Ettore Messina

Kings To Interview Walton; Messina Also On Their List

The Kings have formally requested an interview with Luke Walton, who parted ways with the Lakers on Friday, and also intend to request permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their vacant head coaching job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. (Hat tip to USA Today’s Sam Amick).

Walton is reportedly GM Vlade Divac’s leading candidate for the job. Messina was a finalist for the Raptors’ job last season, which wound up going to Nick Nurse. He also met twice with the Bucks’ brass last season before Milwaukee chose Mike Budenholzer.

The Kings fired Dave Joerger on Thursday, even though they improved enough to win 39 games. Sixers assistant Monty Williams is also expected to get a long look from Divac.

The fact that Divac is already lining up interviews suggests he’d like to make the coaching hire quickly.

Kings Fire Head Coach Dave Joerger

12:27pm: The Kings have now fired Joerger, officially announcing the decision in a press release.

“After evaluating the season, I determined that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level,” Divac said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Kings organization, I want to thank Dave for his contributions to our team and I wish him all the best.”

11:08am: Kings general manager Vlade Divac is having a face-to-face meeting with head coach Dave Joerger today and intends to fire Joerger during that sitdown, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Kings sign Vlade Divac to contract extension]

It’s a somewhat surprising move, given the success Joerger had with the young Kings this season. The club was in playoff contention through the All-Star break and finished with 39 wins, the most victories a Sacramento team has had since the 2005/06 season. Under Joerger, guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield enjoyed breakout seasons, with young players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley also showing promise.

However, the Kings slumped at the end of the season, going 9-17 down the stretch and losing some games that they shouldn’t have. Additionally, Joerger reportedly had some tension with the team’s front office throughout the year related to minutes for young players, and notably clashed with assistant GM Brandon Williams. An earlier report from Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link) indicated that Williams won’t be back next season either.

In three total seasons with the Kings, Joerger posted a 98-148 (.398) record, with no playoff appearances. He previously coached the Grizzlies for three years, posting a 147-99 (.598) regular-season mark in Memphis, with a 9-13 record in four playoff series. Joerger had one year remaining on his contract with the Kings.

Wojnarowski suggests (via Twitter) that Divac, with a new contract extension in hand, is “consolidating power” around himself in the Kings’ front office. He’ll presumably take the lead in picking Joerger’s replacement.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), Luke Walton would be a top candidate for Sacramento if the Lakers let him go, though Walton isn’t necessarily a lock to be replaced in L.A. now that Magic Johnson has stepped down. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter) also identifies Spurs assistant Ettore Messina as a name to watch in Sacramento, while Amick (via Twitter) adds Sixers assistant Monty Williams to the list of potential candidates for the Kings.

As for Joerger, the Minnesota native has frequently been linked to the Timberwolves’ head coaching job, as Lowe notes (via Twitter). However, there’s a belief that Ryan Saunders might hang onto his position with the Wolves — that situation is in flux, as Minnesota seeks a new president of basketball operations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Nurse, Casey, Messina, Valanciunas

Assembling a staff will be the first priority for Nick Nurse, who was officially hired as the Raptors’ new head coach earlier today, writes Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. With many of Dwane Casey’s assistants possibly following him to Detroit, Nurse, an assistant in Toronto for the past five years, may have to build his staff from scratch.

One possibility, according to Wolstat, is Nate Bjorkgren, a longtime friend who worked on Nurse’s staff at Iowa in the G League. Bjorkgren landed a job as an advance scout with the Raptors last fall after being let go when Earl Watson was fired in Phoenix. Wolstat also cites a report out of Italy that Spanish National team head coach Sergio Scariolo and former German National Team head coach Andrea Trinchieri are being considered. Nurse was a successful coach in Europe for 12 years before coming to the United States.

Current Raptors assistant Rex Kalamian isn’t expected to remain on staff, according to Wolstat, and may take a job with the Clippers if he doesn’t go to the Pistons.

There’s more tonight out of Toronto:

  • The relationship between Nurse and Casey became severely strained after the Raptors were bounced from the playoffs, according to Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star, with a source telling Feschuk there’s “no love lost between ’em.” Casey gave Nurse his first NBA opportunity, hiring him out of the G League in 2013. Feschuk also questions whether it was the right choice to promote one of Casey’s assistants when fellow finalist Ettore Messina could have provided a new direction for the organization.
  • The Raptors’ front office was divided between Nurse and Messina over the weekend, tweets Josh Lewenburg of TSN Sports. Messina, an assistant with the Spurs, reportedly performed well in both interviews.
  • The decision to hire Nurse means center Jonas Valanciunas is unlikely to be traded, relays Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Valanciunas worked frequently with Nurse during the season to try to develop a perimeter game, and that effort figures to expand now that Nurse is in charge.
  • The decision to replace Casey indicates that team president Masai Ujiri is feeling pressure to make changes, Deveney adds in the same piece. Ujiri’s job remains safe, but his preference to avoid major moves in the past hasn’t resulted in playoff success.

Raptors Down To Two Coaching Finalists?

Spurs assistant Ettore Messina had a second interview this week for the Raptors‘ head coaching vacancy and is believed to be a finalist for the job along with Toronto assistant Nick Nurse, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

Messina was a highly regarded coach in Europe before joining Gregg Popovich’s staff in 2014. He won four EuroLeague championships, along with multiple titles in Italy and Russia. He took over the Spur’s head coaching duties when Popovich’s wife died during the playoffs.

Messina also interviewed for head coaching positions this spring with the Hornets and Bucks.

Nurse, an assistant with the Raptors since 2013, also has extensive overseas experience. He spent 12 years there, mostly in Great Britain, and was twice named British Basketball League Coach of the Year. He is credited with helping the Raptors overhaul their offensive approach before the start of this season.

The Raptors have been searching for a head coach since deciding to fire Dwane Casey on May 11.

Latest On Raptors’ Coaching Search

The Raptors plan to trim their group of coaching candidates down to three finalists in the next seven to 10 days, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.

Spurs assistant Ettore Messina is expected to be on the list, along with longtime Raptors assistant Nick Nurse, according to Grange. He expects the other finalist to be Sarunas Jasikevicius, who briefly played in the NBA and has become one of Europe’s top coaching propects.

Jasikevicius, who serves as head coach of EuroLeague team Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania, interviewed with Raptors president Masai Ujiri over the weekend at the NBA Global Camp in Italy.

Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, who is among the finalists for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy, may also get consideration from the Raptors, Grange adds.

Toronto hopes to hire a new coach by the end of the month, and Nurse should be considered the front-runner, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports, who adds that several outside candidates are still being considered. Nurse is viewed highly by the front office after revamping the Raptors’ offense heading into this season.

The organization may talk to some more candidates before a final decision is made, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Raptors Interview Messina, Udoka For Head Coach Job

The Raptors officially interviewed Spurs assistant coaches Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka for the team’s vacant head coaching position, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Messia interviewed on Thursday while Udoka met with the Raptors on Friday, Wojnarowski notes.

With several teams seeking to fill head coaching vacancies, Messina and Udoka have been popular names this summer.

Messina interviewed with the Bucks and Hornets before those teams hired Mike Budenholzer and James Borrego, respectively. Messina received a second interview with Milwaukee before the team decided on Budenholzer. Long considered one of the top international coaches in basketball, the 58-year-old has served as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio the past four seasons. Messina stepped up to coach the Spurs for Game 3-5 during the first round of the playoffs after Popovich’s wife, Erin, passed away.

As for Udoka, he has interviewed with the Magic and Hornets about their openings. Udoka has been an assistant to Popovich the past six years after he finished his playing career with the Spurs in 2010/11. Udoka played seven NBA seasons, spending time with the Trail Blazers, Kings, Knicks and Lakers.

The Raptors fired Dwane Casey after another early postseason exit, despite finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Casey, who was named Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches after his dismissal, is also one of three finalists for the official award. Budenholzer was reportedly a top target for the Raptors before he accepted the Bucks job.

Toronto recently interviewed Jerry Stackhouse –– a former assistant to Casey — who coached the organization’s G League squad this season. Stackhouse was one of three internal candidates considered by the Raptors as Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian have also interviewed for the job.

Stay up to date with all the latest developments on the coaching front with our Coaching Search Tracker.

Ettore Messina Gets Second Meeting With Bucks

Mike Budenholzer isn’t the only head coaching candidate who will get a second meeting with the Bucks today. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Spurs assistant Ettore Messina will also meet with the Bucks today in New York. Both interviews will include team ownership, Wojnarowski notes.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Messina, a longtime coach overseas, was hired by the Spurs in 2014 following his second stint as CSKA Moscow’s head coach. While San Antonio has no shortage of well-regarded assistants, it was Messina who took over as the club’s head coach in the playoffs last month, following the death of Gregg Popovich‘s wife Erin.

Messina also received consideration from the Hornets this spring for their head coaching job, but Charlotte ultimately opted for another Spurs assistant, James Borrego. The Bucks, who also met with Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, had planned to interview Borrego during their first round of meetings before the Hornets hired him.

Besides Messina, Hammon, and Budenholzer, Milwaukee’s first round of interviewees included Joe Prunty, Steve Clifford, Monty Williams, David Blatt, and Jay Larranaga. So far, Budenholzer and Messina are the only known finalists who will meet with team ownership.

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Casey, Bucks, Knicks

As we relayed in our story on Dwane Casey‘s firing earlier today, it didn’t take long for one outside candidate to be linked to the Raptors‘ head coaching job, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reporting that Mike Budenholzer is a name to watch.

Budenholzer’s name continues to surface in relation to the Raptors’ newly-opened coaching position. Sources confirmed to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) that Toronto is expected to pursue Budenholzer, while Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) hears from coaching sources that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has “strong interest” in the former Hawks head coach.

As we wait to see if Budenholzer emerges as the favorite for the Raptors’ job, let’s round up more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA…

  • According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), Casey – who had one year left on his contract – sought an extension from the Raptors before he was let go. Zillgitt speculates that stance may have forced Ujiri’s hand.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide updates on the Bucks‘ coaching search, writing that the first round of interviews should wrap up this week. Milwaukee has interviewed Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Joe Prunty so far, and still has meetings lined up with David Blatt and Becky Hammon. GM Jon Horst figures to narrow the team’s list to three or four finalists, at which point team ownership will get involved in the process.
  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Jerry Stackhouse “interviews well” for coaching jobs, but “does rub some people the wrong way.” Stackhouse entered the offseason as a popular rising head coaching candidate, but has yet to gain traction for any open jobs. In fact, despite a mid-April report indicating Stackhouse would meet with the Magic, that interview has yet to happen, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • New Knicks head coach David Fizdale is expected to hire Nick Van Exel to join his staff in New York, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Like Keith Smart, who is also reportedly set to join the Knicks, Van Exel was on Fizdale’s staff in Memphis.

Ettore Messina Interviewing For Bucks Job Today

Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina will interview for the Bucks’ head coaching vacancy today, sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. We relayed yesterday that Messina, along with former Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, and former Pelicans head coach Monty Williams were set to interview for the job.

Messina has received interest for other head coaching vacancies as he already interviewed with the Hornets. The 58-year-old has served as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio the past four seasons. Messina stepped up to coach the Spurs for Game 3-5 during the first round of the playoffs after Popovich’s wife, Erin, passed away.

The three-game head coaching cameo may have helped Messina’s chances to land a job, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News recently opined. Before his stint in NBA, Messina was long considered one of the top international basketball coaches.

Stay up to date with all the latest developments on the coaching front with our Coaching Search Tracker.

Bucks To Interview Messina, Clifford, Williams

The Bucks’ head coaching search is underway, as the team is scheduled to meet with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, former Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, and former Pelicans head coach Monty Williams within the next several days, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Clifford and Williams were identified as part of Milwaukee’s initial group of candidates on Thursday, as was David Blatt, who also intends to meet with the Bucks about their head coaching vacancy, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link).

It’s not clear if and when the Bucks will interview Mike Budenholzer, the other name mentioned on Thursday, but Wojnarowski suggests that the club may meet with as many as 10 candidates. That would put them about in line with the Knicks and Suns, the two teams so far who have filled their head coaching openings after conducting full-fledged searches. New York reportedly interviewed 11 candidates, while Phoenix met with 10.

Messina and Clifford have both received consideration for other head coaching jobs this offseason. Messina met with the Hornets, whose search is ongoing, while Clifford talked to the Suns before they hired Igor Kokoskov.

This will be the first reported interview this spring for Williams, who was identified as a possible frontrunner for the Milwaukee job way back in January. Having served as the Spurs’ vice president of basketball operations since 2016, Williams last coached as an assistant for the Thunder in 2015/16. He took a leave of absence from that position when his wife Ingrid was killed in a car crash, and hasn’t returned to coaching since.