The last name might not look it, but I am a full-blooded Irishman by birth. And with that on the résumé, the right is being claimed to repeat one of Dennis Fitzpatrick's observations on Sean Sweeney, a son of St. Paul and a top assistant for the Dallas Mavericks.

"He was playing Noon Ball with us as a high school freshman," Fitzpatrick said. "We're in our 40s, maybe older, basketball junkies who played in college. We had one rule for him: 'You can play, but you can't take the winning shot. That has to be one of us old guys.'

"He never backed down. Incredible competitor. I tell him, 'You're going to wind up with Irish Alzheimer's.' You know what that is? You forget everything but the grudge."

The hoops addicts raised in St. Paul presumably will be rooting for the Timberwolves in this Western Conference final vs. Dallas, yet you will find nothing but admiration in what Sweeney, 40 next month, has accomplished since setting his sights on being a coach.

That was even before he was done playing at the University of St. Thomas.

"Sean was always a details guy," Joe Mauer said. "He's as intense about competition as anyone. It has been great to watch his climb as an assistant in the NBA. It seems like he's going to be a head coach, maybe soon.

"He was a great shooter for us. Sean, Steve Sir and me … we shot a lot of threes. That style of play, with Billy McKee as a coach, was as much fun as I've had on a team."

Sweeney put it this way: "We played blue line to blue line, but in basketball."

That team would be the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders of 2000-01. They lost to Osseo, the Class 4A champion, in the state semis — 88-82, after the Raiders had broken the state tournament record for three-pointers in a game by halftime with 12.

Jeff Munneke, with the Timberwolves since inception, now vice president for fan experience, a basketball nut at all levels, said:

"One of the best high school games I've ever seen in Minnesota. What everyone remembers is Cretin coming down on a 3-on-0 break, and Sir pulling up behind the line and taking a three."

Laugh. "And swishing it," Munneke said.

That Sir bomb is remembered at lunch when Sweeney comes to town with an NBA club — a group that will include Munneke, Jim Petersen, Gophers assistant Dave Thorson and occasionally head coach Ben Johnson.

"Basketball junkies," Thorson said. "We always find each other."

That includes the Noon Ballers, the group of former Tommies such as Fitzpatrick that started playing in the mid-'70s at whatever St. Paul facility they could get hooked up.

Somehow, they became pals with Rick Majerus, who could talk (and coach) basketball with the best of them. Sweeney became an adopted son of Noon Ball, and when he was trying to get a job at Evansville as director of basketball operations, Majerus put in a 30-minute call to coach Marty Simmons.

Sweeney was hired there, continuing his coaching climb.

His first NBA job was as the video coordinator for the New Jersey Nets in 2011. There were firings, Jason Kidd was hired as head coach, he retained Sweeney and it was the start of an outstanding connection.

"Every cliché or quote that goes with leadership, those are the reality with Jason Kidd," Sweeney said. "He proved that as an all-time great as a point guard, and now in the way he conducts himself as a head coach."

They were together with the Bucks in Milwaukee, and now the Mavericks. In between, Sweeney was in Detroit with Dwane Casey and current Wolves assistant Micah Nori.

"Micah is a funny guy when you see him on those halftime interviews, but he's also a serious and excellent basketball mind," Sweeney said. "We're frenemies for the next couple of weeks."

Rooting-wise, that figures to be case with all St. Paul basketball zanies.

John Tauer, now the head coach at St. Thomas, was a volunteer assistant for Steve Fritz there, and Sweeney became his first recruit in 2000.

"I went to a Cretin-St. Thomas game to look at three Academy players, and came back and said, 'The kid we should be recruiting is the junior guard, Sweeney,' " Tauer said.

Which the Tommies did. He started there, transferred to UW-Green Bay for a sit-out year, came back and was the point guard for two MIAC champions.

Then … coaching.

"He's an in-demand defensive guru," Tauer said. "You see him at a coaching clinic, what he shows is so clear, so precise.

"During the pandemic, Sean set up Friday conference calls with seven or eight coaches from around the country — Tim Grgurich out in Vegas was the godfather — and we'd break down specific situations for an hour."

Sweeney has another assignment this summer: as an assistant for Slovenia — with Mavericks star Luka Doncic — in Europe's Olympic qualifier.

"Practice starts in mid-June," Sweeney said. "I hope Luka and I are late getting there. That would be good for the Mavericks."