Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew has filled his coaching staff, as the team officially announced the hiring of Jim Cleamons, Scott Williams and Josh Oppenheimer as assistant coaches.
The three will join Bob Bender and Nick Van Exel on Drew’s staff, giving the Bucks a mix of veteran and younger assistant coaches.
“I really felt with all the changes we made, we have a lot of teaching to do,” Drew said. “Looking at my staff, I think we have a good mixture of guys with different personalities.
“We have some young; we have some old. I’m in the old category, by the way. We’ve got some guys not too far removed from the game that the players can still relate to. We have a really good big-man coach in Scott Williams, and Nick Van Exel, who was one of the premier guards in our league.”
Cleamons, 63, will be Drew’s lead assistant. With over 30 years of experience in the NBA, the veteran assistant has won 10 NBA Championships as a player and a coach. After his nine-year playing career wrapped up in 1980, Cleamons jumped into the college game as an assistant coach at Furman and Ohio State before taking the head coaching job at Youngstown State in 1987.
Phil Jackson then hired Cleamons to his first staff in Chicago in 1989. The Bulls would win four championships during his six seasons as an assistant coach. Cleamons was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in 1996 but went 24-58 in his first year and was fired after a 4-12 start in the 1997-98 season.
Cleamons rejoined Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 1999-00 season and made four trips to the finals with three more NBA Championships in five years. When Jackson left as Lakers coach after the 2003-04 season, Cleamons took a job on Byron Scott’s staff in New Orleans.
With Jackson back with the Lakers, Cleamons returned to Los Angeles in 2006 and helped guide the franchise to three more titles. After Jackson retired after the 2010-11 season, Cleamons coached in the Chinese Basketball Association for the past two seasons.
“I really felt Jim Cleamons would be a great acquisition for us,” Drew said. “The years he has spent in Chicago, with the Lakers and the accomplishments that he has made, I really felt that he could bring a tremendous amount of wealth to this ballclub. I’m very, very excited to bring him on board.”
Drew went to dinner recently with his new assistant coach in Los Angeles and noticed a ring on Cleamons’ finger. At first, Drew thought it was one of the 10 championship rings Cleamons has won, but it wasn’t. It was a ring Cleamons received for winning 33 games in a row as a player on the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers.
“He pulled it off and he showed it to me,” Drew said. “I was just sitting there and thinking that this guy has been a part of a team that won 33 in a row and that year they won the championship. He’s won 10 championships.
“What a tremendous pedigree. What a tremendous type individual to bring around our organization and to be a part of our organization. I’m really excited about having him. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge.”
Williams, 45, spent parts of three seasons of his 15-year NBA career with the Bucks, including playing a vital role on the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. After retiring from basketball in 2005, Williams spent two seasons working on the television broadcast team in Cleveland.
He spent the 2007-08 on Milwaukee’s television broadcast team before becoming the color analyst for Phoenix’s television broadcasts in 2008. Williams spent last season as an assistant coach for the Idaho Stampede of the D-League.
Oppenheimer will become the team’s player development coach and comes to the Bucks after running his own basketball skill training company, Excel Basketball. He played college basketball at the University of Rhode Island and Northern Arizona University and played most of his professional career with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Oppenheimer has coached in college at Duquesne, Delaware, DePaul and Kent State, but has never been an assistant coach in the NBA.
The Bucks also announced Scott Barthlama has been promoted to head athletic trainer after five seasons as the team’s assistant athletic trainer and assistant strength and conditioning coach. Chris McKenzie joins the Bucks from Ohio State University as the director of physical therapy and athletic trainer. Milwaukee native Robert Hackett is now officially the team’s head strength and conditioning coach after 11 years in the same role for the Dallas Mavericks.
General manager John Hammond also officially announced the hiring of assistant general manager David Morway, replacing Jeff Weltman who left the team for a front-office position with the Toronto Raptors.
Morway was promoted to general manager of the Indiana Pacers in 2008 and held that position until he resigned in June of 2012.
“He was with them (the Pacers) for 14 years,” Hammond said. “I’ve always looked at the Pacers and admired what they’ve done. I think David is going to be a great addition to our organization.”