"Sure, I'm angry and moody and evil, but only on the basketball court. I want to win so bad, I'm angry at everyone. I've got to get mad so I can perform well. But for me, a bad guy is someone who carries that anger into their personal life. And I don't do that. Nobody can say that about me."
Nick Van Exel is a retired NBA player and currently an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks. Born November 27 1971, Nick was raised in Kenosha Wisconsin by his mother Joyce while his father bounced in and out of prison. Joyce Van Exel worked the night shift at Chrysler leaving Nick to fend for himself a lot as a child. Nick took a liking to Basketball and spent most of his free time down the local courts.
Nick attended St. Joseph's High School in Wisconsin where his Lancers made the state finals two consecutive years. Nick's grades were not good enough for him to go to a top level college so he settled for Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. Nick Played 2 seasons at TVCC where he described the time as the worst of his life. Racial tension between players and homesickness played a big part in Nick's inability to enjoy his time at TVCC. Nick decided to apply himself more to his school work and ended up with good enough grades to transfer to the university of Cincinnati for the start of the 92 season. In his Junior year Nick led the team to the final four, coming up short to Michigan's Fab 5. In his senior season Nick led the team in points (18.3 ppg) and assist (4.5 apg) until they were knocked out by North Carolina in the elite 8.
Before the 1993 NBA Draft Nick tried out for several potential NBA teams. Nick missed workouts in Charlotte and coasted through a workout in Seattle, where George Karl described it as the worst workout he had ever seen. Nick later returned for the second part of the workout wearing a Duke hat just to rub Karl the wrong way. Nick's draft stock took a dive before the draft resulting with him being picked 37th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nick was put into the starting point guard spot from day 1, the same position Magic Johnson controlled for 12 seasons in Los Angeles. Nick made the all-rookie second team and endeared himself to Lakers fans with his flashy style and his ability to make clutch plays. At the beginning of the 94-95 season the Lakers acquired Eddie Jones and Cedric Ceballos, calling themselves the 'Lake Show' went on to make the playoffs. In the first round against Seattle Nick outplayed the best defensive PG in the league in Gary Payton as the Lakers upset the Sonics 3 games to 1. In the second round the Lakers lost in 6 to the San Antonio Spurs, where in game 4 Nick made a 3 pointer to tie the score at the end of regulation and a 3 pointer to win in overtime. Nick was well and truly on his way to being one of the best PG's in the NBA. Magic Johnson came out of retirement half way through the 95-96 season causing Nick's numbers to drop off slightly. With 7 games left in the regular season Nick was suspended for the rest of the regular season for shoving a referee during a heated exchange in Denver. Jerry West described this as the beginning of the end of his stint in Los Angeles. After falling to the Rockets 3 - 1 Magic Johnson re-retired handing the play making duties back to Nick. The Lakers acquired Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant hoping to make a big run towards the championship. In the next 2 season the Lakers lost in the playoffs to Utah both years, Nick took a lot of the blame as he was blamed for quitting on the team.
After 5 years as the starting PG in Los Angeles, Nick was traded to Denver for Tyronne Lue and Tony Battie. During Nick's time in Denver the team did not make the playoffs, but Nick recorded career highs in several statistical categories. Nick averaged 17.9 ppg along with 8.3 ast while with Denver, recording 21.4 ppg during the 01-02 season before being traded to Dallas at the trade deadline.
On February 21 2002, Nick was traded to Dallas along with Raef LaFrentz, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Avery Johnson for Tim Hardaway, Juwan Howard, Donnell Harvey and a first round draft pick. During the 2003 playoffs against the Sacramento Kings, Nick thrilled the Dallas fans by leading the team to a seven game series win. In the series Nick had 3 games over 35 points and averaged nearly 20 ppg for the playoffs.
On August 18 2003 Nick was traded to the Golden State Warriors along with Evan Eschmeyer, Popeye Jones, Avery Johnson and Antoine Rigaudeau for Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Danny Fortson and Jiri Welsch. In 03-04 Nick only played in in a career low 39 games, opting for season ending knee surgery. For the season Nick averaged 12.6 ppg.
On July 20 2004 Nick was traded to the Portland Trailblazers for Dale Davis and Dan Dickau. Nick played 53 games for the Blazers before opting again for season ending knee surgery. Nick averaged 11 ppg while with the Blazers. Nick was waived by Portland on August 3 2005.
On August 29 2005 Nick was signed as a free agent by the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Nick announced before the season start this would be his last season before retiring. Nick once again had an injury plagued season with knee and elbow problems, playing in only 65 regular season games. Nick averaged career lows in all statistical categories as his minutes declined in his reserve role. In the playoffs the Spurs lost to Nick's former team the Dallas Mavericks in game 7 of the Western Conference Semi Finals. The Spurs lost at home in overtime resulting in the end of Nick's playing career. On May 24 2006, ESPN's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon reported on there show Pardon the Interruption that Nick would soon announce his retirement.
In 2009 Nick joined the staff at Texas Southern University as an assistant coach, a position he held for the 09-10 season. Nick joined the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff in 2010-2011 and worked with the Hawks for three season's under head coach Larry Drew. Nick moved onto the Milwaukee Bucks where he served as an assistant coach for one season under Larry Drew. Nick then was named an assistant coach for the D League's Texas Legends and in 2015 was promoted to the Head Coach.