Igor Kokoskov

Grizzlies To Interview Tibbetts For Coaching Job

The Grizzlies have been granted permission to interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching vacancy, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Tibbetts has been on other teams’ lists recently during their head coaching searches. He was expected to be interviewed by the Cavaliers, but they chose Michigan coach John Beilein before that potential meeting. Tibbetts interviewed with the Suns before they selected Monty Williams. He was also one of four finalists for the Hawks job last summer that went to Lloyd Pierce.

Memphis, which parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff after the season, has already interviewed at least three other candidates for the job — former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t filled its head coaching vacancy.

Grizzlies Interview Igor Kokoskov

Former Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov is the latest candidate to interview for the head coaching vacancy in Memphis, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Kokoskov was fired last month after just one season with Phoenix, leading the Suns to a 19-63 record, which tied for the second-worst mark in the league. He reportedly had two years remaining on the contract he signed last summer.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins are the only other known candidates to interview with the Grizzlies. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies and Timberwolves are the only teams currently conducting coaching searches. The Kings, Suns, Lakers and Cavaliers have already filled their vacancies.

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Jones, Cousins, Clippers

Speaking today to reporters, new permanent Suns general manager James Jones took responsibility for the dismissal of head coach Igor Kokoskov, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. Owner Robert Sarver has taken the brunt of the criticism – perhaps deservedly so – for the revolving door of coaches in Phoenix, but Jones said that firing Kokoskov was “my decision alone,” per Rankin.

“The decision I had to make Monday was a tough one,” the Suns GM told the media. “Not one I take lightly.”

As for who might replace Kokoskov on the Suns’ bench, Jones said today that the club is seeking a “leader” who can relate to and challenge its players (Twitter link). While that description might sound generic, the mention of leadership is worth noting — after all, one report this week suggested that Suns players felt assistant coach Joe Prunty was more in charge of the bench than Kokoskov was.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Later in today’s press conference, Jones said that the Suns want to focus on adding players “in their prime” this summer, and will explore all possible avenues to do so (Twitter link). Phoenix doesn’t project to have much – if any – cap room, so it will be interesting to see how aggressive the club is on the trade market.
  • In an in-depth look at Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report cites one Western Conference executive who believes that Cousins’ Achilles and quad injuries over the last two years may ultimately cost him upwards of $150MM. Berger also explores whether it’s realistic to believe that Golden State could re-sign Cousins, even after his latest health issue.
  • While the Clippers have tried to hold their own against the Warriors and have one impressive comeback win under their belts, the series has reaffirmed why L.A. ultimately needs a superstar on its roster, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Despite their depth, the Clips don’t have the sort of No. 1 option who can go head to head with Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, so their foray into free agency this summer will be worth watching closely.

Coaching Notes: Suns, Cavaliers, Kings

The Suns let head coach Igor Kokoskov walk after just one season and Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that the team will also let go of all of his coaching and player development staff. Phoenix’s next head coach will have the ability to build his or her staff from the ground up.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Cavaliers are interested in J.B. Bickerstaff for their head coaching gig, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bickerstaff, who spent the past two seasons as the Grizzlies’ coach, may “formally” be added to the team’s coaching search, which Stein hears is in its early stages.
  • As of Tuesday afternoon, Luke Walton‘s job with the Kings remains safe, Sam Amick of The Athletic hears. The franchise is working with the league to investigate the accusations against Walton and unveil the truth.
  • The Kings had interviews for assistant coaching positions scheduled prior to the allegations surfaced and those took place today with GM Vlade Divac and Walton conducting the meetings. Former Suns and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek was one of the interviewees, Amick writes in the same piece.

Suns Notes: Kokoskov, Ayton, Coaching Search

The Suns‘ decision to dismiss head coach Igor Kokoskov was more about the club’s direction and circumstances rather than its win-loss record, says John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter links). When Kokoskov was hired, there was an expectation that the Suns would look to contend for a playoff spot right away, but after regressing and getting younger in 2018/19, the club wants to start over with someone new.

As Gambadoro explains (via Twitter), the Suns figure to target a coach who is more of a player-development specialist than a tactician. Deandre Ayton‘s development, in particular, will be a primary focus for the club’s next coach, with Gambadoro suggesting (via Twitter) that the young center wasn’t always used in the right way during his rookie season.

While Monty Williams and David Vanterpool have been identified as the first two names on the Suns’ list of potential targets, the team is expected to talk to many candidates, according to Gambadoro, who notes that there’s no set timeline for a new hire.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Touching on another reason that Kokoskov was let go, Gambadoro tweets that Suns players liked the head coach, but felt as though assistant Joe Prunty was more in charge of the bench than Kokoskov was.
  • The Suns are about to employ their seventh head coach since the start of the 2012/13 season, and Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic argues that team owner Robert Sarver is to blame for the seemingly endless coaching turnover in Phoenix. All of the Suns’ dysfunction can be traced back to Sarver, according to Somers, who writes that the owner mistakenly believes he knows how to identify talent on the court and in the front office.
  • The Suns named James Jones as their permanent general manager and hired Jeff Bower as their senior VP of basketball operations the day after the regular season ended. Since then, Jones and Bower have yet to speak publicly. That has to change after the firing of Kokoskov, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News, who contends that the club owes it to its fans to explain the decision and discuss the franchise’s direction.

Suns Fire Head Coach Igor Kokoskov

APRIL 23, 7:32am: The Suns issued a press release late Monday night confirming that they’ve parted ways with Kokoskov and announcing that the search for the club’s next head coach will begin immediately.

“After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position,” Jones said in a statement. “I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

APRIL 22, 11:45pm: The Suns have become the latest NBA team to dismiss their head coach this spring, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the club has fired Igor Kokoskov.

Despite a disappointing season in Phoenix, it’s still a somewhat surprising development. After all, it was less than a year ago that the Suns hired Kokoskov, making him the NBA’s first European-born head coach last May after interviewing upwards of 10 candidates. Kokoskov and the club reportedly agreed on a three-year deal at the time.

In his first and only season at the helm in Phoenix, Kokoskov led the Suns to a 19-65 record, which placed the team dead last in the Western Conference and just two games ahead of the NBA-worst Knicks.

A playoff berth in 2018/19 always seemed like a long shot for the franchise, but after signing Trevor Ariza and drafting Deandre Ayton during the 2018 offseason, the Suns had hoped to take some positive steps forward. Instead, the club won fewer than 25 games for the fourth straight year.

The other lottery teams that have fired head coaches so far – the Lakers, Grizzlies, Cavaliers, and Kings – announced their decisions within a couple days of their regular season finales. The Suns delayed their decision, and Wojnarowski tweets that the team had initially planned on bringing Kokoskov back for a second season.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Instead, he becomes the latest victim of the organization’s frequent turnover — Phoenix has employed six head coaches – including interim coaches – since the start of the 2012/13 season, and will now be on the lookout for its seventh.

It’s not clear exactly what prompted the Suns’ change of direction on Kokoskov, but it’s worth noting that the team recently finalized some front office changes, giving James Jones the permanent general manager title and adding Jeff Bower in a top management role. Perhaps the new group wanted to make its own coaching hire, as Kokoskov was Ryan McDonough‘s pick.

As for which candidates the Suns may target now that Kokoskov has been let go, Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that the club is interested in Sixers assistant Monty Williams. The Lakers have already met with Williams and plan to conduct a second interview with him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns Announce New Front Office Structure

The Suns have formally issued a press release announcing new job titles in their front office and confirming the hire of veteran executive Jeff Bower, which was reported earlier this week.

Since the dismissal of general manager Ryan McDonough last fall, James Jones and Trevor Bukstein had been running the front office in Phoenix as co-interim GMs. Jones and Bukstein will stick with the Suns going forward, but only Jones will remain in the GM position on a permanent basis. Bukstein, who is more of a scouting and salary-cap specialist, will assume the role of assistant GM.

As for Bower, he’ll be the Suns’ senior vice president of basketball operations. According to the Suns, Jones will oversee all basketball operations, with Bower and Bukstein reporting to him.

“James has demonstrated a remarkable ability to manage the day-to-day efforts of our front office while developing strong relationships with our players, coaches and those across our organization and league,” team owner Robert Sarver said in a statement. “Furthermore, he is instilling the same championship culture and standard that he experienced on multiple occasions as a player. I have the utmost confidence in James as the leader of our basketball operations moving forward, and we are aligned in the ultimate goal of one day bringing an NBA championship to Phoenix.”

It should be a busy offseason for the new front office in Phoenix — the Suns are in position to nab a top draft pick in the lottery, and will also have some cap flexibility, even if Tyler Johnson picks up his player option and Kelly Oubre is re-signed as a restricted free agent.

[RELATED: Suns expected to be active in free agency]

Of course, before addressing the roster in June and July, the Suns will need to make a decision on head coach Igor Kokoskov, who led the team to a disappointing 19-63 record in his first year in Phoenix. Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic questioned this week whether Kokoskov might be a one-and-done coach, but there has been no indication yet which way the Suns’ new decision-makers are leaning.

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Fredette, Kokoskov, McGee

The Warriors won’t use center DeMarcus Cousins in back-to-back games for the rest of the season, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. Cousins returned to action in mid-January after a severe Achilles injury last season and has expressed frustration over the slow progress of his recovery. The Warriors have two back-to-backs left on the schedule.

Coach Steve Kerr told reporters tonight that the team will prioritize having a healthy roster heading into the playoffs over trying to capture the top seed in the West. Kerr talked with Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance, about the need to rest several players over the final two and a half weeks.

“With DeMarcus, we made the decision based on Rick’s assessment [that] he should just not play back-to-backs this season, so he’s not going to,” Kerr said.Andre [Iguodala] and Shaun [Livingston], both periodically we’ve been given rest to the last several years, based on the age and wear and tear. Every once in a while, it’ll just come up that Rick will recommend let’s give somebody a rest. Last night it was [Stephen Curry]. He’s been going a couple months straight. Has looked a little tired the last couple of weeks, so it made perfect sense. I think we’ll be better for it in the long run.”

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • Jimmer Fredette played four minutes and went scoreless in his return to the NBA last night and said he’s thankful to the Suns for giving him a chance, relays Cody Cunningham of NBA.com. I was just excited to get back out there and try to help the team in any way that I can,” Fredette said. “Obviously, it’s towards the end of the year. My job is to come in and try to keep these guys positive, be a veteran guy and go in there and try to be aggressive.”
  • First-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov is staying focused on the end of the season instead of his shaky future with the team, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Despite having a three-year contract, Kokoskov isn’t certain to return after leading Phoenix to the worst record in the West.
  • Although the Lakers are out of the running for the playoffs, JaVale McGee had the best night of his 11-year career on Friday, notes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. McGee, who will be a free agent again this summer, lit up the scoreboard with 33 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Nets. “Get wins and play hard,” he said of his philosophy for the rest of the season. “That’s what our mentality is. There is no slacking. As a team that’s not making the playoffs, I’m planning on playing teams that are supposed to make the playoffs and knocking them out too. Might as well.”

Latest On Luke Walton

The idea that Lakers head coach Luke Walton is on the “hot seat” implies that he still has a chance to keep his job if things turn around, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, according to Martin Rogers of USA Today (video link).

Rogers hears from multiple sources that the Lakers are expected to move on from Walton at the end of the season, suggesting that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and controlling owner Jeanie Buss are prepared to make a change.

Johnson and the Lakers have insisted for months that Walton will finish out the season with the team, but barring major unexpected developments in the coming weeks, it doesn’t look like the head coach’s stint in Los Angeles will last much longer than that.

Here’s more on Walton and the Lakers:

  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News – who agrees that Walton “appears to be on a countdown to the end of his tenure in L.A.” – hears from a source that the Lakers’ head coach is viewed as a potential replacement in Phoenix if the Suns elect to move on from Igor Kokoskov this spring. It would be a little surprising if Kokoskov is fired just a year after joining the Suns, but the team is 16-53 and the GM who hired him (Ryan McDonough) is no longer with the organization, so stranger things have happened.
  • The Cavaliers will be seeking a permanent head coach this spring and are expected to target a coach capable of developing their young prospects, per Deveney. Walton has some ties to Cleveland, having finished his playing career with the team when GM Koby Altman first joined the front office, so it’s possible he’d get a look from the Cavs, Deveney writes.
  • Here’s what one source with knowledge of the situation said about Walton to Deveney: “He wants to stay in the game. For most front offices, I think you look at what he did in Golden State, what he did in L.A. before LeBron came, and you have to say he has a good, solid résumé developing players, dealing with stars. Have to think Phoenix would jump on him, if everything falls into place, but he might get a better offer.”
  • As for Walton’s potential replacement in Los Angeles, Deveney suggests that LeBron James, Johnson, and Buss may all have different views on what kind of coach the Lakers should hire. Buss figures to support a “reasonable, qualified head coach who can please multiple factions,” according to Deveney, who cites former Pelicans coach Monty Williams as one example.