Denver Nuggets athletic trainer Dan Shimensky follows in father's footsteps

Mike Shimensky spent nearly three decades in the NBA
by Aaron Lopez

With his 3-year-old son in tow, Mike Shimensky loaded a two-wheel bicycle into the car and headed to work.

The wide concourses of the San Diego Sports Arena offered a perfect area for young Dan to pedal around unimpeded while Mike went about his duties as the athletic trainer for the San Diego Clippers.

Three decades removed from racing around the arena on foot and on wheels, things have come full circle for the Shimenskys.

Following in his father’s NBA footsteps, Dan Shimensky officially became the head athletic trainer for the Denver Nuggets this week. At 34, he is the same age as his father when Mike joined the Clippers in 1981.

“I probably wasn’t picking up on much of what he was doing when I was little, but I liked the environment,” Dan recalled.

“I’ve always loved basketball and admired the job my dad did. You put those things together and I figured what better job to have than an athletic trainer in basketball.”

Shimensky spent the past seven years as Denver’s assistant athletic trainer under Jim Gillen, who recently retired after 23 years with the Nuggets.

“Jim left this program and department in a good place,” Shimensky said. “The transition is going to be easy. There were some things I took away from Jim that I’ll utilize, but it’s healthy to be your own person. I’ll implement some of the things he did and things I’ve always wanted to do. It will be the best of both worlds.”

Starting with his father, Shimensky has gained knowledge from well-respected trainers throughout his life.

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah, where he worked with the school’s current director of sports medicine Bill Bean. Shimensky has a Masters degree in exercise science from Central Washington University, and he also worked as an intern with the Miami Heat under longtime athletic trainer Ron Culp.

“From all the people he learned from, he can see things multiple ways and decide what’s best,” Mike Shimensky said. “The only thing he learned from me was cuss words.”

Self-deprecation aside, Mike Shimensky was an accomplished and respected athletic trainer. He started at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix, where Dan was born, and worked at the University of Arizona in Tucson before being hired by the Clippers.

The elder Shimensky also worked for the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics before retiring when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

As it turned out, Mike’s last season in the NBA was Dan’s first. The Nuggets played the Sonics four times in 2007-08, with Denver winning three games by an average of 37 points.

“The Nuggets gave it to us,” Mike said.

“It was strange seeing your son on the opposing bench like that, but I felt really proud of him and all his accomplishments. He did it without my help.”

Dan knows that’s not entirely true. His father’s reputation and connections in the NBA helped create opportunities, but it was up to him to prove his worth.

“It does help to know people to get your foot in the door,” Dan said. “I know my dad had a lot to do with that, but I did a lot of internships that had an influence. It might be people that you know that get you into the business, but it's what you know and also how well you do your job that keeps you in the business.”

Just as his dad did more than 30 years ago, Dan enjoys bringing his 10-month-old son Hudson to work at Pepsi Center. In the Shimensky household, it’s never too early to start learning the family business.