Chris Finch

Pelicans Hire Jeff Bzdelik As Assistant Coach

Veteran assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik has officially joined the Pelicans‘ coaching staff as an assistant, the club announced today in a press release. Bzdelik will be one of two associate head coaches under Alvin Gentry, handling defensive responsibilities while fellow associate head coach Chris Finch focuses on offense.

A former head coach for the Nuggets and a handful of college programs, including Colorado and Wake Forest, Bzdelik had been the Rockets’ associate head coach since 2016. He briefly retired following the 2017/18 season, but after Houston got off to a slow start in 2018/19, the team lured him out of retirement and got him back on the bench alongside Mike D’Antoni.

Following a disappointing second-round exit this spring, the Rockets let Bzdelik’s contract expire without pushing to lock him up to a new deal. He subsequently engaged in negotiations with New Orleans, with a report back in July indicating that the two sides were close to a deal.

The Pelicans have also hired former Suns assistant Jamelle McMillan in an assistant role, promoting Joe Boylan to assistant coach/director of player development and Michael Ruffin to assistant coach/player development.

Timberwolves To Interview Pelicans’ Chris Finch

As part of their newly-launched head coaching search, the Timberwolves have been granted permission to interview Pelicans assistant Chris Finch for the position, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

We learned earlier today that new Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has decided to open up the team’s head coaching search beyond interim coach Ryan Saunders. While Saunders remains a strong candidate for the full-time job, the team is also said to be meeting with Heat assistant Juwan Howard and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool. We can now add Finch to that list of candidates too.

Although he’s currently part of the Pelicans’ staff, Finch’s longest-term role as an NBA assistant came in Houston from 2011-16. Rosas was part of the Rockets’ front office during that time, so he’s very familiar with the veteran assistant.

Finch was also the associate head coach in Denver for one season between his stints with the Rockets and Pelicans. Last year, he received interest from the Hornets and the Suns when they sought new head coaches.

Coaching Moves: Sixers, Raptors, Pelicans, Suns

 The Sixers have named Connor Johnson as their G League coach, the team announced in a press release. Johnson will coach the Delaware Blue Coats after working the past four seasons working with the 76ers coaching staff. The newly-named Blue Coats will play in the new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington. Johnson was Philadelphia’s director of player development and coaching administration last season.
In other coaching-related news around the league:
  • The Raptors were denied permission from the Pelicans to hire Chris Finch as an assistant coach, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. New Raptors coach Nick Nurse was an assistant under Finch on Great Britain’s Olympic team in 2012 and was hoping to bring his well-regarded knowledge of offensive schemes to Toronto, Stein adds in another tweet.
  • The Pelicans did lose one of their assistants as Jamelle McMillan, son of Pacers coach Nate McMillan, joined Igor Kokoskov’s staff with the Suns, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. The younger McMillan is just 29 years old.
  • The Raptors hired Jama Mahlalela as head coach of their NBA G League affiliate, Raptors 905, the team’s media relations department tweets. Mahlalela, who has five years of experience as an NBA assistant, replaces Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse, who led the team to consecutive G League Finals, joined the Grizzlies’ staff after being interviewed for multiple NBA head coaching jobs.

Hornets Notes: Draft Plans, Roster Needs, Finch

The Hornets are unlikely to trade the 11th overall pick, new president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said today, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. While Kupchak wouldn’t be surprised to see some deals made in the top 10, it sounds like he expects his club to remain out of the fray and use the No. 11 selection.

As for which prospect the Hornets might draft with that pick, Kupchak didn’t tip his hand, suggesting that the front office will opt for the best player available. However, he did speculate that the player who fits that bill will be a guard or a wing. As Bonnell explains, Kupchak expects the top five big men in this year’s draft to come off the board in the top 10, leaving guards and wings as the best players available by No. 11.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Asked whether the Hornets have any pressing needs that have to be addressed prior to training camp, Kupchak said he wants to add at least one more ball-handling guard, writes Bonnell. That player could be acquired in the draft, free agency, or a trade.
  • If the Hornets didn’t get a chance to bring in a player for an individual workout, that doesn’t mean the club won’t draft that player, Kupchak said today, according to Bonnell. That stance could apply to someone like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a projected lottery pick who reportedly hasn’t had any pre-draft workouts with NBA teams.
  • Kupchak said it’s very possible that the Hornets will use their No. 55 pick to nab and draft-and-stash prospect, per Bonnell.
  • The Pelicans granted the Hornets and Suns permission to speak to lead assistant Chris Finch about their head coaching jobs this spring, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. While Finch’s interview with Phoenix was reported in April, he hadn’t previously been identified as a candidate for the Charlotte job. The Hornets ultimately hired James Borrego to replace Steve Clifford.

Jason Kidd Won’t Get Second Interview With Suns

8:18pm: There are two new names to add to the Suns’ coaching search, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). The team had talks this week with Toronto assistant Nick Nurse and Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch.

8:00pm: The Suns have completed their first round of coaching interviews, and Jason Kidd is among the candidates who have been eliminated, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix. He adds that the organization is currently informing all the interviewees of their current status.

Phoenix wrapped up the first stage of its coaching search this week, talking to ex-Hornets head coach Steve Clifford today and Spurs assistant James Borrego on Thursday.

Kidd has a 183-190 record in four and a half seasons as head coach of the Nets and Bucks. He took Milwaukee to the playoffs twice before being fired in January with a 23-22 mark. The newly elected Hall of Famer spent five seasons in Phoenix during his playing career.

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.

Pelicans Hire Chris Finch As Assistant Coach

JUNE 6: The Pelicans have officially hired Finch as an assistant, the team announced today in a press release.

“I’m very excited to welcome Chris to the Pelicans organization,” Gentry said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our coaching staff, and will be an integral part of our program as we move forward.”

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter), New Orleans has also offered a front office role to former assistant coach Phil Weber.

MAY 19: 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 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.