Billy Donovan

Bulls Hiring Maurice Cheeks, Josh Longstaff As Assistants

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has begun to fill out his new coaching staff, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Maurice Cheeks will be an assistant under Donovan in Chicago. The team is also hiring Josh Longstaff away from the Bucks to be an assistant coach on Donovan’s staff, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Cheeks is a logical fit for the Bulls, having been an assistant under Donovan with the Thunder for the last five years. He’s also a Chicago native, so joining the Bulls will be a homecoming for him. In addition to his two stints in Oklahoma City as an assistant coach, Cheeks has been an assistant for the 76ers and served as a head coach in Portland, Philadelphia, and Detroit.

As for Longstaff, he’s another former Thunder assistant, though he worked for the team from 2010-14 and didn’t overlap with Donovan. Since then, he has been an assistant for the Knicks, the head coach of the G League’s Erie BayHawks, and – for the last two years – a member of Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Milwaukee. He’ll get the opportunity to become a front-of-the-bench assistant in Chicago, Wojnarowski notes.

The Bulls announced last month that assistants Roy Rogers, Dean Cooper, Nate Loenser, and Karen Stack Umlauf wouldn’t be returning to the team. Although the club is revamping its coaching staff for Donovan, it sounds like there will be at least one holdover in Chris Fleming.

Bulls’ Donovan Overhauling Coaching Staff

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has informed multiple assistant coaches still under contract with the team that they won’t be part of his staff for the 2020/21 season, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Roy Rogers, Dean Cooper, and Nate Loenser won’t be returning to to the club after working on Jim Boylen‘s staff last season, Johnson reports. Karen Stack Umlauf has also been let go, per an official announcement from the Bulls.

“I appreciate the time that I was able to spend with Dean, Nate, Roy and Karen. I really want to thank all of them for their service and commitment to the Chicago Bulls,” Donovan said in a statement. “This is the tough side to our business, and I wish all of them the best moving forward.”

Rogers had only completed one season on his three-year deal and Loenser had his team option for 2020/21 exercised in the spring, but Bulls ownership continues to give the team’s new decision-makers the green light to make changes even if they’ll cost the organization some money, per Johnson.

It’s possible the Bulls will make additional changes to their coaching staff, but for now it sounds as if Chris Fleming is sticking around. Fleming worked with new Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in Denver during the 2015/16 season, and Johnson has previously reported that there’s a “trust factor” between the two men.

It remains to be seen who will join Donovan’s revamped staff in Chicago, but Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times speculates that Maurice Cheeks could be a candidate. Cheeks is a Chicago native and has been an assistant under Donovan for the last five years in Oklahoma City.

Central Notes: Donovan, Bucks, Oladipo, Thomas

New Bulls head coach Billy Donovan will greatly help the Chicago’s young roster, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times opines. In Donovan, the Bulls finally have a coach who will work to factor in the strengths of his players as he game-plans, as opposed to striving to make players conform to his system. Former Bulls head coaches Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen both struggled to fit their players into their preferred offensive systems.

“[O]ne of the things I’ve always felt is important when you’re building out different things offensively is I think you’ve got to spend time with players to hear how they want to be used,” Donovan said recently of the coaching philosophy he brings to the Bulls. “And then you build out how you want to play from there.’’

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic brainstorms potential routes through which the Bucks can upgrade their point guard position. Currently, 30-year-old starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team inclusion with Milwaukee, is earning $16.9MM and is with the team through the 2022/23 season. His contract for the final year is only partially guaranteed. Bledsoe’s limitations as an offensive creator hamper his fit with the Bucks. Backup point guard George Hill is earning $9.6MM through 2021/22, though the 2021/22 season is only partially guaranteed. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday is weighed as a trade option were the Bucks to flip Bledsoe and other pieces, while D.J. Augustin and Jeff Teague are considered as viable biannual exception signings.
  • The Pacers front office has recently spoken a couple times with star guard Victor Oladipo, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star tweets. Last week, there were rumblings that Oladipo, a free agent in 2021 and a two-time All-Star with Indiana, would be amenable to a trade.
  • As we previously relayedKhyri Thomas impressed Pistons coach Dwane Casey during Detroit’s recent mini-camp team practices. After undergoing a foot surgery last fall, Thomas was limited to just playing in eight games of the 2019/20 season.

Bulls Notes: Eversley, Roster, Donovan, Porter

After making the postseason for 10 of 11 seasons, the Bulls have appeared in the playoffs just once in the past five years, finishing in the lottery in each of the last three seasons. The club’s new basketball operations decision-makers are very aware of that fact, with general manager Marc Eversley telling reporters on Wednesday that bringing the franchise “back to relevance” is one of the front office’s primary goals.

“This is the Chicago Bulls. It’s an iconic brand,” Eversley said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s a tremendous amount of history. It’s a responsibility. And I think we’ve embraced that.”

The Bulls are coming off back-to-back 22-win seasons (albeit in 17 fewer games in 2019/20), but Eversley said on Wednesday that he feels as if there’s enough talent on the roster to comfortably exceed that figure next season.

“I like a lot of the players on this roster,” Eversley said. “I think if we put together an efficient, effective player development program, I think you will see a quick turnaround in terms of the output that these players give. By going out and getting a Billy Donovan, who brings a different voice to the gym. He brings winning. He brings leadership. He brings player development. And I think if you put that voice at the top of this thing, I think our players will grow.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • According to Eversley, the Bulls were patient in conducting their coaching search, interviewing 10 candidates before pivoting and becoming aggressive once Donovan became available. “It’s interesting because as we were going through the process, one of the things that we had talked about was we need to be thorough and practice patience. And when Billy became available, I think (executive VP of basketball operations) Arturas (Karnisovas) called an Uber and he wanted to head to O’Hare right away,” Eversley joked, according to Johnson. “His aggressiveness was thorough, but it was also well thought out. And he had reasons why he thought we need to attack this thing and gather as much information as possible about Billy.”
  • Otto Porter Jr., who was limited to 14 games in 2019/20 due to a left foot fracture, has looked great at the Bulls’ in-market mini-camp, Eversley said on Wednesday (link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). Porter is expected to pick up the $28.5MM player option on the final year of his contract.
  • In a separate article for The Athletic, Mayberry answers readers’ questions about the Donovan hiring, the possibility of a reunion with Joakim Noah, and the frontcourt pairing of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, among other topics.

Central Notes: Windler, Donovan, LaVine, Casey

Dylan Windler‘s return to the court has generated a buzz of excitement within the Cavaliers organization, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

Windler, who underwent season-ending surgery in January for a stress fracture in his left leg, has impressed coaches and teammates alike during the team’s mini-camp. The Cavaliers selected him with the No. 26 in the 2019 draft, with the 24-year-old not playing in a single game this year.

“It was amazing for us to see him out there. I know it felt good for him,” Collin Sexton said. “Everyone went crazy because they know how bad he wanted to be out there.”

In addition to Windler, the Cavaliers sport a young nucleus consisting of Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. The team also has a number of veterans – including a star frontcourt duo in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond – and the No. 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“It was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy. I remember that guy,’” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said of Windler. “He knows how to play. Super efficient. Can really shoot. He’s always around the ball. He hasn’t been hurt in his entire life, so it’s hard to be off that long. He’s excited to be back, doing his thing and when that silky smooth 3-ball goes in we are doing little fist-bumps too. He still needs to get through this week healthy and his body needs to respond the right way and has to get to NBA games and compete there, but we’re excited about him.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores what kind of coach Billy Donovan might be for the Bulls. Chicago hired Donovan last week, with the veteran coach coming off a stint with the Thunder. “I look at it as a positive of coaching some different teams,” Donovan said, “because it forces you as a coach to constantly every year have to figure out ways to make the group better. In today’s day and age in the game of basketball, there’s going to be turnover. You want to be able to find a way, however long or short your time is, to make a player better.”
  • Bulls star Zach LaVine hopes Donovan can be a long-term fix at head coach, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. Donovan will be LaVine’s sixth head coach in seven seasons, and the team’s leading scorer hopes that rate of turnover won’t continue. “I was extremely happy,” LaVine said of the Donovan hire. “Somebody with his track record not just in the NBA but in college as well, a whole ton of players who are proven saying how great of a guy he is and how good of a coach he is. People like me, when you want to be great, you want to be coached extremely well. I gave him a text right when I heard the news. And I told him hurry to get after it. I’m extremely excited. I think the whole organization is.”
  • The Pistons have looked to create an atmosphere of intense competition in the team’s mini-camp, head coach Dwane Casey said, as relayed by James Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter link). “The one thing I’ve seen this week … we wanted the competition, and guys are competing hard, taking charges,” Casey said. “We wanted to create the atmosphere of competition. They’ve responded.”

Details On Billy Donovan’s New Contract

The Bulls‘ previous coach, Jim Boylen, was one of the NBA’s lowest-paid head coaches, having reportedly been set to earn just $1.6MM in 2020/21. However, Chicago has made a substantially larger investment in its new head coach, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Billy Donovan received a four-year contract worth $24MM+ from the Bulls.

Donovan’s new deal doesn’t quite put him in the top tier of earners among NBA head coaches — Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich reportedly earn $10MM+ annually. However, it’s a significant investment, especially from a franchise that hasn’t made a habit of committing big money to coaches or executives.

Donovan’s five-year contract with the Thunder, which expired this summer, was said to be worth approximately $30MM, so his per-year salary will be about the same in Chicago.

Formally introducing Donovan to the media today, Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas referred to the former OKC coach as a “great communicator” who has a “team-first mentality,” per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Karnisovas told reporters, including Johnson (Twitter link), that he “could not stop smiling” after agreeing to a deal with Donovan.

For his part, Donovan praised Karnisovas for doing “a tremendous amount of homework on me,” referring to his new boss as having been “very proactive” in recruiting him to Chicago (Twitter link via Johnson).

The Bulls are currently conducting an offseason mini-camp in a bubble environment in Chicago, but Donovan won’t join the team within that bubble due to safety concerns and a lengthy quarantine process. Still, he has begun reaching out to his new players, tweets Johnson.

Reactions To Bulls’ Billy Donovan Hire

The Bullshiring of Billy Donovan as their new head coach was met with positive reviews by rival executives and by agents of Bulls players alike, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. One Eastern Conference GM who spoke to Scotto pointed out that Donovan has yet to coach a team without a “strong personality,” meaning it will be interesting to see how he shapes Chicago’s young core.

“Looking at the other jobs for Billy, the only one that might have been better for him is New Orleans, but I can see why he went with Chicago,” the GM told HoopsHype. “They have young talent, lots of flexibility, a great city, and solid ownership.”

“It’s great,” an agent said of the Donovan hire. “He or Kenny Atkinson would’ve been good choices. They can only go up. They have a lot of talent and underachieved, so he can look really good when they do better.”

Here’s more on the Bulls’ new head coach:

  • Joakim Noah, who played under Donovan during his college days at Florida, lauded the hire in a conversation with K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s someone who cares about his players, someone who is very demanding, someone who is very competitive and just has a great balance to him,” Noah said. “It’s a great hire.” Nick Friedell of ESPN wonders (via Twitter) if a reunion between Noah and the Bulls could be in the cards now that Donovan is in the picture.
  • Zach LaVine was streaming Call of Duty on Facebook Gaming when word broke that the Bulls were hiring Donovan, so his reaction was captured live, as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago details. “Oh damn, we got Billy Donovan as our next coach,” LaVine said on the feed. “Wow. That’ll be good… Really good coach.”
  • Donovan brings flexibility, crunch-time success, consistency, and player-development skills to the Bulls, writes Darnell Mayberry for The Athletic. Meanwhile, over at NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer’s breakdown of four ways Donovan can immediately help the Bulls covers some of the same bases as Mayberry’s piece.
  • While Chicago’s new head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas faced a little criticism for taking so long to part ways with previous head coach Jim Boylen, it’s worth noting that Donovan wouldn’t have been available if the team had moved quickly to replace Boylen when Karnisovas was hired in the spring, observes Jon Greenberg of The Athletic.

Coaching Rumors: Donovan, Billups, Bjorkgren, Walton

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a personal connection with Billy Donovan that helped him land his new coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this morning on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” (video link). After Donovan left the Thunder two weeks ago, Karnisovas wanted to set up a meeting right away, according to Woj. The Bulls executive flew to Donovan’s Florida home a few days later and was able to sell him on the job.

Wojnarowski notes that Chicago has a recent history of taking chances on college coaches and veteran assistants, but has rarely hired someone with previous NBA head coaching experience. He adds that the Bulls have the talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Donovan could turn them into a desirable market for free agents.

Donovan said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding job in OKC, but Wojnarowski believes that will be less of a concern in Chicago. He said the Thunder are “cycling down” with a lot of veteran players and draft picks and may bottom out for a while before becoming good again. The Bulls have “players on the uptick” and could become contenders with the right coach.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few other rumors today (video link). The Sixers are ready to start bringing in coaching candidates and have already started conversations with Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue. Chauncey Billups is a name to watch for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to hire former players with no coaching experience and surround them with a veteran staff. The Pelicans have been doing a “ton of background” and haven’t started formal interviews yet. The Rockets like interviewing a lot of people whenever they have an opening and will consider various combinations of head coaches and lead assistants. Woj expects the interview process to be lengthy in both Houston and Oklahoma City.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Sirius XM Radio that assistant Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the opening with the Pacers (Twitter link).
  • The Kings‘ front office shakeup shouldn’t affect the job security of coach Luke Walton, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on a recent HoopsHype podcast. Amick believes new head of basketball operations Monte McNair was told before he was hired that the organization is “pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke.”

Bulls Hire Billy Donovan As Head Coach

5:18pm: The Bulls have officially announced Donovan as their new head coach.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”


5:00pm: The Bulls and Billy Donovan have reached a deal that will make him Chicago’s new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Wojnarowski, new Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas “aggressively pursued” Donovan this month, as he and GM Marc Eversley felt that the former Thunder coach was the best candidate available.

Donovan, who had spent the last five years in Oklahoma City, parted ways with the Thunder following their elimination from the postseason earlier this month. He compiled a 243-157 (.608) regular-season record with the franchise during that time, making the postseason in each of his five years in OKC. He did arguably his most impressive work in 2019/20, guiding a roster that wasn’t viewed as playoff-ready to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

While the Thunder reportedly had interest in retaining Donovan, there was a sense that the veteran coach didn’t want to stick around through a rebuilding process. In Chicago, he won’t be taking over a team that’s ready to immediately contend, but Karnisovas and the Bulls sold him on a “partnership and vision for a talented young roster,” as well as a chance to lead one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, says Wojnarowski.

The Bulls had been in the market for a new head coach since dismissing Jim Boylen in mid-August. At the time, Karnisovas indicated the team would conduct a comprehensive search and would focus on hiring someone who “puts the relationship with players first” and is “a good communicator.”

Among the candidates interviewed by Chicago, Kenny Atkinson, Ime Udoka, Darvin Ham, and Wes Unseld Jr. were said to have made good impressions in their meetings with the organization. However, Donovan was always viewed as a strong candidate for the job, having been linked to the Bulls immediately after his departure from Oklahoma City.

With Donovan off the market, a handful of teams still in the midst of their coaching searches will have to look elsewhere. The former Florida Gators coach was said to be on the Sixers‘ short list and reportedly met with the Pacers as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Charania’s Latest: Pacers, Donovan, Bulls, Nurse, More

The Pacers have added another name to their list of head coaching candidates, having interview former Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan last week, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic.

While Donovan’s addition increases the number of candidates connected to the Pacers to a total of 18, Charania hears that the team is expected to only interview about a dozen contenders for the job. From there, the plan is for Indiana to trim its list approximately in half, then to conduct in-person interviews with the finalists.

Here are a few more notes and rumors from Charania’s latest column for The Athletic:

  • The Bulls continue to narrow down their head coaching pool and will likely meet with finalists soon, according to Charania, who hears that Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Wes Unseld Jr. are among the candidate who have had strong interviews so far.
  • The new multiyear contract extension signed last week by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is worth approximately $8MM per year, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid coaches, per Charania. Nurse’s previous deal was reportedly worth in the neighborhood of $3MM per year, but he has won a title and a Coach of the Year award since signing that contract in 2018.
  • Kawhi Leonard isn’t expecting the 2020/21 NBA season to get underway anytime soon, as Charania relays. “February, maybe?” Leonard said last week after the Clippers were eliminated from the postseason. “I’ve also heard March.”
  • In case you missed it, we also passed along items from Charania on the Sixers’ coaching search, the Clippers’ offseason, and Will Barton‘s injury.