Fred Vinson

Pelicans Rumors: Griffin, Vaughn, S. Mitchell, Vinson, Hayes

Before the Pelicans decided to hire Willie Green as their new head coach, they were looking hard at Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn, who ultimately removed his name from consideration.

At the time, Vaughn’s desire to spend more time with his family in Brooklyn was cited as the motivating factor for his decision to withdraw, but Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggests that Vaughn’s discussions with Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin also played a part. During those conversations, Griffin conveyed that he intended to be involved in determining the team’s rotation, planning players’ skill development, and filling out Vaughn’s coaching staff.

“He wants to have some level of involvement in every decision,” one Pelicans source said of Griffin, per Fischer.

Here’s more out of New Orleans:

  • After Vaughn withdrew from the Pelicans’ coaching search, the team expanded its list of candidates, according to Fischer, who says NBA TV broadcaster and former Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell was among those to receive a call. Mitchell is expected to receive consideration for a spot on Green’s staff, Fischer adds.
  • Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson, who interviewed for the head coaching position, is considered likely to remain in his current role. Sources tell Bleacher Report that Vinson’s interview with New Orleans lasted over four hours and was “exemplary.” Vinson and fellow Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon are said to have good relationships with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, per Fischer.
  • During the interview process, the Pelicans wanted to know how each head coaching candidate would scheme their offense around Williamson and Ingram, and asked them to present development plans for the team’s other young players, writes Fischer.
  • Fischer refers to center Jaxson Hayes as “a personal favorite” of Griffin’s.
  • In case you missed it, the Pelicans are reportedly likely to trade at least one of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams this offseason and may go after Kyle Lowry in free agency.

Willie Green, Charles Lee Among Top Candidates To Coach Pelicans

Suns assistant Willie Green and Bucks assistant Charles Lee are “prominent” candidates in the Pelicans‘ head coaching search, according to Marc Stein (Twitter link).

Earlier in the process, Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn was considered the frontrunner to replace Stan Van Gundy as New Orleans’ new head coach, but he withdrew from consideration last week for family reasons. Now, it appears the Pelicans have their eye on two other veteran assistant coaches. New Orleans’ own assistant, Fred Vinson, has also interviewed for the position, Stein notes.

A former NBA shooting guard, Green transitioned into the coaching ranks in 2016, working with the Warriors as an assistant for three seasons before making the move to Phoenix in 2019. He has been on Monty Williams‘ staff for the last two years and has generated some buzz as an up-and-coming head coaching candidate, having also talked to the Wizards and Magic about their vacancies.

Lee is also a former shooting guard, having played at Bucknell from 2002-06 and then in international leagues until 2010. After joining his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2012, he was hired as part of Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Atlanta in 2014. Lee followed Budenholzer to Milwaukee in 2018 and – like Green – is now receiving head coaching interest from multiple teams — he’s said to be one of the Wizards’ finalists.

Green and Lee are set to face one another in the NBA Finals, beginning on Tuesday night.

While many candidates have been linked to the Wizards’ and Magic’s head coaching jobs, things have been relatively quiet on the Pelicans front. Besides the names mentioned above, Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon has been the only other contender confirmed to be in the mix, and David Griffin downplayed the chances of her being promoted. It’s possible New Orleans’ search has been fairly narrow, but it’s just as likely that a number of meetings have gone unreported.

Southwest Notes: Martin, Lillard, Lee, Vinson

Rookie Rockets small forward Kenyon Martin Jr., a second-generation NBA player, showed promise during his first NBA season, per Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle.

Martin noted that living his childhood while his father Kenyon Martin Sr. enjoyed a successful 15-year NBA career helped prep him for the ups and downs of the Rockets’ fortunes during Jr.’s first season.

“My first game back from the G League, I honestly got kind of nervous or whatever but I just thought to myself, ‘It’s still basketball,’ so I just go out and play and not really think about that,” Martin said. Across 45 games for the Rockets, the 6’6″ rookie averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG, while shooting a solid .509/.365/.714.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • If Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard truly wants to be dealt from the team where he has spent his entire NBA career, the Pelicans should do all they can to acquire him in a trade, says Scott Kushner of NOLA.com. Given that New Orleans has 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram and a litany of draft picks to trade, the club can at least get in the mix with a competitive offer, Kushner adds. Pairing Lillard with rising Pelicans All-Star Zion Williamson could benefit both players in their quest to win the West.
  • 36-year-old Bucks assistant coach Charles Lee has served under two largely successful tenures with head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Milwaukee since 2014. Will Guillory of The Athletic explores Lee’s potential fit guiding the similarly youthful roster of the Pelicans to the next level, should he become the club’s next head coach.
  • Current Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, a former international player (who had a 13-game NBA cameo) known particularly for his skills as a shooting coach, has been on New Orleans’ bench since 2010. Will Guillory of The Athletic wonders if the 50-year-old is ready to take the next step with the team.

Stan Van Gundy: “Zion’s No Coach Killer”

Stan Van Gundy only lasted one season with the Pelicans, but he doesn’t blame any of his players for his early departure, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Commenting publicly on the situation for the first time during an appearance on the “Stupodity” podcast, Van Gundy said players are often targeted undeservedly when there’s a coaching change.

“I hate when it gets put on players that players are getting coaches fired and things like that. I think that makes players look bad and I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “Players certainly have the right to express their opinion to people and things like that but front offices and owners make decisions and they are the ones who make decisions to fire people. That should never be placed on players.

“I know this, regardless of what happened in that regard, (Zion Williamson)’s no coach killer. He’s a guy who is gonna help you win a lot of games. He plays the game the right way. One of the things I’ll miss is the opportunity to continue to coach him. He’s so unique in the way that he plays the game and the things that he can do, it really gets your mind spinning as a coach and you have a lot of possibilities in what you can do with him. That was fun to explore. I’m happy with what we did with Zion. I think we helped him. How anyone else felt about that would be up to them.”

Van Gundy was hired last year in an attempt to bring veteran leadership to a roster stocked with young talent. However, the Pelicans got off to a slow start and finished at 31-41, two games out of the final play-in spot. As the season wore on, there were reports that Williamson’s family was upset with how he was being used and was urging him to find a way out of New Orleans.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Van Gundy said. “In my mind, I liked coaching Zion. I had a good relationship with him. I had no problem. I think we elevated his platform that we gave him. We put him in different situations, had him handling the ball a lot, playing a lot of point guard. I think we did some good things with him.

“If they were unhappy, I didn’t hear about it. Zion was unhappy with us not winning more games, but Zion never expressed to me any of that. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t unhappy, it’s possible that they were unhappy with me and that’s what led to the change.”

Van Gundy also scoffed at how his departure was portrayed. In a press release announcing the move, the Pelicans framed it as a mutual decision, but Van Gundy says that’s not completely accurate. Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin has cited “philosophical differences,” and Van Gundy admitted that he and the front office looked at coaching “totally different.”

“I would say it was joint in this sense: I think you can understand this, I don’t want to be somewhere they don’t want me. And they didn’t want me. I wasn’t at that point going to fight to try to stay there,” he said. “When I left Detroit, my owner there who I really liked Tom Gores, also said it was a mutual decision. I said yeah, ‘Tom asked me to leave so I left.’ I guess that’s mutual.”

Van Gundy defended the job he did with the Pelicans, noting that the team showed improvement on defense throughout the season, rising from 29th in defensive efficiency before the All-Star break to seventh afterward. He also endorsed assistant coach Fred Vinson as the best choice to replace him.

Van Gundy said he will miss the chance to further develop Williamson and believes he will eventually be one of the NBA’s top stars.

“Over the next five, six, seven years, this guy’s gonna have incredible growth,” Van Gundy said. Now where he really needs to make progress if he wants to win is at the defensive end. … He’s just a phenomenal talent and has great competitiveness. And you literally just cannot keep him from getting to the rim. There’s no way to play him to keep him from getting to the rim. Even when you know that’s where he’s going every time.”

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Atkinson, Pelicans, Blazers, Wizards

Although Penny Hardaway has reportedly emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Magic‘s head coaching job, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says Kenny Atkinson‘s name continues to be the one most frequently linked to the Orlando job.

As Fischer notes – and as has been reported elsewhere – the Magic are believed to be seeking a candidate who has previous head coaching experience. While Hardaway holds the top job at the University of Memphis, he lacks the NBA experience that Atkinson has. Sources tell Fischer that former Blazers coach Terry Stotts also remains a strong option for Orlando.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors:

  • The Pelicans‘ search is expected to continue until at least later this week, with current New Orleans assistant Fred Vinson still to be interviewed, says Fischer. However, Jacque Vaughn appears to be the frontrunner for that job, sources tell Bleacher Report. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said last week that Vaughn’s candidacy was gaining traction.
  • Trail Blazers officials were caught off guard by Damian Lillard‘s public support for Jason Kidd early in the team’s coaching search, and several staffers were surprised the All-NBA guard didn’t name former Portland assistant David Vanterpool as his preferred candidate, according to Fischer. Lillard advocated for Vanterpool to be named Minnesota’s coach following Ryan Saunders‘ dismissal earlier in the year.
  • Spurs assistant Becky Hammon impressed the Trail Blazers during the interview process, but the background intel the team got on Hammon “was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities,” Fischer writes. While team owner Jody Allen liked Hammon, there were doubts about whether she was best suited to navigate “delicate waters” with Lillard, Fischer adds.
  • Fischer says that the Wizards‘ coaching search will be “lengthy and thorough,” which suggests that Washington may end up being the last team to fill its head coaching opening.

Pelicans Notes: Van Gundy, Griffin, Williamson, Weatherspoon, Vinson, Lottery

Pelicans officials determined that Stan Van Gundy’s style was not a match for the team’s young core and that contributed to the decision to fire the veteran head coach after just one season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin wanted Van Gundy to give more playing time to first-round picks Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis, and Jaxson Hayes, but Van Gundy was more comfortable with veterans such as Eric Bledsoe, Fischer continues.

Parting ways with Van Gundy was also a means of currying favor with Zion Williamson, Fischer adds. Griffin had urged Van Gundy to make Williamson more of a lead ball-handler in the team’s offensive scheme.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • While assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon has been rumored to be a potential replacement for Van Gundy, Griffin downplayed that possibility, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Griffin said her candidacy is “premature” and that people may have read too much into her being named the team’s Summer League coach, Guillory adds.
  • On the other hand, assistant Fred Vinson will get serious consideration for a promotion, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Vinson has been with the organization since 2010.
  • The Pelicans hit the jackpot when they won the 2019 lottery and selected Williamson. They’re hoping lightning strikes twice, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes.  The Pelicans enter next Tuesday’s drawing with a 4.5% chance of getting the top pick and a 20.3% chance of moving into the top four.
  • Getting rid of Van Gundy so quickly isn’t a good look for Griffin, Jeff Duncan of The Athletic writes. Next season will be pivotal for the franchise and they need to hit a home run with their next coaching hire to help convince Williamson to sign a long-term extension next summer. Zion didn’t demand Van Gundy’s ouster, Scott Kushner of the Times Picayune reports, but New Orleans’ franchise player has often expressed dissatisfaction and frustration with the team’s inability to be a consistent winner. Making a coaching change now is a way of excising the possibility of Williamson becoming discontented with the franchise.

Pelicans Part Ways With Stan Van Gundy

11:08am: The Pelicans have officially announced Van Gundy’s exit, stating in a press release that the two sides mutually agreed to part ways.

“On behalf of Mrs. Gayle Benson and the Pelicans organization, I would like to thank Stan for the integrity and professionalism that he demonstrated during his time in New Orleans, as well as the commitment and work ethic he brought to our team,” Griffin said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision as I have tremendous respect for Stan both personally and professionally, but we agreed it is in the best interest of our team to move forward in a different direction. We wish Stan, Kim and their family all the best in the future.”


9:57am: Stan Van Gundy will not return to the Pelicans for the 2021/22 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN, who report (via Twitter) that Van Gundy is out after just one year as New Orleans’ head coach.

Van Gundy and Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin have met regularly since the end of the regular season to discuss the team’s future, and a divorce between the team and its coach began to feel like an inevitable outcome around the organization, tweets Wojnarowski.

Van Gundy, who previously coached the Heat, Magic, and Pistons, spent a couple years as an NBA analyst from 2018-20 before returning to the head coaching ranks in 2020, when he was hired by the Pelicans. He had a disappointing season in New Orleans, however — a team that entered the year with playoff aspirations finished with a 31-41 (.431) record, missing the play-in tournament.

Replacing Alvin Gentry on the Pelicans’ sidelines, Van Gundy emphasized improving the team’s defense, but failed to do so, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. New Orleans ranked 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions, two spots worse than in 2019/20. The Pels also had trouble closing out games, losing 14 times when they held a double-digit lead.

Clark writes that Van Gundy struggled to connect with many of the Pelicans’ young players, who didn’t adapt well to the drastic shift from Gentry’s coaching style to Van Gundy’s. Sources tell NOLA.com that Van Gundy’s relationship with star forward Brandon Ingram was “strained” for much of the season.

Van Gundy joins Nate Bjorkgren, formerly of the Pacers, as the head coaches who were let go this spring after just one year on the job.

The fifth team to launch a head coaching search since the regular season ended, the Pelicans are expected to look both inside and outside of the organization as they seek Van Gundy’s replacement.

Several reporters – including Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Will Guillory of The Athletic, and Marc Stein of The New York Times (all Twitter links) – say that current Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon is a strong contender for the position, while O’Connor also identifies Fred Vinson as a candidate.

As for external candidates, Wojnarowski names Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, and Nets assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka as possibilities, noting that the Pelicans considered some of those coaches a year ago before hiring Van Gundy.

Van Gundy, meanwhile, could receive some consideration from the other four teams with head coaching openings, but may prefer to step away again after a trying season. A return to broadcasting is one possibility for the veteran coach.

Pelicans Hire Beyer, Hill, Walters For Van Gundy’s Staff

The Pelicans announced on Monday they have hired Bob Beyer, Casey Hill, and Rex Walters to join Stan Van Gundy’s staff, according to a team press release.

The addition of Beyer was previously reported and comes as no surprise. Beyer has a long history with Van Gundy, serving as an assistant in Orlando and Detroit for a combined nine seasons. He was on the Kings’ staff last season.

Hill was an assistant with the Clippers the past two seasons. Walters had a stint on Van Gundy’s staff in Detroit and served as an assistant at Wake Forest last season.

In another significant development, Van Gundy has promoted former WNBA great Teresa Weatherspoon to the staff. She was a two-way player development coach last season in New Orleans.

Longtime NBA players Corey Brewer and Beno Udrih have been hired as player development coaches. Fred Vinson has been retained as an assistant, while Darnell Lazare will remain as a player development coach.

Coaching Roundup: Kalamian, Foster, Vinson

The Kings are bringing back Rex Kalamian as an assistant coach under Luke Walton, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Sacramento confirmed the hiring in a press release. As James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets, Kalamian was on Reggie Theus’ staff from 2007-09. Kalamian was on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Clippers the last two years and also had stints with the Raptors and Thunder.

We have more coaching news:

  • Greg Foster is joining the Pacers‘ staff under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Foster spent the last two seasons with the Hawks. He also served coaching stint with the 76ers and Bucks.
  • The Pelicans are retaining Fred Vinson despite their head coaching change, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Vinson has been in the organization since 2010. He began his coaching career with the Clippers.
  • John Lucas decided to remain with the Rockets. Get the details here.