As Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager, Coach Zellner has busily been scouting and recruiting free agents for the 2024 season, with Louisville longing for a successful second season in TBL.

This game will take you places. That’s for sure.

Just ask Brad Zellner. The always astute assistant coach certainly has logged the miles and then some between youth basketball, college hoops and the pros.

This season, he is willing to go even further.

In the last year alone, Coach Zellner has gone from undergoing back surgery, to navigating three days of evaluating and scouting basketball players at the TBL Combine Draft in Indianapolis thanks to the use of a knee scooter, to rolling headstrong into a very long 2023 season in Owensboro that was complete with wins, losses, and heartache in the Lower Midwest Division.

That was then.

And Louisville is now.

After sitting under the learning tree of long-time head coach Mark Anderson for three years, this offseason has seen Coach Zellner develop his own career in basketball by making the 106 mile trip northeast from Owensboro to the Derby City after joining Team Market Owner, Akoy Agau, and the Distillers for the 2024 TBL season as Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager. Coach Zellner’s arrival marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new story that is still being written in Derby City.

The good news: Louisville is back for another crack at it. Some first-year teams don’t always return. The Distillers are also bringing with them a true student of the game, as there’s probably not a coach around who carefully scouts, recruits, and strives to help guys develop as players and people than Coach Zellner. If you watched game film today, chances are he’s watched more. If you talked to players recently about the upcoming TBL season, chances are he’s talked to more. If you’ve taken the time today to get better at your craft, chances are he’s taken a lot more.

How else do you think Coach Zellner has reached this mile marker?

As he gets ready to return to Indianapolis for the 2024 TBL Draft Combine on February 3 and 4 at The Factory – minus the sore back and knee scooter – Coach Zellner took time to speak with Around The Basketball League about his busy offseason, making the decision to join Derby City, valuable advice for players, and endlessly preparing for a big upcoming ‘24 TBL season for Louisville.


First off, congratulations on your new role in Louisville. Can you share a bit about how the opportunity came about and why this is the right for you at this stage of your coaching career?

Thanks, I am excited to get the season rolling. The time between the TBL summer league and draft combine is spent talking to players and agents in order to build the team for the upcoming season. Going into my fourth year in the TBL I am starting to build some great relationships with individuals involved in pro basketball. These relationships have allowed my list of players to grow exponentially. When we received the unfortunate news that the Owensboro Thoroughbreds were not returning for the 2024 TBL season, I was disappointed. Despite that, I had compiled a list of potential players for this upcoming season. I could have easily gone to a local high school to help out a team in my area, but I want to stay involved in professional basketball to help develop players and help them reach their goals of playing at the highest level for them.

When it came to deciding what team(s) I would reach out to coach I looked no further than Louisville. The Derby City Distillers are located about an hour from my house, so having spent several years recruiting the Louisville area as a college coach at Indiana University Southeast, I thought it would be great to get back into the Louisville basketball scene.

I reached out to Akoy Agau and after a few conversations he decided to bring me on to be an assistant coach and help with front office operations. When I found out who the head coach of Derby City was I was excited to be able to reunite with a familiar face in Miquel Coleman. He is a former player of mine from my days at IU Southeast.

With last year being the first for the organization, what are some things you are looking at to help shape this team for the 2024 season?

With every new season the goal is to build on what worked last year and improve on what went wrong the previous season. As the 2024 season shapes up, I am in a different position by joining Derby City. We did lots of great things in Owensboro. We also could have improved on some things. I am able to share those experiences with Derby City as we maneuver through this season.

For me, there is nothing better than collaborating with others. In order for me to grow, then I need to see as many different sides as possible. In joining Derby City, there is an opportunity for me to share and hear ideas from new people for the whole season. Akoy is a former TBL player so his perspective will be different from mine. Coach Coleman is a former college player and a great high school coach. Michael Baffour (Assistant Coach) is also a former player and now coaches. All of their perspectives are also going to differ. As we build this team to compete this season we are going to have the opportunity to have different ideas to help the team prosper. The one constant that stays the same is, how do we help these players reach their goals while building a championship contending team.

I still talk with Mark Anderson almost as much as when we coached the Thoroughbreds together. We have built a great relationship in the three-plus years of knowing each other. I am looking forward to creating new relationships with the new staff and players of Derby City. The game of basketball has allowed me to build relationships with some great people and I hope to continue that with Derby City.

When you take on a new role with a new organization like this, where do you start? What do you feel is the key message to staff, players, and also the community in Louisville?

My goal as a coach is to soak in as much information about the game as possible. I am always trying to watch, talk and learn about the game. I guess it’s hard to start something that is an ongoing process and never really stops for me. I did not realize it at the time but I started preparing for my season with Derby City the day after our season ended last year. I study the game of basketball in great detail and I often look at concepts that will help teams. All of the offseason work I have done this year will be used to help make the Distillers a championship team.

I have already been welcomed with open arms by the rest of the staff. I appreciate them allowing me to have a role with the Derby City Distillers. My message to them is, I’m going to do the necessary work to help them and this team be a championship team. I was just talking to a potential player a couple days ago and my message to him was, come be part of something special. We have a staff that wants players to be their best, reach their goals and win a championship.I have also heard from lots of people in the community of Louisville congratulating me and wishing the team luck. My message to them is come out and watch this team play. They are going to be some of the hardest working guys in TBL and deserve to be supported by the great basketball city that Louisville is.

We are just a couple of weeks away from the Combine Draft. Heading into that weekend, what are you looking for when you are on-hand to evaluate players in Indianapolis?

First off, last year I was coming off back surgery and I will be thrilled to not be dependent on a walker to get around. I will definitely be covering the courts in great detail this year. As I evaluate talent, the one big thing I will look for is consistency. Several players can make shots during the first game but will they still be able to make shots in the fourth hour when fatigue is an issue. I can remember last year we placed a player high on our draft board because of the way he defended in his last two games of the day. The player was talented all ready but he was also still playing defense the right way when others were not. Everyone is tired by the end of the combine but the ones who want it find a way to do things consistently.

Players who are consistent will usually rate high in the following categories too and are very important when evaluating talent:

  • Basketball IQ
  • Body language
  • Are you a good teammate?
  • High defensive standards

Any words of advice for the guys who are planning to showcase their talents at the Combine? 

There are a few things players need to understand when coming to an event like this.

The first thing is to treat it like a job interview. When I see a player I like I will watch him not only when he is on the court but how he interacts with people and carries himself off the court in between games. For example: How does he talk to the trainer? Does he stand up to go play and leave trash sitting on the bleachers? Every little thing matters in these situations.

The next piece of advice is how will players stand out. There will be hundreds of good players and most of them will look the same in ability. What are you going to do to separate yourself from the pack?

Please be in shape when you come to any combine. Being out of shape shows coaches that you may not take the profession serious enough. I understand if you are tired at the end of the event. Do not show signs of fatigue after going through the skills session portion of the combine.

And finally, Players have paid money for a great opportunity. Do not waste it away by not playing hard or taking it easy on another player. Players need to compete and play hard every minute of every game and drill. If I see a player sprint on offense and play lazy on defense there is no chance of me being interested in that player.

Lastly, Owensboro and Derby City split their head-to-head games last season and it seemed like each game was hard fought. What did you see in Derby City while scouting them and what made those games so tough?

Every game last year with Derby City was a battle. The Distillers had several players that were hard nosed tough players. They also had a couple players who were a match up problem for us. They played hard and made us earn every point. As a team, they were good at controlling the pace of the game. We were a team that liked to play fast and the Distillers would often use the entire shot clock…we had two teams with two distinct styles that made for some exciting basketball.


Wendell Maxey is the author of Around The Basketball League and has written about professional basketball and sports for 20 years. He’s been featured on,, USA Today, FOX Sports, and SLAM Magazine among other publications and media outlets. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or read through his archive on Linktree. This 2024 season, Wendell will also be a featured writer with the Basketball Super League.


Around The Basketball League is free today. But if you enjoyed this post, you can tell Around The Basketball League that their writing is valuable by pledging a future subscription. You won’t be charged unless they enable payments.

Pledge your support