While attending Mooresville High School just outside Indianapolis, IN, the early stages of Jordan Surenkamp’s basketball career were like something you’d see at the local cinema. “Shops and restaurants would close up early on Friday nights,” he recalled. “It was like your stereotypical movie scene. Watching Hoosiers and stuff like that, the culture is kind of embedded in you from the beginning. Really before I could even walk, I had a basketball in my hands.”
And it was that famous Indiana basketball culture that kick started Surenkamp’s long journey in the sport from Mooresville (population: just under 10,000), to nearby Division III Wabash College, then down to the University of South Alabama in Mobile to begin his coaching career. From there, Surenkamp latched on with the G League’s Long Island Nets, the Charlotte Hornets and now, has officially been named the new Head Coach of the Greensboro Swarm.
“As soon as the opportunity was presented to me, I was excited to take it,” said Surenkamp. “It seemed like not only for myself, but also for the staff and organization, a really good situation. Something that we focus and really pride ourselves on is the developmental aspect of our players and organization as a whole. [This opportunity] is something I’m greatly appreciative of and certainty humbled by.”
Surenkamp will be the third full-time head coach in Greensboro’s history, the first to be promoted internally from within the Hornets organization and at 30 years old, much younger than his previous predecessors Noel Gillespie (2016-18) and Joe Wolf (2018-20). Counting last winter’s G League Bubble in Orlando (where the team played 15 games under Hornets Assistant Jay Hernandez), the Swarm hold an all-time mark of 73-135 with no postseason appearances.
Prior to accepting this job, Surenkamp served as the team’s Head Video Coordinator the past two seasons, although his role has expanded. “Anything from the video work in the early mornings and late nights to being on the court and helping out with player development and workouts,” he said. “Getting involved in practice drills and all of that is something I’m extremely familiar with and something I’ve enjoyed the last couple of years.”
“He’s an extremely hard worker,” stated Hornets Head Coach James Borrego. “He absorbs information, he applies it. He’s got great passion for the game, loves our organization. He has a developmental mindset, so I think he fits extremely well in Greensboro. He absolutely cares about his craft and this organization.”
Added Borrego, “Nobody knows our organization or our scheme better than Jordan. He’s been a part of developing and growing it from the ground up to where we’re at today. He’s been a major part of our staff and our growth. I don’t think there’s going to be much of a learning curve because he knows our system. The learning curve of becoming a head coach is going to be different, but he’s had his hands on leading the video room.”
Having already built established relationships with Borrego, the coaching staff and several of the players expected to play in Greensboro at some point this season is a huge advantage for Surenkamp and the organization overall. A majority, if not all, of the play calls, schematics and terminology will be uniform between Charlotte’s NBA and G League levels, making the adjustment for players and coaches virtually seamless.
“That comfort and familiarity, that open communication, that built line of trust, that’s what going to allow us to take a big step forward before we even step on the floor here,” stated Surenkamp. “I think the familiarity and transparency is a key to that and a big reason why I believe we’ll be ahead of the game going into training camp here in Greensboro.”
“He’s a young energetic coach who has a great feel for what we’re doing here in Charlotte,” added Director of Player Personnel Larry Jordan. “He has a great mind as a young coach, so we’ll obviously rally behind him and give him all the resources he needs. He’s going to make those young guys down there better. I’m one hundred percent confident in that.”
Managing personalities in the G League can be a tricky task for even the most experienced of coaches. Most rosters tend to be a combination of players from all different backgrounds with a variety of future trajectories, so making sure everybody is working together collectively for one common goal is an on-going priority.
“The biggest thing is to lay the foundation of the culture here in the same ways that we have in Charlotte,” he said. “The high characters guys we bring here are going to work really hard [and] be extremely visible in the community. Coming out with the expectation to win and play the right way, is important. I’m a competitor through and through. It’s in my core. I think the development of players and the expectation to win go hand in hand in some respects though.”
Surenkamp’s regular season debut will take place on Friday, Nov. 5 when the Swarm host the visiting Birmingham Squadron for the first of two back-to-back home games. Between the hiring of a new head coach, having fans back in the Field House for the first time in 20 months and the Swarm’s ongoing 5th Anniversary celebration, it’s certainly going to be an exciting year in Greensboro.
“The Fieldhouse, the locker rooms, the support staff, the business side, it’s really a first-class organization with first-class people,” said Surenkamp. “At the end of the day, it’s about the people that are going to be in this building and within this organization that are really going to make this thing work. [Meeting] everybody for the first time, it’s very uplifting and exciting. It has me even more raring to go than before and I didn’t think that was possible. I’m looking forward to getting going and hitting the ground running.”