Sweeney, Oppenheimer and Hughes will be on Kidd’s staff
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Bucks held a press conference to introduce Jason Kidd as their new head coach. At the same time, the composition of the rest of the coaching staff is starting to take shape. The staff seems particularly focused on basketball instructors, people who might be able to tutor one of the younger rosters in the NBA.
The hires, per Charles Gardner, will be Sean Sweeney, Josh Oppenheimer and Eric Hughes. Sweeney and Hughes worked with Kidd in Brooklyn last season, while Oppenheimer was on Larry Drew’s staff in Milwaukee.
Just last week Sweeney, who has spent less than one full season as an assistant in the NBA, was poised to coach the New Jersey Nets in the Orlando Summer League. Now Jason Kidd has said that Sweeney will have the same role for the Bucks in Las Vegas next.
Sweeney’s bio on the Nets’ website paints him as a teacher and a guy who took a Erik Spoelstra-type path to employment as an assistant:
Sweeney is in his first season as an assistant coach/video and third overall with the organization, originally joining the Nets in December, 2011 as the team’s assistant video coordinator.
Sweeney came to the Nets from the University of Northern Iowa, where he had served as the team’s video coordinator. Prior to that, he was the director of basketball operations at the University of Evansville in Indiana, where he also taught ‘Coaching Basketball’.
Sweeney has also had stints as an assistant coach at both Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Cambridge, MN and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Oppenheimer has been retained by Kidd and even attended the new coach’s introductory press conference. Drew thought so highly of Oppenheimer that he had even tried to bring Oppenheimer on when he was in Atlanta.
Gardner from the Journal-Sentinel profiled Oppenheimer and his work with younger players last season.
But it’s not just about shooting. Oppenheimer also is talking to his young charges, pointing out flaws and ways to improve and boosting their confidence.
“A lot of times when you’re working a guy out, it’s the best time to talk to him,” Oppenheimer said, “maybe about what he’s struggling with because his guard is down a little bit.
“You call a guy into an office, his first thing is, ‘What’s the matter?’
Hughes spent last season on Kidd’s Nets staff, after a stint with the Raptors. He appears to be another assistant with a strong history of player development.
Originally hired by Toronto in 2007-08 as a basketball development consultant, Hughes was promoted to assistant coach/basketball development on July 1, 2009. Hughes served as the head coach for the Raptors’ entry in the Las Vegas Summer League in 2008-10. His 2010 team finished 5-0 and led the league in scoring.
Before joining the Raptors, Hughes worked as Director of Summer Player Development for Goodwin Sports Management. Among the players that Hughes worked out with Goodwin was former Buck Gary Payton. It was his connection to Payton that got Hughes into the NBA and out of a job as the head coach at Spokane Community College he had while spending his summers with Goodwin. Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wasn’t aware of Hughes, but was swayed by a Payton phone call.
“When they recommended him and I had to sign off, I called one person,” Mitchell said. “I called GP. And if you know Gary, he’s going to tell it like it is, and Gary just raved about him.
“Gary said that if a player calls Eric at 12 o’clock in the morning to work out, he’s going to be there. And Gary don’t pull any punches. After that, it was easy for me to sign off on it.”