Sean Sweeney and Tim Grgurich: The Unsung Heroes of the Detroit Pistons

Image: Detroit Pistons

Every basketball fan knows that the National Basketball Association is filled with the most talented basketball players in the world. However, the NBA is filled with the most talented coaches in the world as well, and not all of them are head coaches. Some of the most talented people in the league are assistant coaches that no one knows about.

The Detroit Pistons hired former Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey prior to the 2018-19 NBA season. Casey is well known throughout the NBA fandom, as he led the Raptors to three straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances before being let go. Casey is known for his ability to develop players like Demar Derozan and Pascal Siakam.

Casey isn’t the only important coach in the Pistons organization: assistant coaches Sean Sweeney and Tim Grgurich play important roles for the team as well.

Sweeney was brought in prior to the 2018-19 season to be one of Casey’s lead assistants, as well as the Pistons Summer League head coach. Unlike most coaches who make their way to the league after coaching in college, Sweeney took a much different route.

Sweeney entered the NBA coaching scene in 2013 as a part of the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff. Prior to being on the bench for the Nets, Sweeney was the assistant video coordinator for the Nets from 2011-2013. Before joining the Nets staff, the St. Paul, Minnesota native worked as the video coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa and the director of basketball operations at the University of Evansville.

Why would Detroit bring in someone with only three years of coaching experience you might ask?

Sweeney has been highly credited for the development of NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the summer of 2017, Antetokounmpo was invited to workout with Lebron James’ camp to work on his overall game. However, Antetokounmpo had none of it and preferred to work with Sweeney.

ESPN staff writer Kevin Arnovitz wrote:

‘Summer was for the Greek national team, for family and for grinding at the Bucks’ training facility or wherever business took him. For Antetokounmpo, Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney — and not LeBron or Kevin Durant or anyone else — would be his preferred workout partner.’

That’s pretty high praise for Sweeney as he was preferred the preferred workout partner for an All-Star and future MVP.

The second assistant that does important work for the Pistons is Tim Grgurich. Grgurich is known as a skill-guru and had been most recently working with the young core of players in Milwaukee before joining the Pistons staff in 2018. 

Grgurich is a coaching legend when it comes to skills development. In 2018, Grgurich received the Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award, a highly coveted award given out by the NBA Coaches Association.

Grgurich has been said to have made major contributions on the development of players such as: Shawn Kemp, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Stephon Marbury, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Detroit’s beloved Chauncey Billups, as well as many more. 

Grgurich has an extensive coaching career, starting with his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh in 1975, where he would be head coach until 1980. Over his five seasons at Pitt, Grgurich wound up with a career record of 69-70.

Grgurich is really also really close with Pistons head coach Dwane Casey, as they both served on George Karl’s staff with the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990s.

Both Sweeney and Grgurich are extremely important to the Pistons future with their abilities to develop players. If Sweeney and Grgurich, combined with Casey, can develop the younger guys on the Pistons team, Detroit is in for some quality basketball teams for years to come.

Featured Image: Carlos Osario/Associated Press

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