When the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets face off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, a University of Hawaii men’s basketball legend will play a significant role in Miami’s attempt at a fourth title in franchise history.

Former Rainbow Warrior Anthony “AC” Carter is in his fifth season on the coaching staff of the Eastern Conference champions as an assistant coach as the director of player development, coaching in his second NBA finals with the franchise.

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According to Carter’s former assistant coach at UH, Jackson Wheeler, Carter’s leadership and potential coaching future was evident 25 years ago in Manoa.

“I think we all saw it, whether it was media or coaches or everything when we were recruiting him, I was always amazed how his leadership in junior college was incredible,” Wheeler told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello/ “Then when he got here, his leadership was so good for us. He just knew how to push the right buttons with every player, knew how to get the best out of a group. He was just that incredible. You would be always for a person that dropped out of school in eighth grade, had to get a GED. It just it showed throughout his life of that he had all this potential to do what he wanted.”

Wheeler and Carter continue to stay in touch and recently the two talked about Carter’s coaching journey.

“Right now, we talk about it all the time and he said he is just happy with where he’s at, developing players and he really tries to work it out for the Heat,” Carter said. “There’s no better team to show the development of players. I think it’s a big plus that he’s doing well with all these undrafted players that have been so successful and now you’ve got AC in the Finals and I’m going to watch it more closely than any other NBA Finals, probably just because of that.”

Carter, who played 14 NBA seasons, spent five of those with the Nuggets.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is set for Thursday at 2:30 p.m. HST and will be televised on ABC.