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St. Thomas men's basketball coaches have special ties to NBA Finals teams

St. Thomas men's basketball coach has special ties to the NBA
St. Thomas men's basketball coach has special ties to the NBA 01:30

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Timberwolves may be out of the running for the NBA championship, but two Minnesota coaches still have high stakes in the finals match-up.

Johnny Tauer, the University of St. Thomas men's basketball head coach, used to coach Dallas Mavericks' assistant coach Sean Sweeney back when he played for the Tommies between 2002-2006.

"I've known Sean since he was probably 15 or 16 years old. He was actually one of the first two guys that I recruited," said Tauer, who was still in his early volunteer assistant coaching days back when Sweeney was on the team.

Tauer saw something special in Sweeney as a college kid.

"He was like a coach on the court. I mean, he was always wanting to learn new schemes on offense, and he was always watching basketball, and these are the days before YouTube and all sorts of clips were online, so you had to work to get video," said Tauer.

That's why it's no surprise to Tauer that Sweeney has reached the biggest stage for coaching basketball.  

"It is one of those things as a coach just, it's kind of a pinch-me moment where like now he's in the NBA Finals, and he's, you know, instrumental in what the Mavericks are doing," said Tauer.  

Mike Maker and Johnny Tauer WCCO

For the last four Tommie basketball seasons, Coach Tauer's partner on the sidelines has been associate head coach, Mike Maker, who also has a tie to a team in the NBA finals.

"My first recruit at West Virginia in the Big East was Joe Mazulla," said Maker.

Back in 2006, Maker coached the now-Boston Celtics head coach as a point guard at West Virginia University.

Maker told WCCO he still sends game-day motivation to his former player via text.

"He said, 'Thanks Coach.' He still calls me coach, which is amazing," said Maker.

Maker, a longtime Celtics fan himself, has so many reasons to be proud of this team, and the 64-18 season they've had.

"Now to have a former player coaching the team that you loved as a kid growing up is a pretty surreal experience," said Maker.

The Celtics lead the Finals Series 3-0 over the Mavericks.

The championship-clinching Game 4 is Friday at 7:30 p.m. CT.

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