Ime Udoka may be entrenched in USA Basketball’s quest to bring home another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, but the Boston Celtics coach continues to round out his new staff. His latest addition, per reports on Friday, has the potential to make a significant difference in the team’s shot-making ability.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Udoka has tapped Milwaukee Bucks assistant Ben Sullivan to join his crew in Beantown. As noted by the NBA insider, Sullivan is just the latest of a slew of Mike Budenholzer assistants to make waves with their work.
Sullivan’s presence on the staff could be a big deal for young players like Romeo Langford and Carsen Edwards who have struggled at times to put the ball in the basket. Perhaps even Marcus Smart could benefit from his tutelage; Sullivan has been noted for his abilities as a shooting coach.
For his part, a certain two-time NBA MVP leaned on Sullivan to help improve his own shot.
Sullivan Worked With Antetokounmpo & Bledsoe
Before he won a title with the Bucks this summer, Sullivan was charged with helping Giannis Antetokounmpo improve his shot and overall offensive skillset. And while the “Greek Freak” still has some work left to do, he did shoot over 30% from deep over the last two seasons after hitting 25.6% of his triples in 2018-19.
“He’s a great shooting coach,” Antetokounmpo said of Sullivan, via NBA.com. “but he’s not just a shooting coach. We work on my post game. We work on my ball skills. Just becoming a better overall player.”
Although Antetokounmpo was his top priority, he also worked with other Bucks players. As relayed by The Athletic, Sullivan put his time in with former Bucks floor general Eric Bledsoe as well.
“He’s great, man,” Bledsoe said of Sullivan. “He’ll send me clips. He’ll send me stats. He tells me all the time, ‘Nobody makes every shot.’ Just come out here and shoot the ball confidently because you’ll have games where you shoot hot from three and you’ll have games where you do not make a three.”
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Learning From the Best
Before his reported move to Boston, Sullivan had spent a number of years with Budenholzer on the Bucks staff, as well as that of the Atlanta Hawks. But he first got his foot through the NBA door with the San Antonio Spurs — at Udoka’s prompting.
As a member of the Spurs’ video operations team, he was able to work with the likes of Gregg Popovich and Chip Engelland. The latter coach is arguably the league’s greatest shot doctor, having aided Kawhi Leonard morph from the non-shooting athlete out of San Diego State to a top 10 player in the Association and a career 38.4% three-point shooter.
When asked by NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner what he took from Engelland, he had no qualms about giving credit where credit was due.
“Everything. Like, am I going to get sued for plagiarism? The amount of stuff I learned from him and Pop and Bud, I could never repay.”