I was lucky enough to attend a Warriors practice during the playoffs, where I spoke with one of the Warriors’ newest members, Quinn Cook. Cook’s recent journey has been amazing. After helping Duke win the NCAA championship in 2015, we went undrafted, spent time in the NBA G League, and then joined the reigning NBA champs in 2018. He is one of a very small number of players who can claim both NBA and NCAA titles. (When I asked Quinn which ring would be sweeter, he said the NBA championship.) He has worked hard and always maintained a positive attitude, conquering every challenge from the G League, to stepping in for Steph Curry on a two-way contract, to earning a two-year deal with the champs. After Game 4 of the Finals, Steve Kerr congratulated Cook, and said, “So happy for you. You helped us get here, don’t ever forget that. You helped us win playoff games. You earned your spot in the NBA.”
Here is my interview with Quinn Cook:
Can you give kids advice on how to rebound from adversity? I have heard you say that in every phase of your life, things have not always gone smoothly. How did you learn to handle the setbacks each time?
For me, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Everything in life is not going to be easy. You stay up all night studying for that test and you don’t get the grade you want, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself, you can’t feel down. You have to stay up longer and keep gradually getting better. If you don’t get that job always wanted, you have to keep building. For me, going through adversity, whether it was in basketball or in life, I am always trying to get better and stay positive through everything. Use your failures as motivation to reach your success.
How important is good character, attitude and work ethic? How do kids develop that?
I think that’s the biggest thing. Growing up, I learned it at a young age. Having a great work ethic and having a great attitude will take you so far in basketball, but it will take you further in life. I think the things that you learn from basketball or football, all sports, will get you ready for life. Having a great work ethic, a great attitude, and always being coachable, always being a student of whatever you do – those characteristics have been instilled in me since I was younger. I am thankful to have great parents, a great family, and a great coach at every level that has helped me a lot.
What's the best basketball summer camp you went to as a kid?
That’s tough, but it was Morgan Wootten, the legendary high school coach. He and his son always had a camp in Frostburg, Maryland. That’s a camp that I always learned from. They would always give us grades on attitude, ball handling, body language, and shooting ability. I would take those grades and get better. For the next year, I would try to improve my grade. They would give us sheets with all the drills to work out and I would take them home and do the drills every day. It made me better. Morgan Wootten camp was big for me.
What's better: being a camper, working a camp, or having your name on the camp?
Being in a camp, first, as a camper would be number one for me. That’s where you really learn everything, stuff that I apply to my life and to my career I learned when I was at young camps. Second, having your own camp. It’s so much fun seeing your name on little kids’ shirts and teaching the kids what you learned growing up. And then, refereeing a camp, it’s a lot of work and I am not a good ref but it’s always fun going back to Duke and refereeing.
For me, summer camps growing up were essential. I learned so many things going to camps when I was younger. I think it’s so important for me to give back. Obviously, when I was growing up I would see guys come back and show their faces at camps. That sticks with kids for a long time and that’s very important to me.
What's the Quinn Cook Camp like?
It’s so much fun. It’s intense, we have about 100 kids who come from all over the county. It’s fun, I am with them the whole day. We eat together, we joke, we stretch, we do yoga, and we play. It’s so much fun. I have all my closest friends helping, coaching and refereeing. My mom runs the whole thing. It’s a dream come true to have my own camp. I always wanted to do that. I can remember always wanting to be that person. Growing up I went to Chris Paul Camp and LeBron James Camp and I always wanted to be in their shoes. I am obviously not where they are but to have your own camp is a dream come true. It’s an incredible feeling.
I know you were a big Tony Parker fan when you were younger. Why? And how did it feel to play against him?
The biggest thing for me that stood out about Tony was he’s not the biggest, he’s not the most athletic, he’s not the fastest—but he is so crafty. His spin moves, his floaters, his different variations of finishes. He has been a winner his whole career and has the respect of everyone in the NBA. He is someone I have always looked up to. It was a pleasure going up against him this year, especially during the playoffs.
How is Coach Kerr different than other coaches you have played for?
Coach Kerr is so laid back and makes it fun to come to work every day. He has played for Phil Jackson and Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich]. He was the GM for the Suns. He played with MJ. He now coaches Kevin and Steph and Dre and Klay. He has a basketball mind that is out of this world. The way he sees stuff and the encouragement he gives everybody, especially me as a young guy. He makes us all feel good about coming to work and being a Warrior. He just cares about the person more than the player which says a lot.
What have you learned from Steph Curry?
To have the absolute highest confidence in yourself. He gets on me if I pass up shots or if I put my head down when I miss two or three in a row. He is always on me about that. He is a great player but he is an even better person. I just try to learn from him. He is so humble and down to earth with everybody, it’s an honor to be his teammate.
What’s the most memorable moment from your early basketball career?
I was 10 years old and I played on a small AAU team. We had terrible jerseys and our coach had to go to Foot Locker and buy us all shoes. Nobody knew who we were. We went to 10 and Under Nationals in Orlando. I can remember us walking in for the opening ceremonies and people looking at us weird. Our coach said to use the laughter as motivation. We ended up making it to the national championship out of 160 teams, but we wound up losing. It taught me a lesson to always believe in yourself and don’t worry about what everyone thinks about you.
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images