Matt Nielsen fills vacancy on Spurs coaching staff

The Spurs may have lost Patty Mills in free agency this offseason, but they will still have a robust Australian presence in their locker room this season.

Three weeks after signing Aussie center Jock Landale to a two-year contract, the Spurs announced Wednesday the promotion of Austin Spurs coach and Sydney native Matt Nielsen to Gregg Popovich’s staff.

Nielsen, who played professionally in Australia and Europe and was a member of the Australian national team that played in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, led Austin to a 10-5 record last season during a pandemic-shortened campaign and a berth in the G League playoffs.

The 6-foot-10 Nielsen spent nearly a decade starring for the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League, the top pro men’s league in Australia and New Zealand, after making his pro debut in 1995 at age 17.

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A two-time NBL champion, he capped his run in the league in 2004 when he was named its MVP after averaging 22.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a title-winning season for the Kings.

After a stint with the Denver Nuggets’ summer league team in 2004, Nielsen was one of several elite Australian players who joined the EuroLeague to gain richer contracts. In nine seasons abroad, he played for teams in Greece, Lithuania, Spain and Russia and was twice on teams that claimed the EuroCup.

But his career highlight came…

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Tom Orsborn

Tom Orsborn

San Antonio Express-News

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Sportswriter for 35 years at San Antonio Express-News, covering everything from preps to the Cowboys to the Spurs. Proud San Antonio College alum.