J.B. Bickerstaff

Cavaliers Hire J.B. Bickerstaff As Associate Head Coach

The Cavaliers have hired J.B. Bickerstaff as associate head coach, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. A target of multiple franchises this offseason for a coaching role (including the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers and Kings), Bickerstaff will be tasked with helping new head coach John Beilein make the transition to the NBA.

Bickerstaff, who will now be one of the league’s top paid assistant coaches, is a former head coach of both the Rockets (interim) and Grizzlies. He is also the son of former NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who now serves as a Senior Basketball Advisor for the Cavaliers.

As we relayed last week, the Cavaliers also still plan to hire at least one other person to join Beilein’s staff, potentially from the pool of other candidates that interviewed for the head coaching position, including Alex Jensen (Utah), Jamahl Mosley (Dallas), Jordi Fernandez (Denver), and Nate Tibbetts (Portland).

Celtics Rumors: Ainge, Irving, Bickerstaff

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge isn’t in attendance this week at the draft combine in Chicago, but he’s recovering well after suffering a mild heart attack earlier this month, his son Austin Ainge tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

“He’s back at it,” said the younger Ainge, who is also the team’s director of player personnel. “He’s doing great. He’s been texting me 100 times a day. He loves his job, and he wants to continue doing it.”

It’s unclear when Danny might start traveling again, and Austin acknowledges that there was some discussion about whether his father should step back from his role for health reasons. However, according to Austin, doctors have said that the Celtics’ longtime head of basketball operations is “healthy and doing great” after the scare.

“He’s doing well and he’s very motivated,” Austin said. “Pretty much life back to normal. It didn’t take him long to turn into 60-year-old Dennis the Menace again.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Several NBA executives, team officials, and scouts spoke to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, weighing in with their opinions on what Kyrie Irving will do as a free agent this summer. Blakeley relays a number of comments from those sources, noting that they run the gamut. One Eastern Conference GM who believes Irving will leave the Celtics said that Kyrie “could care less about” the money he’d be giving up by joining a new team. Conversely, a Western Conference front-office official argues that Kyrie is “playing all of you guys right now” and that he’ll end up re-signing with Boston.
  • Unlike those execs, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck didn’t have much to say about Irving this week. As Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston relays, Grousbeck essentially declined comment when asked about Kyrie’s future during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston takes a deep dive into what the Celtics’ offseason might look like if Irving heads elsewhere.
  • After interviewing for the Cavaliers’ and Lakers’ head coaching jobs, J.B. Bickerstaff met with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens at the draft combine in Chicago, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post (via Twitter). Boston appears to be eyeing Bickerstaff as a potential assistant after losing Micah Shrewsberry to Purdue.

Bickerstaff, Other Candidates Could Join Beilein’s Staff

New Cavaliers coach John Beilein is expected to meet with former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff to gauge Bickerstaff’s interest in becoming his associate head coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Bickerstaff met with Cleveland’s front office and was also a candidate for the Lakers job before they hired Frank Vogel.

Bickerstaff may not be the only candidate the Cavaliers interviewed who could potentially join Beilein’s staff. They will likely hire at least one other from that pool, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports.

Cleveland stunned the basketball world on Monday by plucking the 66-year-old Beilein out of the college ranks and naming the University of Michigan head man as its head coach.

GM Koby Altman conducted an extensive search, interviewing at least 10 other candidates, mostly NBA assistants. Among that group, Alex Jensen (Utah), Jamahl Mosley (Dallas) and Jordi Fernandez (Denver) are candidates to wind up on Beilein’s staff, as is Nate Tibbetts (Portland), who was expected to get an interview until the Cavs focused on the Wolverines coach.

Beilein is on board with having seasoned NBA assistants on the bench, Vardon continues, but wants to chat with potential candidates to find out which would be the best fits.

Vardon also added these nuggets in his story:

  • There was already mutual interest between the Cavs and Beilein when assistant GM and West Virginia alum Mike Gansey visited his former college coach at the Final Four in Minneapolis on April 6. Beilein was not viewed as a leading candidate for the job at the time mainly because the Cleveland brass doubted Beilein would leave Michigan.
  • Altman and his staff quietly interviewed Beilein last week. Later in the week, Beilein met with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who lives in suburban Detroit. Beilein emerged as the Cavs’ choice after that meeting.
  • The youth and fluidity of the Cavs’ roster intrigued Beilein. It gives Beilein a chance to mold the team to his liking, as he’s done previously in his college stops.

Lakers Interviewing J.B. Bickerstaff For Head Coaching Job

The Lakers are continuing their search for a new head coach by interviewing J.B. Bickerstaff for the open position, reports Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. According to Turner, Bickerstaff’s meeting with the Lakers will happen on Friday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

Bickerstaff will become the second candidate to interview for the job since negotiations between Tyronn Lue and the Lakers fell apart, joining Frank Vogel, who met with the club on Thursday.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

As has been the case for most of L.A.’s head coaching interviews, a number of executives will be in attendance. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka, co-owners Joey Buss and Jesse Buss, president of business operations Tim Harris, director of special projects Linda Rambis, and senior advisor Kurt Rambis will all meet with Bickerstaff, says Turner.

Bickerstaff, who was dismissed by the Grizzlies at season’s end after nearly two full seasons at the helm in Memphis, has also interviewed with the Cavaliers this spring.

The Lakers’ list of new candidates since failing to lock up Lue now features four former head coaches, including two who used to coach in Memphis. Besides Bickerstaff and Vogel, L.A. is also said to have interest in Mike Woodson and Lionel Hollins, who had three stints as the Grizzlies’ head coach in Vancouver and Memphis, most recently from 2009-13.

Latest On Suns’, Cavs’ Head Coaching Searches

The Suns met with Monty Williams for a second time on Wednesday night, with team owner Robert Sarver in attendance for the interview, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), league sources say the Suns’ job will be Williams’ if he wants it, and the possibility of a union between the two sides is one that’s gaining real momentum.

However, Williams is in high demand this spring, having also interviewed with the Lakers. Plus, he’d likely be a strong candidate to replace Brett Brown in Philadelphia if the Sixers bow out in the second round and the team decides to make a change on the sidelines. In other words, Williams can afford to be deliberate about his next move.

For what it’s worth, the Suns have yet to formally put an offer on the table to Williams, according to Wojnarowski. Stein and Woj both confirm that Williams is Phoenix’s top target, so the club may be waiting to see if the Lakers make him an offer that can be countered, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic hypothesized earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers – one of the other four teams in the market for a new head coach – continued their search this week by interviewing former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Tuesday, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Vardon also reported that Jazz assistant Alex Jensen would be interviewing with the Cavaliers later in the week — that meeting will take place on Friday, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

The Cavs are being patient as they go through the interview process, and appear likely to meet with their finalists for a second round of interviews once they’ve talked to all the candidates once. Stein reports (via Twitter) that Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, who met with Cleveland earlier in the process, is expected to advance to the next round.

Coaching Updates: Williams, Lakers, Suns, Cavs

The Lakers sent a big contingent of executives to Philadelphia today for their second interview with head coaching candidate Monty Williams, reports Bill Oram of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Oram, in addition to GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss, the meeting will also include Lakers executives Joey Buss, Jesse Buss, Kurt Rambis, Linda Rambis, and COO Tim Harris.

Williams won’t be the first candidate to meet with such a big group. According to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter), the same Lakers executives met with Juwan Howard on Tuesday and Tyronn Lue on Wednesday. It was Howard’s first interview and Lue’s second for L.A.’s head coaching job.

As Oram observes (via Twitter), it’s somewhat interesting to see the younger Buss siblings, Jesse and Joey, involved in the process. While they’ve been part of the Lakers’ organization for years, their contributions have been limited to the scouting department and the G League affiliate — they’d been largely left out of major basketball operations decisions until now.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the NBA:

  • The Lakers aren’t the only team with interest in Monty Williams. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Suns officials are traveling to Toronto to meet with the Sixers assistant on Friday before Philadelphia opens its series against the Raptors on Saturday. Phoenix received permission earlier this week to interview Williams, who has been identified as the team’s top candidate to replace Igor Kokoskov. The Suns may try to preempt a Lakers offer, Wojnarowski writes.
  • The Cavaliers and J.B. Bickerstaff are working to set up a meeting for next week, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Bickerstaff said on Wednesday that he’s “definitely interested” in Cleveland’s head coaching job. Vardon also confirms that Juwan Howard and Jamahl Mosley are the only candidates who have formally interviewed with the Cavs so far.
  • The Cavaliers remain interested in Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez, but have yet to officially line up an interview, league sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Denver remains alive in the playoffs, so the Cavs will have to work around the Nuggets’ schedule.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Smith, Griffin, Connaughton

Former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “definitely interested” in the Cavaliers’ head coaching opening, he said in a SiruisXM interview with Mitch Lawrence, Zach Harper and Sarah Kustok (Twitter link). “It would be an honor to have an opportunity to work with that group,” said Bickerstaff, who was fired by Memphis two weeks ago. Bickerstaff is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar screen, though there has been no indication if he’ll be interviewed for the job.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Backup point guard Ish Smith is willing to return to the Pistons but it’s uncertain if there’s mutual interest, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Smith will enter unrestricted free agency this summer. “Obviously, if they call, I’m for sure going to pick up,” Smith said. “This has been home the last three years.” The cap-strapped Pistons could look to re-sign Smith at a lower cost than the $6MM he made this season. Otherwise, they might go with an in-house alternative, such as Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown.
  • Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin said he won’t get involved in personnel decisions this offseason unless his opinion is requested, Beard writes in a separate story. “I’m not here to make decisions; it’s the front office. (Senior adviser) Ed (Stefanski) and all those guys do a really good job, in the short time I’ve known them,” Griffin said. “They have plans and an idea and a direction. It might not happen overnight because of the (financial) situation. They have a great grasp on that. If they ask my opinion, I’ll, of course, give my honest opinion. I’ve never been the type of player to go in and make demands, just because sometimes as players and coaches, we’re all about winning right now, which is very important but not at the expense of the next year or however that may be.”
  • Bucks reserve guard Pat Connaughton hasn’t given up his dream to play major league baseball, as he explained to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner in a Q&A session. Connaughton was a minor-league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles system five years ago before choosing to pursue his basketball dreams. “Obviously I’ve wanted to be as successful at both sports as possible. You have to shoot for being an All-Star to have a chance to even make it in either, right? But I did think, “If I really went into baseball right now, if I dropped basketball when I was coming out of high school, I fully believe I’d have had the chance to be an All-Star, to be one of the top two pitchers on a championship team.” But something drew me to basketball, something drew me to having success in two sports,” Connaughton said. The Bucks have until July 1 to guarantee his $1.723MM salary for next season.

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.

Western Notes: Cousins, Grizzlies, Divac, Griffin

DeMarcus Cousins suffered a left quad injury during the first quarter of the Warriors’ game against the Clippers on Monday night will undergo an MRI on Tuesday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Cousins suffered the non-contact injury while making a steal. If the injury is serious, it would naturally be a major blow to Golden State’s quest for a third straight championship. The Warriors signed Andrew Bogut late in the season and his role would grow if Cousins misses significant time.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Grizzlies may be more focused on front office hires than filling their head coaching vacancy, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. J.B. Bickerstaff was fired and head of basketball operations Chris Wallace was re-assigned to a scouting position last week. Jason Wexler was promoted to team president and Zach Kleiman was named executive VP of basketball operations. “Trending that way,” Wexler told Cobb about the need to fill out the front office before hiring a coach. “But at the same time, I’m not definitely saying that we’ll have a full front office as we move through the coaching search. There will be a little bit of dual-tracking, but focusing a little bit more heavily on the front office out of the gate.” There’s been no talk yet about potential candidates, as we detail in our Head Coaching Search Tracker.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac hinted at a disconnect between himself and former coach Dave Joerger during Luke Walton‘s introductory press conference on Monday. Divac, who played with Walton on the Lakers 14 seasons ago, commented that he hired someone who was “on the same page” with him. “I think coaching is the toughest job in the NBA,” he told Noel Harris of the Sacramento Bee and other media members. “Having somebody who is behind you to work together, be on the same page and share the same philosophy about the game is definitely going to help both of us.”
  • David Griffin, who was hired over the weekend to run the Pelicans’ front office, received assurances from the franchise that it would bring in reinforcements to its basketball staff, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate reports. The front office, including the scouting department, executive staff and developmental arm, will be expanded. Griffin might still hire a GM and several assistant GM to work beneath him, though he will be the ultimate decision-maker on basketball moves, Kushner adds.

Grizzlies Fire J.B. Bickerstaff, Re-Assign Chris Wallace

3:44pm: The Grizzlies have sent out a press release officially confirming Bickerstaff’s firing and the front office changes detailed below.

“In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations,” Pera said in a statement. “I look forward to a re-energized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.

“I want to thank Chris and John for their long-term service and dedication to the Memphis Grizzlies and for their considerable contributions to our past successes, and look forward to their contributions to our future ones. I also want to thank J.B. for his leadership and commitment to our organization in his time as our coach.”

3:01pm: The Grizzlies are shaking up their front office and coaching staff, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has dismissed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and re-assigned head of basketball operations Chris Wallace to the scouting department. VP John Hollinger will also move to a senior advisory role, Wojnarowski adds.

The Grizzlies will promote Jason Wexler to team president and will have him oversee both the basketball operations and business operations for the franchise, reports Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Wexler had previously been the club’s president of business operations.

According to Wojnarowski, Zach Kleiman – previously an assistant GM – will be elevated to executive VP of basketball operations and will take the lead on day-to-day basketball matters. Memphis will launch a search for a new head coach and will also pursue some more experienced basketball executives to join the front office, sources tell Woj (Twitter link).

The news comes just hours after Wallace addressed local media in his end-of-season press conference, telling reporters that he wasn’t particularly concerned about his job security and that Bickerstaff was expected to return for next season.

It’s not a particularly good look for the Grizzlies, who probably shouldn’t have let Wallace move forward with his end-of-season presser and discuss his plans for Memphis’ future if they intended to do this later in the day. David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal calls it “blatantly disrespectful” (Twitter link), while longtime Grizzlies beat writer Ronald Tillery asserts that team owner Robert Pera “doesn’t care about” Memphis’ fans or players (Twitter link).

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Bickerstaff conducted exit meetings with Grizzlies players today, discussing expectations for the summer and ways to improve. Bickerstaff’s own exit meeting with ownership happened afterward.

Bickerstaff, who took over as the Grizzlies’ interim head coach during the 2017/18 season when David Fizdale was fired, led the team to an underwhelming 15-48 record to finish the season. However, Memphis opted to make Bickerstaff the permanent head coach last spring, citing his connection with – and his ability to develop – the team’s players. After posting a 33-49 record in 2018/19, the Grizzlies will now once again be on the lookout for a new head coach.

As for Wallace, this isn’t the first time he has been demoted by Grizzlies ownership. Initially hired as the team’s general manager in 2007, he was displaced in 2012 when Jason Levien assumed control of basketball operations. Wallace regained his front office power in 2014, with mixed results since then.

Prior to selecting Jaren Jackson with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Wallace’s first-round selection since ’14 were Jordan Adams, Jarell Martin, and Wade Baldwin. His most notable free agent signing over the last few years was Chandler Parsons, who received a four-year, maximum-salary contract from the Grizzlies and has limited to just 95 games since then due to injuries.

While Wallace’s front office has made a few savvy moves, including netting a first-round pick for Jeff Green, his missteps – such as flipping that first-rounder to Boston for Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac – likely outnumbered his successes. Since winning 55 games in 2014/15, Memphis has gone 140-188 in four seasons and hasn’t won a playoff series.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.