Nick Van Exel was a brash, feisty player who wasn't afraid to speak his mind or launch a clutch shot at the end of a game.

Now 41 years old, the Kenosha native is still well-known to this generation of National Basketball Association players.

And he plans to use that connection to his advantage in his new role as a full-fledged bench assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be coaching here," Van Exel said. "Thirteen years playing (in the NBA) and I never had the opportunity to play on an Eastern Conference team.

"So I'm just truly blessed. I'm going to get to see a lot of family and friends. It's a great opportunity for me."

Bucks coach Larry Drew gave Van Exel his chance as the Atlanta Hawks player development coach during the past three seasons, when Drew was Atlanta's head coach.

And Van Exel kept progressing each year, gaining more responsibility until he handled one-third of the Hawks' opponent scouting chores last season. When Drew landed the Bucks coaching job, he knew where he wanted Van Exel.

"It was time for him to come from behind the bench," Drew said. "It's just time."

The left-handed Van Exel was a high-scoring guard for six NBA teams, starting his pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1993.

He also played for Denver, Dallas, Golden State and Portland before ending his NBA days with San Antonio in 2006.

"I still know their lingo," Van Exel said of today's players. "I still can talk the way they talk. I don't dress the way they dress. I don't wear the tight clothes.

"But I get along with them. I'm honest with them. I tell them how it is."

Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who is a restricted free agent this summer, reacted positively on Twitter when he heard about the appointment of Van Exel.

And TNT commentator and former Los Angeles Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said after Game 1 of the Bucks-Miami Heat playoff series that Jennings reminded him of Van Exel.

"I hope Brandon comes back because I think he has a lot of talent," Van Exel said. "I think we are similar in a way as far as we both take wild shots.

"Me being a coach, I don't coach that style of play. My thing would be for him to get that shooting percentage up to about 45%, which he can.