The Bucks officially announced Monday that Bob Bender and Nick Van Exel would be rejoining Larry Drew’s staff as assistant coaches in Milwaukee. Bender became a bench coach with the Atlanta Hawks during his nine seasons with the team, while Van Exel served as Atlanta’s player development instructor since 2010 and is often credited with point guard Jeff Teague’s steady progression. Van Exel has earned a promotion of sorts, as he will be a full assistant coach in Milwaukee.
More importantly, Van Exel is active on Twitter, where he uses the handle “@vanexel31.”
Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, despite readying for restricted free agency, offered his stamp of approval on Van Exel’s hiring via — guess where!? — Twitter. Jennings has since removed the tweet, but it read in full: “Nick Van though. Def was a big fan growing up. I gotta go bald w/ eyebrow 3 lines this year.”
(Of course Jennings was a fan of Van Exel’s game — their career true shooting percentages are 49.8% and 50.7%, respectively).
NBA coaches scarcely promote social media use among their players. The platform has the potential to do far, far more harm than good to the reputation of a player and team. Remember the Charlie Villanueva tweeting scandal in 2009? Milwaukee’s head coach at the time, Scott Skiles, wasn’t too pleased that Villanueva sent a tweet out during halftime of a game. Via ESPN:
‘My personal opinion is, it doesn’t have any place in the locker room,’ Skiles said. ‘The locker room’s a private place for the players, a sanctuary for the players. But once you walk out of the locker room or whatever, I’m not into getting into guys’ personal lives.’
Although active players (ahem, Kobe) tweeting during a game hasn’t resurfaced as an issue, the Villanueva incident seems quite benign compared to more recent NBA controversies on Twitter. They greatly vary in severity, but there’s Gilbert Arenas. And Carmelo Anthony. And Brandon Jennings. And Amar’e Stoudemire. And Kobe Bryant. And J.R. Smith. The list goes on.
Thus, it’s not too surprising that NBA coaches are tentative to embrace social media themselves (and the generation gap certainly factors in, as well). There are a number of NBA coaches on Twitter — including Golden State’s Mark Jackson, former Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, and former Nuggets head coach George Karl — but they are few and far between. As a result, it’s pretty unique that fans will have the chance to directly interact with a member of the Bucks coaching staff.
Van Exel has tweeted nearly 1,500 times. I perused through his feed and glanced at every single last tweet. Evidence? It appears he first tweeted on May 9, 2012. Regarding? Doug Christie, naturally.
He rarely discussed the Hawks on his feed — and recently wrote that he couldn’t even share his prediction for the Finals, due to “rules” — so don’t expect him to engage in serious X’s and O’x on Twitter. Instead, the bulk of his tweets involved cordial interactions and discussion of various sports topics: UFC; golf; tennis; the Packers, considering he is from Kenosha; the Lakers, his longest-tenured team as a player; the University of Cincinnati, where he played college basketball; and Vince Young (yes, really).
The following — definitely no pun intended — are a few of Van Exel’s Twitter highlights:
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) June 14, 2013
- Is this possible? If nothing else, it’s one heck of a politically correct answer.
Can @espn please take Eric Mangini off the air with all these politically correct responses. SMH
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) April 26, 2013
- Never mind, maybe he was a fan of the Bucks and Bulls.
At Phillips Arena rite now for a coaches clinic. My topic is ball handling.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) November 6, 2012
- This is probably one of Van Exel’s better topics. His career 3.123 assist-to-turnover ratio places him among the elite.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) June 10, 2013
- This is a valid argument, but futile nonetheless.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) June 9, 2013
- In his defense, it has been a long time.
Vince young is still out there football teams. #NFL
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) November 12, 2012
- See? (They didn’t bite).
I shot too many bricks from the foul line. Thats y i moved bk. lol. Terrible
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) July 13, 2012
- And it’s pretty spectacular. Watch it in all of its glory.
S/O to my boy @jasoncollins34 stay strong and be blessed. Still going to whoop you on the golf course. Lol
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) April 29, 2013
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) October 21, 2012
- If Brandon Jennings returns, he will probably like his new assistant coach…
Yall know wat time it is. pic.twitter.com/SjItxkqv
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) November 11, 2012
- …A LOT. (Yes, Jennings has a “Roscoe’s” tattoo).
If I were playing I know for a fact I would be fined after this game. SMH
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) September 25, 2012
- Re: The Seahawks-Packers-Safety-Touchdown-Replacement Referees Controversy
Jus saw my man #kobe‘s first 2 points. Yes he broke off the play to Elden Campbell. Lol. Congrats man. Nobody worked harder then you.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) December 6, 2012
- I’m not sure if this is factually accurate (rather, it might be Bryant’s first field goal), but it’s pretty fitting nonetheless. Poor
Eldenevery player to ever play with Kobe.
@RKHorry whats up Wilt? Lol
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) June 12, 2013
- Robert Horry’s nickname is “Wilt,” apparently. Fair enough.
@thurmanthomas lol. I looked at who unfollowed me. I said my boy did me like that. Lol. Dont know what happen.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) June 10, 2013
- Don’t unfollow him.
— nick vanexel (@vanexel31) December 9, 2012
- Important, and a a stealthily solid tweet.