Basketball

Why Brian Goorjian believes Matt Nielsen is on track to become the first Australian NBA head coach

Brian Goorjian believes his former championship-winning Sydney Kings captain Matt Nielsen is on track to become the first Australian head coach in the NBA.

Nielsen moved a step closer to his NBA dream when he was named head coach of San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.

The Kings legend becomes Austin’s seventh head coach following an assistant coach stint last season.

He began his coaching career in San Antonio, serving as a player development assistant during the 2014-15 season.

In addition, he was an assistant coach with the Spurs’ NBA Summer League team from 2014-19.

Goorjian has no doubts that Nielsen is on the right path to the NBA coaching ranks in a historic first for Australia.

“I think where Matty is at with his age and experience, it is time to move forward with the head coaching role in the G League and obviously the next progression is the NBA,” said Goorjian, who won two NBL championships with Nielsen at the Kings in 2003 and 2004.

Matt Nielsen during his stint as a player development coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.Source:Supplied

“It is like how Brett Brown travelled or how Kings coach Will Weaver is travelling in terms of NBA opportunities. I see Matt as being very capable of also achieving that.

“That would make him the first Australian head coach in the NBA.

“Not only has he got this head coaching job with San Antonio – I think he will be tremendous at it.

“Matty was an Olympian, played overseas and went to the Spurs, which is the organisation that everyone has right there at the top as far as respect.

“If you do well under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and if you hold your position under him, and if you are looking for a coach that is usually one of the boxes that you go to.”

Nielsen’s rise in the coaching ranks doesn’t surprise Goorjian, who always knew that his power forward possessed the attributes to succeed with the clipboard.

He has fond memories of Nielsen taking charge of training sessions with the type of confidence and knowledge associated with a proven coach.

“I always get asked the question – can you tell the ones who are going to be coaches?” Goorjian said.

“The time I had with Matty at the Sydney Kings and then with the Athens and Beijing Olympics with the Boomers, he just had a really good coaching mind.

“He was also really good with people. He could lead people, he was knowledgeable and so well respected.

“So, it doesn’t surprise me that he got involved in coaching and has been a success.”

Matt Nielsen was destined to succeed as a coach. Picture: News CorpSource:News Corp Australia

Goorjian revealed Nielsen’s footprint of success is strong in Australia following his four seasons as Perth’s assistant coach, resulting in three NBL championships.

He even used his former player in an attempt to sign shooting guard Sunday Dech at the Hawks before he signed with Adelaide.

“Now I’m back in the NBL, there are so many players that I’ve spoken to like a Sunday who I was trying to recruit,” he said.

“When I was talking to Sunday, I used Matty in the recruiting process. I didn’t get Sunday, which was disappointing, but his respect and admiration for Matty was incredible.

“He is just that type of person. He is great at individual development, he understands team stuff and he is just a really special person.

“Every time I speak to Matt it is about how do I make a player better, and he is totally engaged in the game.

“He just cares, and it is natural.”

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