Chris Finch

Pelicans Expected To Hire Chris Finch As Assistant

The Pelicans confirmed earlier this week that they won’t replace head coach Alvin Gentry, but it appears some changes are coming to Gentry’s coaching staff. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, New Orleans is close to hiring Nuggets associate head coach Chris Finch as an assistant.

Sources tell Stein that the Pelicans have gone after Finch in the hopes of adding his “offensive brainpower” to their bench. As Stein observes, Finch was partly responsible for Denver’s offensive improvement centered around big man Nikola Jokic, so the Pelicans are hoping adding the veteran coach will allow the club to take full advantage of Anthony Davis‘ and DeMarcus Cousins‘ talents.

Before he joined the Nuggets in 2016, Finch coached Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London and worked for the Rockets organization for the better part of a decade. He was hired as the head coach of Houston’s D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, in 2009, and then joined the Rockets as an assistant in 2011.

Finch was promoted to associate head coach by the Rockets in 2014, and retained that title when he was hired by the Nuggets last year. I would guess he’ll have a similar role in New Orleans if and when he and the Pelicans finalize his new deal.

Nuggets Finalize Coaching Staff

The Nuggets have hired former Rockets assistant Chris Finch to join their coaching staff, the team announced today.  Finch, who spent five years as an assistant in Houston and two as a D-League coach with Rio Grande Valley, is among four hirings and five promotions as Denver finalized the staff for head coach Michael Malone.

Today’s other announced hirings were assistant coach Jordi Fernandez, who spent the past two seasons as coach of the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate in Canton; player development representative Stephen Graham, who played six years in the NBA and served as a D-League assistant in Fort Wayne last season; and head video coordinator Travis Armenta, who spent the past five seasons as assistant video coordinator for the Kings.

Wes Unseld Jr., an assistant coach with the Nuggets last season, has been promoted to Malone’s lead assistant. He coached with the Wizards, Warriors and Magic before coming to Denver. Also promoted were assistant coaches Micah Nori and Ryan Bowen, new player development coach Ognjen Stojakovic and new assistant video coordinator Tommy Massimino Jr.

And-Ones: Frye, Larkin, Finch

Channing Frye penned a piece for the Player’s Tribune discussing his Finals run with the Cavs this past season, as well as his previous path throughout the league. Regarding the joy he felt upon joining Cleveland, Frye wrote, “When I got traded to the Cavs in February, I knew it was going to be special. I almost cried on the plane because I was getting the chance every player wants — a shot at the title. From the jump, I told myself that I was not gonna waste a day. I was not going to waste a moment. I was going to enjoy everything.

Reflecting on his contributions to the Cavs’ culture, Frye relayed, “We’re one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. We have text chains about all types of stuff. Everybody’s always talking [expletive] to each other, except we don’t really say too much to LeBron James. Sometimes I’ll say like, Bron, you weak. You only got 40? Then he’ll go out and try to drop 50.”

Here’s more from around the league:

Southwest Notes: Duncan, Finch, Grizzlies

Newly retired Tim Duncan penned a letter, which was posted to the Spursofficial website, expressing his gratitude for how teammates, opponents and fans treated him during his storied career. “If asked to write a script for my career 19 years ago, there is no way I would’ve been able to dream up this journey,” Duncan wrote. “I stand here at the end of this ride and look back in awe of what I’ve experienced. The wins and losses will be remembered, but what I’ll remember most are the people:

The fans inside the arena and out, the staff and coaches who pushed me and held me together, the teammates [and even opponents] who will be lifelong friends, sharing my ups and downs with family and close friends, and, most importantly, the snapshots of my kids growing up and reveling in watching Dad work. That is what I will cherish most. Thank you to the city of San Antonio for the love and the support over these years. Thank you to the fans all over the world.”

A true class act in every sense of the word, Duncan’s presence will certainly be missed this season. Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets and assistant coach Chris Finch have parted ways, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com relays (Twitter links). Finch is highly regarded around the league and should be on numerous teams’ coaching radar for future openings, Lowe adds.
  • One of Grizzlies coach David Fizdale‘s first tasks will be to sort out the team’s backup point guard situation, with a number of inexperienced players likely to play major roles this season, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes. Speaking about Wade Baldwin and Andrew Harrison, two players expected to compete for the right to be Mike Conley‘s backup, Fizdale told Tillery, “All I know is that I’m going to let those guys play with a lot of freedom. I’m going to try to put them in situations to be successful. We’re going to trust them. There’s a chance for both of those guys to play for me during the year. I’m going to make sure they are very comfortable, very confident and that they have a lot of clarity. Let’s see what happens.

Latest On Rockets Coaching Search

9:46pm: The Rockets are intrigued by college coaches Shaka Smart (Texas) and Bill Self (Kansas), and also may seek to interview former Rocket and current broadcaster Kenny Smith, Stein relays (Twitter links).

9:08pm: Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni will interview for the vacant post this week, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Houston will also desire an interview with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Pacers, Stein adds.

8:00pm: Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has withdrawn from consideration for the team’s head coaching position after meeting with team ownership and front office personnel on Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Other NBA teams have now begun reaching out to Bickerstaff about available lead assistant positions, which is what he is now focusing on, the Vertical scribe adds, though Wojnarowski makes no mention of which teams have been in contact with the coach.

Houston intends to conduct a wide-ranging search for its next head coach, Wojnarowski relays. GM Daryl Morey and team owner Les Alexander met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as with Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Rockets assistant Chris Finch, league sources informed Wojnarowski. The Rockets are trying to arrange interviews with Jeff Hornacek and Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources told Wojnarowski. The franchise also reportedly plans to interview former Cavs coach David Blatt, though reports peg former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy as the front-runner for the vacant post.

Bickerstaff posted a mark of 37-34 after taking over for the fired Kevin McHale, who got off to a 4-7 start to the campaign. Houston indicated that Bickerstaff would receive consideration to have his interim tag removed, but apparently guiding the team to the playoffs wasn’t enough to sell ownership on him as a viable long-term option.

And-Ones: Dunn, Murray, Coaches

Former Providence point guard Kris Dunn has hired Ty Sullivan of the Creative Artists Agency to represent him, as Dunn told Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Sullivan represents Elfrid Payton, among other NBA players. Jamal Murray, Dunn’s primary competition to become the first point guard drafted this year, has hired Mike George of Excel Sports to be his agent, sources told Goodman (Twitter link). International journalist David Pick reported earlier that Excel was the overwhelming favorite to land Murray, the former Kentucky standout. George has recently drafted standouts Tyler Ennis and Dwight Powell among his clients. See more on the representation for some of this year’s draft prospects amid a look at other future-focused NBA items:

  • Former St. Joseph’s small forward DeAndre’ Bembry has hired Pensack Sports, which has also partnered with former Iowa combo forward and fellow second-round prospect Jarrod Uthoff, Goodman reports (Twitter links). Adam Pensack will represent Uthoff, though it’s unclear who’ll be the primary agent for Bembry. N.C. State point guard Cat Barber is going with Sunny Shah of Paramount Sports (Twitter link) and former Iowa State combo forward Georges Niang will sign with Thad Foucher and Makhtar Ndiaye of Wasserman (Twitter link), Goodman also reports, while Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal hears former Syracuse swingman Michael Gbinije has signed with Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports (Twitter link).
  • Swingman Josh Jackson, who chose Kansas for his college this week, tops the early look at 2017 draft prospects that Chad Ford of ESPN.com compiled for an Insider-only piece. Incoming Duke power forward Harry Giles is No. 2 and soon-to-be Washington point guard Markelle Fultz is No. 3. Jayson Tatum, a small forward who’s headed to Duke, is No. 1 on Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress 2017 mock draft but No. 4 on Ford’s list.
  • A panel including GMs, coaches, veteran players, agents, scouts and executives named assistant coaches Nate Tibbetts of the Trail Blazers, Jarron Collins of the Warriors, Nick Nurse of the Raptors, Chris Finch of the Rockets, Stephen Silas of the Hornets and Sean Sweeney of the Bucks as strong candidates to eventually become NBA head coaches, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com details.

J.B. Bickerstaff To Coach Rockets For Rest Of Season

Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will remain in that position for the rest of the season following the dismissal of Kevin McHale, owner Leslie Alexander said to both Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston and Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com (Twitter links). GM Daryl Morey, while praising Bickerstaff’s leadership ability, had shown hesitance to say that he would remain in place all season in an interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick, but sources told Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders that Bickerstaff will at least have a chance to vie for the long-term job (Twitter link).

“For the season he’s going to be the interim coach. We’ll worry about coaching searches later,” Alexander told Berman (Twitter link).

Alexander, who purchased the club in July 1993, ripped the performance of the team as he spoke with Berman, saying the team has never played quite so poorly in his time as owner (Twitter link). Still, he called McHale a “tremendous” coach and admitted firing him was difficult, Berman relays (Twitter links). Alexander told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that he doesn’t regret breaking with tradition to sign an in-season extension with McHale last December, and Feigen notes that McHale likely would have received a new deal after last season anyway (Twitter link). Instead, the owner seemed to direct his ire at the players.

“Some guys obviously aren’t playing hard enough,” Alexander said to Berman (Twitter link). “If they don’t respond and play hard they’re not going to stay here.”

Morey said earlier today that the team would “make changes until we win.” The Rockets are just 4-7 so far this season, with a game tonight at home against the Trail Blazers.

McHale was grooming Chris Finch to ultimately succeed him, but the Rockets passed him over to make Bickerstaff the interim coach, with Finch becoming his top assistant, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Bickerstaff’s defensive acumen helped him win the job, as did his relationship with the team’s players, Berger writes, though Finch has bonded with the players, too, Watkins tweets.

What do the Rockets need to do to play better? Leave a comment to let us know.

David Fizdale, Melvin Hunt On Sixers’ Radar

Maurice Cheeks is said to be the frontrunner for the Pistons' head coaching job, and the openings with the Clippers, Nets, and Nuggets appear to be turning into a game of musical chairs featuring Brian Shaw, Lionel Hollins, George Karl, and others. Since Sam Hinkie was hired in Philadelphia though, we haven't heard a whole lot about the Sixers' head coaching targets.

According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein (via Twitter), a pair of assistant coaches are on the 76ers' radar: David Fizdale of the Heat and Melvin Hunt of the Nuggets. Fizdale had been mentioned as a candidate for Detroit earlier in the Pistons' process, and actually was said to be on the Sixers' list before Hinkie was hired as well. Hunt, meanwhile, hasn't received any head coaching buzz since he was named as a potential Cavs candidate back in April.

Besides Fizdale and Hunt, Rockets assistants Kelvin Sampson and Chris Finch have also been cited as possible candidates for the Sixers' job, while Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweeted earlier this week that Philadelphia appears to have interest in Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger.

Grantland's Zach Lowe also noted yesterday that Hinkie has long been an admirer of George Karl's offensive creativity, but Lowe hears from coaching sources that the new GM may prefer to develop a strong relationship with a first-time head coach of his choosing.

Odds & Ends: Brewer, Shaw, Larkin

Despite his limited role in Oklahoma City, Ronnie Brewer sounded open about a possible return to the Thunder"I'm still very young and still have a lot of basketball left in me so if it's here or somewhere else I'll continue to play basketball. This is a great organization and (has) great players, great coaches, great fans. So hopefully I can continue to play here” (Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman reports). Here are more of tonight's miscellaneous notes:

  • Though George Karl's coaching style may fit well with GM Sam Hinkie's focus on analytics, Grantland's Zach Lowe says that one name to look out for with regard to the 76ers' head coaching vacancy is Chris Finch, who is currently an assistant to Kevin McHale with the Rockets and the head coach of Great Britain's national team. Lowe gets the sense that Hinkie is looking to build a strong relationship with a first-time NBA coach, and Finch – who also served as a coach for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers – was reportedly able to develop a good working relationship with Houston team brass while handling his responsibilities in the NBDL.  
  • As far as the Nets' coaching search goes, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News cites a source who says that Brooklyn is seeking a "fresh face," which may indicate that Brian Shaw is ahead of Lionel Hollins on their wish list. 
  • When it comes to Kris Humphries and the Nets, Roderick Boone of Newsday tweets that both parties would welcome a trade. 
  • Shane Larkin looked very impressive in his workout with the Jazz today, according to Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune writes that center prospect Jason Washburn made an impression during his visit with Utah as well. 
  • Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee says that one name to look out for as a possible assistant coach for Michael Malone's staff is Roy Rogers, who worked as an assistant for Lawrence Frank on the Pistons last season and is credited for playing a vital role in Andre Drummond's development. 
  • Marcus Thompson II of Mercury News notes that Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes of the Warriors will participate in Team USA's minicamp in July. 
  • Sean Deveney of the Sporting News opines that the era of retread coaches in the NBA is over.
  • Gene Wang of The Washington Post briefly profiles Khalif Wyatt following the 6'4" guard's workout with the Wizards earlier today. 
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