Adrian Griffin

Ime Udoka Reportedly ‘Frontrunner’ To Be Bulls’ Next Coach

Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka is currently the favorite to become the Bulls‘ next head coach, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

With the NBA’s 22-team format for resuming the 2019/20 campaign approved, Chicago is now in the offseason stage, as the club will not travel to Orlando. As we relayed last month, current head coach Jim Boylen appears to be on the hot seat, and Bulls ownership have indicated they’ll approve a new hire should Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley choose to make a change.

Udoka, 42, enjoyed a seven-year NBA career that ended in 2011 after suiting up for the Spurs, Trail Blazers, Kings, Knicks and Lakers. He was part of Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio for seven seasons before joining the Sixers. Udoka was also interviewed for head coach with the Cavaliers before the job was given to John Beilen.

Chicago has failed to crack 30 wins since 2017, the same year they made their most recent playoff appearance. Under Boylen, the Bulls were 22-43 before the coronavirus pandemic suspended play. As Chicago readies for next season, hiring a coach that can take an inexperienced team with youth and potential back into contention will be key.

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin will also be “in the picture” for the Bulls if they replace Boylen, Cowley notes, echoing what we heard earlier this spring.

Bulls Notes: Eversley, Boylen, Griffin, Udoka

News that Marc Eversley would be the Bulls‘ next general manager broke very late on Sunday, at a time when the NBA news wire is typically quiet. Speaking today to reporters, including ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas provided an explanation, saying he felt compelled to call Eversley on Sunday night after watching the third and fourth episodes of The Last Dance.

“I was so emotional watching it that I was thinking, ‘Why do I have to wait until Monday? Let me check if he’s up,'” Karnisovas said.

In explaining why he chose Eversley for the job, Karnisovas pointed to the veteran executive’s relationships with players and coaches, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Although Eversley has spent the last 14 years in NBA front offices, he began building those relationships during his decade at Nike before that, a fact he acknowledged during today’s call.

“Simply put, (the Nike background) was critical,” Eversley said, per Cowley. “Relationships move the needle in this business, and it really starts at the grassroots. I was fortunate enough to work at Nike at a time when LeBron James and players like that were coming up through the system. It really taught me the value of relationships. It taught me the value of a brand, really.

“It’s my hope that I can take some of the lessons that I’ve learned at Nike and implement them here with Chicago as a goal to get the Chicago Bulls back to relevancy and get that brand back to where it’s cool again and kids want to be part of it.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • One of the first major decisions Eversley and Karnisovas will make will involve the head coaching position, but it doesn’t sound like they’re in a rush to make a call on Jim Boylen. Eversley, who said Boylen called him to congratulate him earlier in the week, told reporters today that he and Karnisovas would assess the head coach and other staffers together, per Woodyard. “We owe it to everybody on staff to get to Chicago and meet them face-to-face,” Eversley said. “I think we owe it to our players to hopefully get to evaluate them in practice settings, in playing settings and we owe it to our staff to see them in those types of setting as well. I just think it’s far too early to make any of those types of decisions with respect to anybody on the staff until we get to Chicago.”
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times stressed again this week that sources close to Boylen “paint the picture of someone who fully expects to be back next season.” However, Cowley also reiterated that there has been plenty of speculation linking the Bulls to Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, who played college ball with Karnisovas at Seton Hall. A source told The Sun-Times that Everseley, a Canadian and former Toronto executive, remains on good terms with the Raptors.
  • In his own look at the coaching situation in Chicago, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic reports that “minor changes” are underway with the current staff, though Boylen continues to operate as if he’ll be back. Griffin and Sixers assistant Ime Udoka could be candidates for the head coaching job if the Bulls do make a change, according to Mayberry.

Central Notes: Bulls, P. Connelly, Turner, Kennard

The Bulls have yet to formally announce the hiring of Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive VP of basketball operations. That delay is related in part to the fact that there’s still a possibility of other Denver staffers joining Karnisovas in Chicago, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links) that one such candidate who is in serious talks to join the Bulls’ front office is Nuggets director of pro personnel Pat Connelly, the brother of Denver’s president of basketball operations Tim Connelly.

Woj adds that a deal between the Bulls and Pat Connelly could come together quickly, and that an official announcement on Karnisovas’ departure from the Nuggets for Chicago could happen as soon as today.

Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • No decisions have been made yet on Jim Boylen‘s future as head coach, but there has been “a lot of smoke” today around Adrian Griffin and the Bulls, tweets Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. One executive tells Cowley that the current Raptors assistant is so ready for a head coaching role that he’s “over-qualified” for most jobs.
  • Pacers center Myles Turner revealed during an appearance on CJ McCollum‘s podcast (hat tip to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports) that his father was hospitalized with COVID-19 for nearly a week before recovering. “He’s not contagious anymore. He’s back on his feet,” Turner said. “It’s a blessing that he was able to make it through, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t. So, I think having something personal happen to you like that, that’s kind of what made it, the perspective, all feel real.”
  • Getting Luke Kennard back on track will be a top priority for the Pistons if the regular season resumes, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. The former lottery pick will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension during the offseason.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Atlantic Notes: Scott, Knicks, Donaldson, Raptors Staff

The Sixers are investigating an altercation between forward Mike Scott and an Eagles fan outside of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Enrico Campitelli of NBC Sports relays. Scott, who re-signed with the Sixers in July on a two-year contract, is a Washington Redskins fan and posted pictures of himself wearing a Redskins jersey on social media. The altercation was captured on video from at least two angles.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former University of Minnesota guard Dupree McBrayer, ex-Georgetown guard Trey Dickerson and guard Pe’Shon Howard, who played for the Capital City Go Go last season, worked out for the Knicks and scrimmaged against their players Monday, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, who played for the Killer 3’s of the BIG3, was also involved in the scrimmage.  The Knicks have a two-way deal and Exhibit 10 contracts to offer, Kennedy notes.
  • New Raptors assistant coach Brittni Donaldson, who had been in the team’s front office, was originally hired by the organization after a stint with STATS LLC, as Zach Lowe of ESPN details. Donaldson made such a good impression analyzing the data and producing specific reports for NBA teams that the Raptors hired her. She will take the lead in translating analytic data for players and coaches but she’ll also scout opponents, debate rotations and X’s and O’s, and pitch strategic ideas, Lowe adds.
  • The Raptors officially announced the addition of 26-yard-old Donaldson as well as Jon Goodwillie to Nick Nurse’s staff in a team press release. Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren, Patrick Mutombo and Jim Sann are the staff holdovers. Additionally, John Corbacio has been promoted to head video coordinator/assistant coach while Tyler Marsh, Fabulous Flournoy and Mark Tyndale will serve as assistant video coordinators/player development coaches. Goodwillie had been the team’s video coordinator since 2011.

Grizzlies Interviewed Raptors’ Griffin For Head Coaching Job

The Grizzlies recently interviewed Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin for their open head coaching position, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A former NBA player, Griffin became an assistant coach immediately after his retirement in 2008, spending time with the Bucks, Bulls, Magic, and Thunder before joining Nick Nurse‘s staff in Toronto as the Raptors’ lead assistant last summer. He has long been considered a candidate to be a future NBA head coach.

While Memphis has played its cards close to the vest throughout the team’s head coaching search process, more names of potential targets have leaked as of late. Over the weekend, we learned that the Grizzlies had met with former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, and a Monday report indicated that Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts would also interview for the job.

Previously, interviews with Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins were reported. The Grizzlies were also said to have interest in Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The Grizzlies are the last NBA team still seeking a new head coach, so they can afford to take their time. Still, they’ll likely announce J.B. Bickerstaff‘s replacement well before the offseason gets underway in earnest with the draft and free agency period.

Larry Drew Unlikely To Coach Cavs Long-Term

The Cavaliers have begun searching for a permanent head coach for 2019/20 and beyond, and Larry Drew isn’t believed to be a serious candidate, according to a report from Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. While Drew has served as Cleveland’s interim coach since Tyronn Lue‘s dismissal earlier this season, he’s unsure he’d want to return next season and doesn’t appear likely to be asked, per Vardon and Lloyd.

“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” said Drew, who has dealt with a constant stream of injuries since Lue’s ouster, guiding the Cavs to a 9-34 record.

According to Vardon and Lloyd, the Cavaliers will likely seek a first-time NBA head coach who has experience developing players and/or coaching in the G League. The club hasn’t yet begun reaching out to candidates or their agents, since the search is still in its infancy. However, The Athletic duo identifies six candidates who have ties to the Cavs or GM Koby Altman and could be fits. Those six candidates are:

  • Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez
  • Hornets assistant Steve Hetzel
  • Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin
  • Hawks assistant Chris Jent
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen

It’s not entirely clear whether Vardon and Lloyd are just speculating based on the criteria outlined by the Cavs and Altman’s history with those coaches, or if they have inside info on the club’s wish list. Either way, it seems safe to assume that at least a few of those assistants will receive consideration from Cleveland.

For now, Drew is still running the show and the 60-year-old coach admits that he’s happy Lue was let go early in the season — not because he wanted to supplant Lue, but because he believes the Cavs’ struggles this year would have been hard on the team’s former head coach, who battled stress and health issues last season.

“I wouldn’t want to see him go through this,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t want him to go through it from a physical and mental standpoint after some of the things that he went through. He deserves better after having won a championship. He deserves much, much better.”

When the Cavs initially replaced Lue with Drew, he resisted taking on the title of interim head coach until the team gave him a raise and a small financial guarantee for next season. Several months later, he still doesn’t sound like someone who wanted the job to begin with, as Vardon and Lloyd relay.

“I wasn’t looking to do this. I was not looking to do this at all,” Drew said. “But it happened. Ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.”

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Loyd, Nader, Knicks’ Plans

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving fully expects to be ready for the start of training camp, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. Irving told Goodman he hadn’t yet participated in a 5-on-5 full contact scrimmage but he has been working out with his trainer. He underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee in early April in which he had two screws removed. At that time, the team provided a projected recovery time of four to five months.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Combo guard Jordan Loyd is finalizing a buyout agreement with Turkish club Darussafaka, which will allow him to sign a two-way contract with the Raptors, Sportando reports. Loyd, who played with the Raptors’ summer-league squad, spent last season in Israel after playing the previous season in the G League. The 6’4” Loyd made a strong impression on Toronto’s brass while mostly playing the point in Las Vegas, leading to the contract offer.
  • The Celtics will pay the Thunder $450K before December 2nd as part of the Abdel Nader trade, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. The Celtics, who will get a trade exception at the same amount, will essentially be paying the guaranteed portion of Nader’s contract, Pincus notes. The swingman, who was on the verge of being waived, was dealt to OKC for guard Rodney Purvis.
  • The current Knicks’ front office is not fully committed to signing two top-level free agents next summer and that could be a good thing, as Sean Deveney of the Sporting News explains. The Knicks would have to clear a lot of cap space to get into that position and would likely have to give up a lottery pick to move a bad contract, Deveney continues. With a young core that includes Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, dumping a high pick to improve their free-agent market prospects sounds unwise, Deveney adds.
  • The Raptors have officially added Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren and Phil Handy to Nick Nurse’s coaching staff, the team’s media relations department tweets.

Adrian Griffin Reaches Agreement To Join Raptors’ Staff

Thunder assistant coach Adrian Griffin has agreed to join the Raptors’ staff as the lead assistant to new head coach Nick Nurse, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reports.

Griffin served as an assistant to Billy Donovan the past two seasons. Griffin, who had a nine-year playing career, has also coached with the Bucks, Bulls and Magic.

Griffin interviewed for head coaching openings with the Rockets and Magic prior to joining Donovan’s staff.

Nurse, Vanterpool Top List Of Rising Head Coach Candidates

No NBA head coaches were replaced during the 2017 offseason, but that’s very unlikely to be the case for 2018. Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post and Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports suggest that as many as 10 or 11 teams could be on the lookout for a new head coach this offseason.

That list of teams includes three teams with interim head coaches – the Suns, Grizzlies, and Bucks – as well as lottery teams like the Knicks, Magic, Pistons, Hornets, and Hawks. Playoff contenders like the Nuggets and Clippers could also consider a change, particularly if they miss out on the postseason.

Not all of those teams will replace their current head coaches, but there should be a good deal of turnover in the NBA’s coaching ranks this spring. That could open up the door for assistant coaches or G League head coaches who haven’t yet had the opportunity to run their own NBA squads to interview for those jobs in the coming weeks.

With that in mind, Mannix spoke to over three dozen “high-ranking team executives,” getting each of those execs to name two assistants they view as viable head coaching candidates. Mannix’s only criteria? The executives polled couldn’t name assistants from their own staffs, and the assistants named couldn’t have any NBA or major-college head coaching experience already.

Here are the top vote-getters in Mannix’s poll, all of whom were mentioned by at least three different executives:

  1. Nick Nurse (Raptors assistant)
  2. David Vanterpool (Trail Blazers assistant)
  3. Igor Kokoskov (Jazz assistant)
  4. Stephen Silas (Hornets associate head coach)
  5. Adrian Griffin (Thunder assistant)
  6. Nate Tibbetts (Trail Blazers assistant)
  7. Chris Finch (Pelicans assistant)
  8. Jerry Stackhouse (Raptors 905 head coach)
  9. Ryan Saunders (Timberwolves assistant)
  10. Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant)

Of course, not every team seeking a new head coach in the offseason will be eyeing candidates in this pool. Some clubs will want a candidate with previous head coaching experience, and there should be no shortage of those — Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, David Blatt, David Fizdale, and Monty Williams are among the veteran coaches who have been linked to various teams already. Other clubs may target a coach from the NCAA pool, such as Villanova’s Jay Wright.

Still, the NBA assistants listed above are viewed around the league as future head coaching candidates, and are the names to keep an eye on if your favorite team is considering a change on its bench.

Latest On Kidd, Bucks’ Coaching Job

Former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale is considered the early favorite to get the Bucks job after this season but there are some other viable candidates, according to Hoops Hype’s Bryan Kalbrosky.

Milwaukee fired Jason Kidd on Monday and replaced him on an interim basis with lead assistant Joe Prunty. Fizdale was fired in late November, in part because of a strained relationship with the team’s star, Marc Gasol.

Former Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Raptors G-League coach Jerry Stackhouse, Hawks assistant Darvin Ham, Thunder assistant Adrian Griffin, Clippers assistant Sam Cassell and Spurs assistants Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka are some of the other candidates that Milwaukee may consider, Kalbrosky adds.

Here are some nuggets regarding Kidd and the Bucks job:

  • Bucks franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to help Kidd save his job, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets. Kidd and the All-Star starter spoke 15 minutes before Kidd was officially notified he’d been fired, Shelburne adds.
  • Milwaukee’s front office had been mulling over a coaching change for at least two weeks, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports.
  • Williams, who has been working in the Spurs’ front office, has been patiently waiting for another opportunity and is a name to remember, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets.
  • Kidd leaves with no regrets and added “we took an organization that was in a bad place and shined a light on it,” according to another Shelburne tweet.
  • Tensions between Kidd and the front office had been building for months, according to the Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps. There was friction between Kidd and forward Jabari Parker, Bontemps continues. Kidd also rubbed management the wrong way by lobbying for roster changes and harping on the lack on experience among the front office staff, Bontemps adds.
  • Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Pitino are two other candidates the Bucks might consider, Forbes’ Mitch Lawrence reports. However, the organization does not have a stellar reputation and potential replacements for Kidd will likely want to know who’s calling the shots on personnel, Lawrence adds.