Spending the last three weeks at training camp, I have had the pleasure of meeting many new and interesting people. Most of the people that garner all the attention are much taller than I am, and get paid to dribble a round leather ball. Coach Jim Eyen of the Sacramento Kings is not taller than I am, nor does he now or has he ever played professional basketball. His insistence on greeting me, an outsider, every time I’ve see him, with a smile and pleasant hello, sparked my interest in him. Here is The Purple Panjandrum’s interview with the very interesting and extremely intelligent Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jim Eyen.
TPP: This is your second year with the Kings, but you’ve spent most of your career with Coach Mike Dunleavy. How has the transition to a new coaching staff been?
Coach Eyen: I think it’s been terrific. I think what Paul (Coach Westphal) brings to the team and the organization is a very positive approach and I think it is particularly helpful with our young guys. I think he’s got great experience in the game. He’s got a great ability to communicate with the players and I think he is laying a very solid foundation for this young team.
TPP: What exactly is your role or your duties as an assistant for the Kings?
Coach Eyen: Paul has us wear a couple of different hats, but primarily it would be game preparation as it relates to our defense. I just try to make sure that we are prepared for every game, particularly guys that have not been in the league a long time. We try to familiarize them with the league and how we like to approach every game.
TPP: I’ve seen you here with a laptop working with the players on film study. Is that one of your primary teaching tools?
Coach Eyen: Sure, I’ll pull a player after practice and we’ll pull some clips and some film work, particularly over the defense and look at them either on the ball or off the ball and grade them a little bit with our coverages and things like that.
TPP: What is the life of an NBA assistant coach like and how do you carve your niche?
Coach Eyen: I’ve been fortunate to work with some very good people- Don Casey, Pat Riley, Mike Dunleavy and now Paul. I hope as I’ve been in the league, I’ve created my niche and that I am able to bring something to the table at every stop that I have been. It’s really a matter of enjoying what you do and I enjoying teaching the game and competing. Night in and night out, it’s a competition and if your mind set is any different than that, then you are in for a long season. If your focus is that and you enjoy what you do then the season goes by quickly.
TPP: Is your hope to be a career assistant or do you have aspirations of other things?
Coach Eyen: I enjoy what I do right now. I don’t think that there is a way to track to be a head coach. It’s not as though you do something different from what you do in order to eventually become a head coach. I think you do what you do and you do it well and when an opportunity surfaces then you try to take advantage of that.
TPP: How do you deal with the fact that you are not an ex-NBA player and you are surrounded by a staff of ex-players? How do you fit in?
Coach Eyen: My niche is my experience. I played the game but I didn’t play it at the professional level. I still am able to teach the game as anybody else would. I’ve coached at all the various levels- I’ve coached at the high school level, junior college and the four year college level and so I’ve been coaching over thirty years and this is my twentieth in the league. So I guess what I hang my hat on is my experience and my ability to teach the game and motivate players and work with players. I think I’ve created my niche doing those types of things.
TPP: Where has been your favorite stop on your NBA tour?
Coach Eyen: It’s always your current stop. (laughing) It doesn’t get any better than this.
Like many other coaches before him, Coach Eyen is hoping to make Sacramento a long term stop for he and his family. As a twenty year NBA coaching veteran, he has spent time with the Clippers, the Lakers, the Bucks, the Trail Blazers, back to the Clippers and now with the Kings. This is the life of an NBA assistant coach and after spending a little time with him, he seems like one of the good guys.
Coaches come in all shapes and sizes. The Kings are perhaps one of the more open-minded teams in regards to how they build a coaching staff. Coach Eyen is just one of a very diverse group that includes basketball legend Pete Carril, ex-NBA players Mario Ellie and Truck Robinson, and newcomer Otis Hughley. Kings front office employees and ex-players Bobby Jackson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are also important members of the pre-season camp run by head coach Paul Westphal. Outside of Coach Westphal and Pete Carril, Jim Eyen is the most experienced coach on staff. His approach is cerebral in nature and he uses his experience both to teach and advise players. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about Kings assistant coach Jim Eyen, I certainly did.