Nick Lagios, a 2008 graduate of South Portland High, who is currently the director of basketball operations and player development for the South Bay Lakers of the G League, is a finalist to be hired as general manager of a new G League franchise in Mexico City. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The story of Brett Brown’s basketball journey from South Portland High to head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, with a significant detour to Australia on the way, is familiar to even the most casual sports fans in Maine.

Well, there’s someone else from South Portland who also made a detour Down Under and is making a name for himself in professional basketball. Nick Lagios, 30, is the director of basketball operations and player development for the South Bay Lakers, the NBA G League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers.

He’s also one of two finalists to become general manager of Capitanes, a pro team based in Mexico City that is expected to join the G League for the 2020-21 season if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t scuttle the league’s plans.

Lagios (pronounced LAY-jus) had his final interview with Capitanes a little more than a week ago.

“It went really well,” he said. “I think they’ll offer me the job, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”

Lagios returned to Los Angeles on Saturday after a month-long visit to Maine. Had the NBA draft been held Thursday night as originally scheduled, Lagios would have been scrambling to sign the cream of the unselected crop.

“Once the draft ends, it’s the craziest 15 minutes of the season,” he said. “You’re calling 10 different people because everybody’s trying to sign who’s left over.”

Instead, Lagios spent the day with a friend hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail near Mahoosuc Notch. These former Red Riots are an especially close bunch, having spent countless summer days playing Wiffle ball in Tom and Chris Biskup’s backyard and keeping in touch since their 2008 graduation from South Portland.

Every summer, they reconvene and hike a section of the AT, starting where they finished the previous year. In that manner, they have completed all the Maine sections and have gone as far into New Hampshire as Mt. Washington. The plan is to tackle that section in October.

The path to professional basketball, by contrast, is not marked clearly with white blazes. Lagios has always been a fine athlete, captain of both the soccer and tennis teams while at South Portland, but he did not play high school basketball because his family spent winter weekends and vacations skiing.

“I was always obsessed with the Celtics,” he said. “This is kind of what I always wanted to do, but I never thought it was possible.”

Turns out, with perseverance, hard work and a few lucky breaks, it is possible. The first break came in college at the University of Colorado, where Lagios landed an internship with Kroenke Sports, which owns the Denver Nuggets. After graduating with a degree in geography, Lagios moved to the Bay Area because he could live first with an aunt and uncle, then a college roommate’s family. He found work at summer basketball camps run by different colleges. One of them, Stanford, hired him as an intern for the 2013-14 season.

The Stanford basketball staff liked his work ethic, so when a video coordinator left the program in midseason, Lagios was asked to take over. He worked crazy hours and often slept in the locker room, but Stanford earned a 10th seed in the NCAA Tournament and wound up upsetting No. 2 Kansas (featuring 76ers center Joel Embiid) before falling in the Sweet 16 to No. 11 Dayton.

At season’s end, Lagios applied for a variety of jobs and internships in the NBA and its development league without success. Thanks to a chance meeting with an assistant coach from Australia during the Final Four, Lagios did have contact information for someone with the Sydney Kings named Tim Hudson.

Hudson had played for Brett Brown when Brown coached the Sydney Kings. Lagios decided the adventure was worthwhile and volunteered whatever services were needed.

“I had to work a bunch of side jobs to stay afloat, but (Australia’s) minimum wage is good,” said Lagios, whose mother, Lisa, was a 1979 classmate of Brown’s at South Portland High. “I did know Brett, but Brett really had nothing to do with my being there.”

Lagios also volunteered with the Australian National Team and wound up returning to them for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. After a year in Australia, Lagios landed a basketball operations assistant job with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, moved up to video coordinator, and eventually to his current position for the renamed South Bay Lakers, who share a practice facility with their NBA parent, the Lakers.

Andre Ingram, the G League career leader in both games and 3-point field goals, toiled in the minors for a decade before finally making his NBA debut in April 2018 at age 32.

“My first memories of Nick are of him being on the court, rebounding and helping guys get shots up,” Ingram said. “He just seemed like a guy who knew what his focus and goals were, and went about doing it. He didn’t mess around.”

At a team-building activity on a nearby beach, players were told to select a staff member for a Spikeball tournament. Ingram, as the most veteran player, was given first choice. He picked Lagios.

“I know he is an avid beach volleyball guy,” Ingram said. “We did very well.”

“He’s persistent and a passionate guy,” said Nick Mazzella, general manager of South Bay since 2013. “He’s a guy who, if a door closes, he’s going to try to open 10 others.”

Mazzella said Lagios helps with nearly every aspect of the general manager’s job, doing research and watching film of players who might be added to the roster, keeping databases of players who are overseas but might be available, running a tryout camp, and acting as a sounding board for ideas that bounce between them.

During one road trip, Lagios set up a team visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. When a player expressed interest in finance, Lagios arranged for a visit with the chief financial officer of South Bay’s ownership group, Mazzella said.

“He wants to help set them up to be smarter and better people overall, not just on the court,” Mazzella said. “A lot of people think of the G League and think of the development of players. But it’s almost a better opportunity to develop staff. I have no doubt he’ll move on to bigger and better things someday, whether it’s internal or external.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.