Robert Pack used to throw down dunks with the best of them. - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
Watching NBA games last season and this season, I've seen quite a few former Nuggets sitting on benches around the league.
So, I decided to dig a little deeper and see just how many former Nuggets are either NBA head coaches or assistant coaches in the league today. And after reviewing the list, I wonder if there is another NBA team that boasts as many former players that are now coaching?
Anyhow, here is the list and a little nugget on each guy.
Joe Wolf - Bucks. A Nugget from 1990-92. The former 13th overall pick of the Clippers back in 1987. Wolf came to the Nuggets in 1990 after signing with the team as a restricted free agent. The Clippers didn't match the deal and Wolf went down in Nuggets history as a Stiff out of North Carolina. To this day, nobody does a better impersonation of the "Joe Wolf run" than my buddy Hunter. Perhaps he'll show it off at the next Stiffs Night Out.
In the meantime, check out this creepy video that somebody took the time to not only make, but to write a song for too.
Anthony Goldwire - Bucks. A Nugget from 1997-98 & 2001. Goldwire, the former 52nd overall pick of the Suns in 1994, did the double-dip with the Nuggets by returning to the team in 2001. You might remember his time in Denver as a time of misery for Nuggets fans.
Goldwire was acquired by the Nuggets, along with George Zidek, in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Ricky Pierce. The 1996-97 season was a special one in Nuggets history as current Lakers interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff skipped town after dismantling the awesome 1993-94 Nugget playoff team and Allen Bristow and his awful, but short, reign began.
I remember Goldwire as a tweener guard who could score a little bit. For a second round pick, Goldwire had a successful career as he played in the NBA and all over the world from 1994-2007. Not too bad Mr. Goldwire, not too bad at all.
Alex English - Kings. A Nugget from 1980-1990. The legend himself. His No. 2 was/is retired by the Nuggets as the eight time All-Star also won the NBA scoring title in 1983. English was acquired by the Nuggets on Feb. 1, 1980 from the Indiana Pacers, along with a first-round pick (Carl Nicks), in exchange for George McGinnis (a former star on his last legs). Easily one of the best trades, if not the best, in Denver's history.
I highly recommend watching the following video from the 1985 playoffs vs. the Lakers (Game 2 of the WCF) where English put up 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Bobby Jackson - Kings. A Nugget from 1997-98. He was the 23rd overall pick of the 1997 NBA draft by the Supersonics. Jackson's draft rights were traded to the Nuggets on draft night in exchange for Denver's pick, James Cotton, and a future second round pick that wound up being Rashard Lewis.
Jackson showed talent with the Nuggets, but he was traded the following season to the Timberwolves in the mega-deal that landed Chauncey Billups in Denver the first time around. Jackson would find success as a sixth man with the Sacramento Kings from 2000-05. Not a Nugget for long, but he did begin his career as a Nugget.
Greg Buckner - Rockets. A Nugget from 2004-06. Signed by the Nuggets, as a free agent, on Oct. 5th, 2004 - the same season the Nuggets traded for Kenyon Martin and signed wings DerMarr Johnson and Rodney White. Buckner was one of many shooting guards that didn't stick in Denver for long. Looking back, he was sort of much more limited version of Arron Afflalo as he was a willing defender and long-ball specialist that tried to expand his game with the Nuggets.
Buckner inspired this article as I saw him sitting right behind Houston's bench when the Nuggets were in town the other night. Buck still sports that same thick, but trimmed, beard he had in Denver that any man should be jealous of.
Robert Pack - Clippers. A Nugget from 1992-95 & from 2000-01. Acquired from the Blazers on Oct. 23rd, 1992 in exchange for a second round pick in 1993 (Kevin Thompson). He was acquired again on Oct. 16th, 2000, along with Calbert Cheaney, from Boston in exchange for Bryant Stith and Chris Herren.
Pack or Pac-Man, as he became known, was known for his reckless drives to the rim and his ability to finish with authority above it. A member of the awesome 1993-94 Nuggets, Pack was a big reason why the Nuggets beat the Sonics as the change of pace guard off the bench. I was sad to see him go in 1995 - another bad trade by the Nuggets (dealt to Washington for Don MacLean and Doug Overton).
Howard Eisley - Clippers. A Nugget in 2006. Eisley was a short-time Nugget as he was signed to a 10-day contract on March 3, 2006, he was signed to a second 10-day contract, and eventually for the remainder of the 2005-06 season. His best time as a Nugget came when he was traded on July 20th, 2006, along with two second round picks, in exchange for J.R. Smith from the Bulls.
Nick Van Exel - Hawks. A Nugget from 1998-2002. Acquired by the Nuggets on June 24th, 1998 in exchange for Tony "El Busto" Battie and Tyronn Lue from the Los Angeles Lakers. What a bad trade by the Lakers. I still remember being absolutely ecstatic when the Nuggets got Van Exel. Rumors swirled that he was refusing to play for the Nuggets, but he came in and played well.
In July 2012 I saw Van Exel at the Las Vegas Summer League and it was one of the rare times I've been excited to see an athlete in person. I first learned about Nick the Quick when he was a Bearcat and my mom drew Cincinnati as her team for an NCAA tournament pool. He was the 37th pick of the 1993 draft by the Lakers and a player that many didn't think would ever make the transition to a coach as he had a big personality when he played.
Tyronn Lue - Celtics. A Nugget draft pick in 1998 and traded on draft night to the Lakers for Van Exel. I was sort of excited by the Nuggets' selection of Lue as he had a nice career at Nebraska. He played in the NBA until 2009 with eight NBA teams.
Avery Johnson - Nets. A Nugget in 1990 & again from 2001-2002. Acquired by the Nuggets on Oct. 24, 1990 from the Sonics in exchange for a second round pick in 1997. Was waived by the Nuggets on Dec. 24th, 1990. Signed again by the Nuggets as a free agent in 2001.
The Little General wasn't really a memorable Nuggets player. His second stint in Denver came a few years before the Nuggets' resurrection and Johnson was used as a trade chip to clear salary cap space said resurrection.
Doug Overton - Nets. A Nugget from 1995-96. He was acquired in exchange for Pack (as mentioned above) and seemed like one of many faces that came-and-went during the Nuggets' down years.
Popeye Jones - Nets. A Nugget from 1999-2000. Acquired by the Nuggets on Aug. 3rd, 1999, along with Ron Mercer and Dwayne Schintzius from the Celtics in exchange for Danny Fortson, Eric Williams, Eric Washington, and a first round pick in 2001 (Kendrick Brown).
Popeye provided veteran leadership for some young Nuggets and a little rebounding, as well. Another player that was moved in-and-out of Denver during the Nuggets down years.
Monty Williams - Hornets. A Nugget in 1999. A former 1st round (24th overall) pick of the Knicks, Williams played in one game for the Nuggets during the 1998-99 season. He only played six minutes and scored one point (off two free throw attempts) and missed both field goals during his one rotation.
Roy Rogers - Pistons. A Nugget from 1999-2000. Rogers was signed by the Nuggets as a free agent on Oct. 1st, 1999 - the same day as Ryan Bowen. Rogers played 40 games for the Nuggets and averaged 8.9 minutes per game. I honestly had very little recollection of him being with the Nuggets.
Kim Hughes - Blazers. A Nugget from 1978-80. Selected in the 3rd round (45th overall) of the 1974 NBA draft by the Buffalo Braves, Hughes played for three different ABA/NBA teams before continuing his career in Italy until 1989. Signed by the Nuggets on July 8th, 1978 as a free agent. Hughes went on to scout and coach with the Nuggets after his playing days were over.
Famously or infamously Donald Sterling refused to pay for Hughes' cancer treatment when Hughes was an assistant in LA. Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman, Marko Jaric, and Elton Brand paid for Hughes' treatment of around $70,000.
T.R. Dunn - Timberwolves. A Nugget from 1980-88. Dunn was a former 2nd round pick (41st overall) by the Blazers in the 1977 draft; and was a member of the team during David Halberstam's time writing the book, "The Breaks of the Game" (a must read). He was acquired by the Nuggets on Aug. 15th, 1980, along with a first round pick in 1983 (Howard Carter), from the Blazers in exchange for a first round pick in 1983 that became Clyde Drexler and a second round pick in 1984 (Steve Colter). After his playing days, Dunn also served as an assistant coach with the Nuggets from 2002-2004.
Mark Bryant - Thunder. A Nugget from 2002-03. Bryant is a former 1st round pick of the Blazers (21st overall) in 1988. As seems to be par for the course, Bryant was another face in town during the Nuggets' down years. He did play for 10 different NBA teams from 1988-2003.
Ryan Bowen - Nuggets. A Nugget from 1999-2004 and currently an assistant coach with the team. Bowen was a former second round pick of the Nuggets (55th overall) in the 1998 draft. He began his career playing in Turkey for what should have been his NBA rookie season. Bowen's career took him to Spain and Israel in 2007 before he returned to the NBA later in '07 and played for the Hornets and then the Thunder in 2009. When Bowen's not coaching the Nuggets, he can be found on the practice court sweating and working out with the team.
- Mark Jackson - Warriors. A Nugget from 1996-97. The former 18th overall pick of the New York Knicks in the 1987 draft. Jackson was acquired by the Nuggets on June 13th, 1996, along with Ricky Pierce, and the 23rd pick of the '96 draft (Efthimios Rentzias) from the Pacers in exchange for Jalen Rose, Reggie Williams, and the 10th pick of the '96 draft (Erick Dampier).
In a bizarro move, the Nuggets traded Jackson back to the Pacers later in the 1996-97 season (on Feb. 20th). That was the only season the Pacers did not make the playoffs over the course of 16 other NBA seasons.
I hated the deal that sent Rose out of town and he would make the Nuggets regret it as he went on to fulfill a lot of the potential that made him a first round pick by Denver in 1994. In his prime, Rose had four seasons where he averaged more than 20 points per game. Awful trade by Denver to move him.
Darvin Ham - Lakers. A Nugget from 1996-97. Ham was signed in 1996 as an undrafted rookie free agent. Some, my colleague Andrew Feinstein for one, believe Ham was only signed because he shattered a backboard in the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina. He didn't do a whole lot for the Nuggets besides competing in the 1997 NBA dunk contest, which Ham feels he should have won (instead of Kobe Bryant).
That's the list. If I have missed anyone, please let me know!
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