By: Katy Simonian
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) will honor NBA Coach Rex Kalamian for his groundbreaking achievements in leading the Armenian National Basketball Team to victory in the 2022 FIBA European Championship. Kalamian, who serves as the Assistant Coach for the Detroit Pistons, made history, earning the gold medal after winning every game of the four-game tournament, during which the team dominated every time they took the court.
Armenia’s entry in the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries is a tremendous step forward in the advancement of Armenia’s position in basketball on the international stage. Kalamian embarked on his journey as Head Coach with the goal of highlighting the talent of Armenia’s basketball players and the prowess of Armenian athletes around the world. With twenty-eight years of experience as an Assistant Coach in the NBA, including 9 years with the L.A. Clippers and his prominent role leading the Detroit Pistons, Kalamian had his sights set on a statement making victory, bringing his distinctive NBA style to the team’s training and every element of the tournament. He built a powerful team consisting of players with college and professional experience, employing a strategy based on three-point shots, resulting in an effective offensive technique. His efforts led to unprecedented success, as Armenia won every game with an impressive average of 88.8 points per game, while winning by an average margin of 23 points to dominate the competition, announcing Armenia as a contender in the sport.
Kalamian’s success holds a historic poignance, both in his professional achievements and personal history. The son of Bronx-born Armenians, his family relocated to Los Angeles where he attended East Los Angeles College before graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. Prior to his rise in the NBA, he spent two seasons as an Assistant Coach for his alma mater, East Los Angeles College, where he was once named team captain, leading in the South Coast Conference in three-point shots during the 1988-89 season. His love of three-pointers echoes through his career as a player and coach, proving that his greatest gift is his ability to impart his wisdom in the game he loves to teach new generations of athletes to embrace and nurture their talent.
His career in the NBA has earned him the respect of both his colleagues and players. He has held coaching positions for the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma Thunder and Toronto Raptors. He is best known for the nine years he spent with the Los Angeles Clippers before serving as Assistant Coach to the Detroit Pistons. Kalamian made headlines this past January when he led the Pistons to victory, sitting first chair due to Head Coach Dwane Casey’s temporary exit in adherence to Covid-19 protocols. Under his leadership, the Pistons played one of their best games of the year, with 15 three-pointers in the second half, Kalamian’s signature, setting a new team record.
His leadership of the Armenian National Basketball Team in the FIBA Championship brought together his Armenian roots and his prowess as a Coach. On the historic nature of Armenia’s entry in the tournament, Kalamian remains humble, reflecting on his love of basketball and his Grandmother Yevkine Yeramian, who was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. “There are too many good Armenian basketball players and there are too many kids out there that play. We need to have an Armenian Basketball Team,” he said, noting what motivated him to lead efforts to promote Armenia’s participation. “My Grandmother was a Genocide survivor and I heard directly from her mouth how she persevered and how she made a life in the United States of America. It is truly amazing! When I think about the things she went through and how she fought, I think this is the smallest thing I can possibly do in her memory, to give back to Armenia. I’m excited to have the ability to lead these extraordinary young men and to make our nation proud.”
“It gives us great pride to see Coach Rex Kalamian lead the Armenian National Basketball Team to victory. He is an inspiration for Armenian athletes everywhere,” said ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. “Coach Rex has not only honored his heritage but more significantly, he is paving the path for our incredible young athletes and has laid the groundwork for future generations of champions.”
Perhaps Andre Mkrtchyan Spight, a team MVP who excelled in the 2022 FIBA victory, said it best, on the impact of Coach Rex’s extraordinary leadership for the Armenian National Basketball Team – “This medal is huge for our country, and our ranking will continue to climb. We will never stop.”
Coach Rex Kalamian has indeed made his family and his entire nation proud, honoring the legacy of his Grandmother in her perseverance and strength. The team’s victory under his leadership reminds us that together, we can achieve great things through the power of the Armenian spirit.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
For more information about Coach Rex Kalamian’s extraordinary achievements in the NBA and leadership for the Armenian National Basketball Team, as well as the 2022 ANCA-WR Gala, please visit https://ancawr.org/anca-press-releases/. To purchase 2022 ANCA-WR Awards Gala tickets, please visit ancawr.org/gala2022tickets.
Katy Simonian is a member of the 2022 ANCA-WR Gala Committee.