Ellis, who once sat on the bench as an assistant coach under head coach Otis Smith here in Beer City, USA, was named the head coach of the Suns’ NBA G League affiliate Northern Arizona Suns last August prior to their inaugural season.
Ellis’ path to the big leagues has been a long, winding road filled with stops across the globe and in Tulsa, Reno, Grand Rapids and Bakersfield before finding a seat at the head of the bench in Prescott Valley (AZ).
Born in Dallas, the naturalized Georgian citizen played collegiately at Southern Nazarene University of the NAIA as a 6-foot-4 guard. After college, Ellis found his way to the Huntsville Flight of the then-NBA Development League in 2001. He then spent the next 10 years playing professionally in Germany, Turkey and Italy.
Ellis spent time between 2006 and 2009 playing for the Georgian National team including Eurobasket 2009 Division B, in which his team beat Belarus in the final to solidify their move to Division A. Ellis averaged 16.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists during the tournament.
Ellis worked his way into a role in the NBA D-League in 2012 when he accepted an assistant coach position with the Tulsa 66ers. He then spent one year in Tulsa, moved to the Reno Bighorns staff the next year before coach Smith and the Drive came calling for their inaugural season in 2014-15. Then, it was off to Bakersfield for the final season the team was known as the Jam. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns purchased the franchise as the D-League started to really show promise as a minor league to the NBA. That franchise was moved to Prescott Valley, two hours north of Phoenix, and named after the Suns before the 2016-17 season.
Once again, Ellis’ name was on the list of potential hires, but this time it was for the lead role of the new affiliate. In July 2016, Ellis was named the team’s first head coach. Those Suns started the season 10-1 before falling back to the pack throughout the year, finishing just below .500.
In July of this year, Jeff Van Gundy tapped Ellis to be an assistant for the U.S. men’s national team during their play at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup where they went undefeated.
On October 23, 2017, before taking the reigns of the Suns in the newly-named NBA G League, Ellis was named an assistant coach for the parent-club Suns when Jay Triano was named head coach for the remainder of the season.