Do you ever wonder where Adam Sandler learned to play basketball for some of his movies? Or why the award-winning actor decided to stop by Cameron Indoor Stadium during his last visit to Durham?

Movie choreographer. Television actor. NBA Development League coach. NBA draft scout. College basketball coach. Mentor. You can find all of these roles and more by looking no further than one individual at Duke: Hernando Planells.

The fact that Planells even ended up at Duke was nothing more than a culmination of a decade of a diverse basketball background that parallels no one in the industry. It is not often that a college basketball coach would reference Sandler in the same breath as Detroit Pistons’ point guard Avery Bradley.

Planells credits one individual with the greatest impact on his career.

“Probably Adam Sandler. I’ve worked on three of his movies and actually, he was here—He was at the DPAC and he came, he played with us at the K Center," Planells said. "Just the time he would take aside and kind of teach you the ropes a little bit of how to handle yourself and understanding what true service is when dealing with anybody at that end."

Planells worked with Sandler on three movies: “The Longest Yard,” “Grown Ups” and “That's My Boy”. He also served as Sandler’s personal trainer for one movie, while choreographing the basketball scenes for a couple of others.

“We played basketball, and learning how to incorporate all that into what he likes and what his needs were helped me in so many different ways, and I still thank him to this day,” Planells said.

Planells graduated from Regis University and coached three high school teams at the close of the 20th century. Then, in 2001, Planells’ career took a turn that brings him a smile while reminiscing through the amazing experience. He was named the head coach of Spike TV’s hit SLAMBALL as the Bouncers' head coach.

“It was awesome. When you get to coach a sport that no one has ever played when there are trampolines involved and you are yelling at them to jump higher and risk themselves and jumping up and dunking the basketball,” Planells said. “The great thing is incorporating the football, basketball, hockey elements into it. I was lucky just to be a really small part of it. It was exciting because it got me involved more in coaching, but it also got me in the production world on TV and film.”

After two seasons on the job, Planells put his entertainment role on hold. It was time for a new career path. But once he arrived on the big stage, his phone kept on ringing and his entertainment career plunged forward.

To this day, he has held cameos in multiple movies and commercials in addition to helping out behind the scenes. He has worked on other famous movies such as Coach Carter, Spider-Man 3 and Semi-Pro.

The 2006-07 basketball season provided yet another opportunity to expand his knowledge of the game, serving as the head coach of the Ryukyu Golden Kings of Japan’s top basketball league.

“It is faster because of a lack of size…. Fundamentals are taught,” Planells said. “In Japan, they have a huge influence of Americans and foreigners, so there’s an American-type aspect to the game.”

After some time coaching The Hollywood Fame of the American Basketball Association, Planells was off to work for longtime NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake, where he scouted numerous NBA prospects for general managers across the league. 

“When you’re scouting, the top players are obvious and it’s finding the diamonds in the rough that can either go to the NBA or in the D-League,” Planells said. “When you look at everyone, you want to see how they are going to be able to compete, number one, but how they are going to behave and live at that pro level when you are making money and your job is to play basketball.”

While Planells was scouting for the NBA, one team in particular took notice. In 2010, Planells became an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws—the Boston Celtics' D-League affiliate—under then-head coach Austin Ainge, the son of Celtics president Danny Ainge.

“If you are in a position of influence, there’s just pressure. Granted, when you’re working with Austin, and Danny Ainge is around and all that stuff, I think there is [pressure],” Planells said. “But that wears off after the first five, 10 days.”

That journey included coaching a D-League Defensive Rookie of the Year in DeShawn Sims. But another player stood out in a different way. Planells helped develop former Boston Celtic and current Detroit Piston star Avery Bradley.

“It was really just teaching [Bradley] the pro game,” Planells said. “When I do watch him on TV, it’s like, for lack of a better word, watching like your relative playing really well and you feel like you have something to do with it, but he was already talented when he got to us.”

This experience allowed the Duke coach to make an impact on and off the court with his up-and-coming players.

“When you coach at the pro level, you teach a lot more,” Planells said. “You build a lot of relationships, more than I think at any other level.”

These relationships eventually led Planells to his current position at Duke. In his fifth year on the Blue Devils' coaching staff, Planells has blown away his previous record of time he has spent in the same place.

“Talk about a loyal soldier. From helping me out with summer camp to working his way up. Now, he’s an associate head coach. He has a lot more responsibility. He is in charge of recruiting. He’s got the post players.... He’s doing a great job,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “He wants to be a head coach. He’s been interviewing for coaching positions. The right one has not come yet, but I think that it will.”

There are many aspects of his past that can be seen in his coaching today, but there is one in particular that gives this coaching staff a leg up on its competition. Recruiting in college basketball is difficult for many coaches to excel at. Planells’ background as an NBA scout gives McCallie an expert evaluator and sharp decision maker in her back pocket.

“It helps you make a decision," Planells said. "In recruiting, a lot of us coaches can’t make a decision. We like this player or that player."

At the end of the day, the film industry and basketball are more related that one might think. Building relationships in coaching and entertainment mirrors one another. With all of these diverse experiences in his back pocket, the associate head coach currently serves as the director of “Always Be Contagious,” a leadership program that hosts conferences and podcasts for business leaders and other coaches.

“It comes down to service, decision-making and relationships.... When you work with actors and producers and directors, everything is communication-based and how are we going to work together to build something up? When you are working on a movie, it’s a $30 million budget and you have all these moving parts you’re trying to get together so it looks great for like an hour and a half,” Planells said. “It transfers over to basketball, you are trying to get a team together, trying to get the different pieces together. How do you get them working so that in the end, you are winning a championship and helping these young ladies really get to another level on the court and off the court.”

Hank Tucker contributed reporting.