During his prime years in the league, Nick Van Exel delighted the fans with his lightning speed and superb scoring ability. However, as he approached his twilight years, “Nick The Quick" unintentionally found another trait he had in his bag - coaching.
A coach inside
As a point guard, Van Exel ensured that his basketball IQ was as exceptional as his physical attributes. Having been used to facilitate the ball for his teammates on and off the court, “Nick The Quick” developed his coaching skills without him knowing it at first. He only realized it when he played for the Dallas Mavericks in 2003.
"I really didn't think about coaching until 2003, when I was with the Mavericks,” Van Exel told Sports Illustrated’s FanNation. “But, being a point guard in the NBA, if you're vocal, if you're calling meetings, planning events for your team, you're supposed to pretty much be an extension of the head coach. That's pretty much coaching on the job.”
After playing his final NBA game in 2006, Van Exel pursued coaching and began landing a few roles in 2009 and is currently working as one of the assistant coaches for the Atlanta Hawks.
Looking back at his unique coaching journey, the one-time NBA All-Star reckoned that point guards make good coaches, concluding, “I think most really good point guards are coaches while they're playing."
Taking a few pointers
Van Exel played for six teams, including the Mavs, the Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs. During his respective stints with the squads mentioned above, he played under three of the best coaches in the league- Don Nelson, Mike D’Antoni, and Gregg Popovich.
In the process, Van Exel said he jotted down “notes” from each of the coaches and kept the "things they did really well” and threw away the “things they didn't do well.”
"There was a lot of great things I took from them,” Van Exel recalled. “Nelly [Nelson] wasn't afraid to throw out a junk lineup. He wasn't afraid to junk the game up. I think you need to be that kind of coach, whether it's in high school, college, wherever you are, don't be afraid. Trust in what you believe in. Popovich was really about his best players, holding his best players accountable. Once he did that, everyone else followed suit - I thought that was really good. D'Antoni was an offensive genius along with Don Nelson."
Now that Van Exel is all-in on coaching, it will be intriguing to see how his career would pan out; Will he come up with his own style? Or will he emulate what he learned throughout the years from either Don, D’Antoni, or Pop? Let’s wait and see.