16. Before he joined our team, he was on a team with Kyle Rudy and Jonah. He then came to our team with Kyle and that’s where I first met him. I’ve been playing with him ever since then. I also played with Vert in the offseason after Season 1 and I’ve played a lot with Kev this year. I have a great relationship with all three players on the current roster and played with them extensively. That’ll obviously help me coach them. Playing with Mootyy for four years, I know all his tendencies both good and bad. I know his personality traits. I know how to talk to him in a way in which he’ll receive what I’m trying to tell him. We’ve ran so many different plays and so many gameplans for different teams over the years in so many big games, I think that’ll help us on the stage and communicating to other teammates. I think bringing our collective experience to the stage will help a lot.
Q: You’re just stepping into the job, but can you give us your early and honest assessment of the franchise as they come off a 3-13 year heading into what some say is a PG-heavy draft? The chemistry of the current roster is there and strong, so how do you build off that synergy to ensure a successful Season 3?
Kris: The sky’s definitely the limit, however I do want to manage expectations and take it day by day. We have the 7th pick in the Draft which is kind of unfortunate, so we have to work around that. We’ll still get a tremendous player at 7, there’s no doubt about it, but it makes our job a little more challenging to find that person at pick No. 7. And even after that, we have the second pick in the second round, so that’s a huge pick for us. They’ll be an amazing player who drops there at any position. We’re looking at all our options. Every single year, every team has an equal chance to win. We all start 0-0. I always tell people that chemistry is the number one most important thing in 2K above anything else. You can have the most skilled team in the world, but if those five players on the court don’t have chemistry with each other and don’t see things eye to eye, then they’ll never get to where they want or need to be. It’ll be my job to help build that chemistry with the three guys who are there now and the three new players who we’ll bring in. I think we can have an amazing season and surprise a lot of people. Moot loves to say “fueled by the doubt” and we’ll definitely be doubted this year, regardless of how our draft goes. Everyone will count us out at the jump because of last season, and I feel like I can use that as our motivating force to prove people wrong. To prove to ourselves that we can overcome adversity and flip the script around. That’s an exciting challenge for me. I don’t want things to be easy. I’m in this position for a reason and earn what was given to me. I look forward to the challenge. I expect big things from the guys this year and I see us going far.
Q: What kinds of skill sets, both gameplay and personality-wise, are you looking to bring in through the Season 3 draft to round out the roster?
Kris: I think you have to find balance. You can’t draft someone with the utmost character but has lacking skills in the game. You also can’t draft someone with a ton of skill but who will cause a lot of commotion in the locker room. I will say again that the Lakers organization is all about family, so that’ll always be super important to us when scouting and drafting. At the same time, we need a dog at No. 7. We need somebody who can score the ball and can control the game. We’re definitely looking at the point guard position, but we’re also looking at best available. We’re in a weird spot at 7. They’ll be great players picked in front of us, and we definitely have to make the right decision at 7. We already have great players who can do their job to build around. Moot’s a great center and one of the best rebounders in the league in my opinion and he plays great defense. Vert is very versatile and can play 1-5. Last season I know he was forced into a point guard role and I think that’s not necessarily his best position. But he’s best between the 2-4. Kev, he can just shoot lights-out. He catches and shoots, plays defense as well. We have three great pieces who excel at what they do best. It’s my job now to fit the puzzle pieces around them and form a team that is powerful and potent at every single skill.
Q: What will you miss most about playing?
Kris: I’ll probably miss grinding out the game throughout the week, scrimmaging other teams. I’ll be on the sidelines now as they scrim taking notes and observing, coaching them along. As they play, I’ll probably get the itch to get back into that seat and compete. I’m a very competitive person! I’ll definitely miss playing the game, and walking down that stage when they call your name on gameday. There’s no greater feeling than that. However, there will be a greater feeling for me once we win some games and feeling good about ourselves… As much as I got satisfaction from winning as a player, I think it’ll be times ten as a coach because you’re not necessarily on the sticks so you can’t necessarily control as much as you could as a player, but seeing your team succeed after you prepare and put them in a position to succeed will be an even greater feeling and I’m gonna be super proud. I just can’t wait to get started.
Q: Is there a specific aspect of coaching that you’re looking forward to the most, whether it’s the preparation grind or communicating with your players?
Kris: I’ve always been a really big film guy. I love taking notes. I have an iPad where I can screenshot different plays and draw lines and circles. I love highlighting certain things, I’m a very visual person. That’s something I look forward to bringing to the table. It’s not just about watching film, you have to watch it with the intent of making yourself a better player and preparing yourself for your next opponent. I know how much that’s helped me in the past, and I look forward to showing them how important it can be and how we can carry those learnings over into games.
Q: Are you also looking forward to becoming the team “motivator,” which is something coaches often have to do with their players as well in addition to being the preparer?
Kris: Absolutely. When the time calls for it, I’m definitely able to get in someone’s face in a professional way. Motivation is extremely important in 2K, keeping everyone locked in, eyes on the prize. At the same time, myself and players I’ve been around, we can motivate ourselves as well. It won’t be solely relied upon for me to do that. As a player in this league, you have a lot of motivation already. You’re either fueled by people disrespecting you, not giving you the credit you feel you deserve. Or even if it’s just winning because you value winning and being on that stage. Even if it’s the money… I swear that everyone in this league has some sort of self-motivating factor that they use, so I feel like it’s my job to figure out what those are for all six of my players and remind them why they’re here, of the importance of being in this league and how many people are coming for their spot. If they’re not motivated by that, then I don’t think they can be motivated by anything. I will bring energy. I’ve never been the most energetic force on my team as a player, but I do understand the importance of getting the guys fired up as a coach. Especially during the week where you have really long practice days. It’s really hard for anyone to stay focused for that length of time playing game after game after game. It’ll be my job to keep them on track and keep the energy high.
Q: There’s probably also something to be said of you learning a lot from the adversity you faced as a player on the Pistons last season, when you guys endured a tough year on the sticks as well?
Kris: Yeah I feel very fortunate in that aspect. I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Season 1 on the Pistons, we had a very successful season finishing strong and making a couple of final four appearances in tournaments. I know what it takes to be successful in this league. But like you said, I’ve also experienced what happens when a team struggles or doesn’t have the best chemistry on the court. I feel like I’m in a very unique position in that sense since I’ve seen both sides of the equation. I can take the good from Season 1 and do more of that, while limiting the bad that I’ve experienced along the way. Unfortunately Mootyy and Vert haven’t experienced success in this league so far. I’m rooting for those guys more than anyone because they deserve to be in a successful environment. They’re good enough players to where they should be winning. It’ll be my job to get the most out of them. When you’re winning in this league, it’s the greatest experience in the world. Everyone rides on that high. I can’t wait for them–and I’m very confident that we’ll be able–to experience that.
Q: When it’s all said and done, how will you look back at Season 3 as a success? What will you need to do for it to be considered a successful one?
Kris: I would be remiss if I didn’t say that it wouldn’t be successful if we don’t win the championship, however there are 23 teams in the league and only one team will win it. I’m going to push every single day to make sure we’re in the best possible position to be in that championship game. However, that aside, making improvements from last season–we had three wins last year–we have to win more this year. Seeing individual growth from the current roster is a priority. Also making sure our new players come in, feel at home. Growing the brand, staying true to who we are, not trying to be anything else. Keeping it professional, keeping the content coming. But ultimately the goal of every team in this league is to win, so the more we win, the more successful our season will be deemed. I’m excited for the guys and for the players we’ll bring in. I can’t wait to be in LA!