John Beilein

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Mazzulla, Smart

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is back to work after suffering a second heart attack, and while he’s apparently no worse for the wear, the experience seems to have reawakened him to how precious life can be and how lucky he is, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“You just move on,” says Ainge. “I just had some chest pains and went to the hospital and, you know, had a heart attack and had a stent put in… it’s just… it’s just a wake-up call… I’m at the stage in my life where I’m attending way too many funerals, so I’m just happy to be here and excited for our upcoming season. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love the players. They keep me young. They’re a lot of fun to be around, as you can see by the four guys we just drafted.”

Ainge says he wasn’t scared when the incident happened, but he now realizes that he needs to treat himself better moving forward.

“I’m scared enough to the point where I want to eat better and I want to be healthier, and I’m listening to my doctors a little more diligently and taking better care of myself. So, yeah, I wouldn’t say that I was unhealthy, but I would say that I didn’t do what I needed to be doing, and I should have shown from having an episode 10 years ago. So, you know, you get really motivated for six months and then you sort of feel great again. I feel great now. I feel as healthy as I’ve felt.”

Ainge also spoke on the topic of whether the stress of being the head of an NBA team’s basketball operations department factored into his health issues.

“You wonder how much of it is work and stress and those things but, you know, everybody has to manage challenges, health challenges and stress challenges. I would say that there are stressful days, but the job overall is not high stress, in my opinion. There are stressful moments, (but) coaching is much harder. I’ve done that job. But my job is more to keep people in a good frame of mind, keep people positive through the adversity of a season. And just my nature, I’m more positive and see the bright side in things, and I think that eliminates a lot of stress.”

There’s more news out of Boston tonight:

  • Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Celtics are hiring Fairmont (WV) State coach Joe Mazzulla as an assistant coach. Mazzulla, who made a strong impression with the Celtics G League staff a few years back, played for new Cavs’ head coach John Beilein at West Virginia.
  • Despite the fact that the Celtics are likely losing both point guard Kyrie Irving and big man Al Horford to free agency, incumbent guard Marcus Smart is optimistic about the team’s prospects for the 2019/20 season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Hey, the thing is, the Raptors just won the championship, right? But they’ve got to start back over from the beginning just like we do… so everybody’s starting over, regardless if they have the same team or not, they’ve all got to start from the beginning. That’s how we take it. We take it as we come in, and we have an opportunity to do something special, and we get another chance to do it.”
  • In another story for ESPN, Bontemps adds that with free agency right around the corner, Ainge finds himself with holes at point guard and center and with a roster that features 11 players who are 25 or younger, just one season after being a team that seemed destined to compete for championships right away.

Draft Notes: No. 4, Garland, Hunter, Hawks

Despite the notion that there is a drop-off after the first three picks, there are a number of teams that see value in the No. 4 selection, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic hears. Venecie writes that Darius Garland is the player most frequently mentioned around the league as the fourth-best player in the draft.

The Bulls may be looking to move up into that No. 4 spot or at least that’s the chatter behind the scenes. A previous report implied that Chicago would be open to dealing any player or pick on the roster outside of Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr.

Here’s more from Venecie on the upcoming draft:

  • There’s no sense of who the Pelicans will pick at No. 4 should they keep the selection. If Venecie were making the pick, he’d take a hard look at De’Andre Hunter or Jarrett Culver, though the scribe notes that many around the NBA are not as high on Hunter as he is.
  • Had the Lakers held onto the No. 4 overall pick, many within the league believed Garland would be the selection, with Venecie citing the prospect’s connection to Klutch Sports.
  • New Cavaliers head coach John Beilein is a fan of Hunter, a source tells Venecie. It’s unclear what kind of influence the coach will have on the team’s draft decisions. It’s worth noting that Cleveland doesn’t need a point guard, having Collin Sexton installed as franchise’s future at the position.
  • If Garland remains on the board at No. 5, Cleveland may have a more attractive trade asset on their hands. Phoenix at No. 6 is said to be in the market for a point guard and that could create urgency for another team to trade up to No. 5.
  • The Hawks appear to favor Hunter, though they may need to trade up to take the Virginia product. Atlanta has the No. 8 and No. 10 overall in addition to four other selections in the top 44. The franchise has had talks with teams about moving up in the draft but they’ve also spoken with clubs about moving down.

Dan Gilbert: “We Killed It” In The Kyrie Irving Trade

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert continues to insist that his team got the better of the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston before the start of the 2017/18 season, relays Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com.

Irving still had two years left on his contract when he asked for a trade to get him away from the team’s uncertain future in the wake of LeBron James‘ upcoming free agency. The Cavaliers agreed to his demand, getting Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a draft pick that became Collin Sexton.

“It becomes a melting snowball,” Gilbert said. “We had to trade him when we did. What team would want Kyrie with only one year on his contract knowing he could leave after the season? You won’t get much back (under those circumstances).”

In addition, Irving’s agent implied that if the trade demand wasn’t met, his client might undergo knee surgery that would keep him out for most of the year. Irving wound up having two operations on his knee last season and missed the playoffs.

Gilbert expects Irving to move on again when he becomes a free agent this summer.

“I don’t know, but I think Kyrie will leave Boston,” he said. “We could have ended up with nothing. Looking back after all the moves (GM) Koby (Altman) made, we killed it in that trade.”

Gilbert shares his views on a few other topics in the same story:
  • James comes with “a limited shelf life” because of his age and contract situation, Gilbert said. LeBron reached the NBA Finals in all four years of his most recent stay in Cleveland, but was never willing to sign a long-term commitment, giving himself flexibility to leave if he didn’t like how the team was being run. “It’s a win now at all costs,” Gilbert said. “… It all revolves around the sun, which is him. Whatever pressure comes with it, it worked out. We won a title.”
  • Gilbert denies that he was responsible for the decision to hire Michigan’s John Beilein as the team’s new coach. He said Altman came up with the idea and led a group of eight front office representatives who met with Beilein. “All eight loved him,” Gilbert said. “All eight wanted to hire him. They were polled individually. That caught my attention. This was a week before I met with John.” He also called the financial aspects of Beilein’s new five-year contract “very reasonable.”
  • Unlike when LeBron left in 2010, Gilbert knows there’s no chance he will return someday to resurrect the franchise. So the focus now is creating a successful organization from scratch. “We have to build a culture and a team, beyond just adding a lot more talent,” Gilbert said. “I really believe in this front office and the coaching staff. We are putting together a team based on culture and character.”

Central Notes: Beilein, Pistons, Brogdon, Bulls

New Cavaliers head coach John Beilein accepted a position with the team last week after coaching for 12 seasons at Michigan, a difficult decision for someone who has spent over 40 years at the collegiate level.

Beilein, who’s known for his high character and wealth of basketball knowledge, is being tasked with guiding a young Cavs team back to prominence after a difficult 2018/19 season. The opportunity to coach an NBA team was too good for Beilein to pass up despite having no experience in the league.

“There’s never a good time to leave,” he said last week, as relayed by Andrew Seligman of The Associated Press. “You can make a couple choices. You can leave too early or you can leave too late. You never know when to leave. This was an opportunity that has so much potential it was too difficult to pass up. It was the right thing to do.”

Beilein sees great potential in his new team, from veterans such as Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to younger players such as Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and the No. 5 overall selection in June’s draft. The team also hired a respected associate head coach in J.B. Bickerstaff on Sunday, who spent this past season with the Grizzlies.

“We have good young players,” Beilein said. “Kevin Love. We’ve got some guys with a lot of experience, especially with winning. I talked with all the players today. I feel a good karma right now. Last year, although it was difficult for all, we all learned a lot. Everybody’s gonna grow from it and attack next year with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of spirit, a lot of optimism.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines the Pistons’ roster needs, most notably through draft prospects and upcoming free agents. Detroit has the 15th pick in the NBA Draft and will likely be patient at the start of free agency, coming off a season that saw them go 41-41 with the No. 8 seed.
  • Aside from bolstering Milwaukee’s championship hopes, the return of Malcolm Brogdon also boosts his potential value during free agency this summer, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. Since returning, Brogdon, who will reach restricted free agency in July, has averaged 13 points in three postseason wins off the Bucks’ bench. He averaged 15.6 points on 51% shooting from the floor, 43% from 3-point range and 93% from the charity stripe in 64 contests during the regular season.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune explores the potential options at point guard for the Bulls this summer, including Brogdon, Terry Rozier, Patrick Beverley and others. Chicago is said to be interested in upgrading its point guard position this offseason through the draft or free agency.

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).

Central Notes: Pistons, Adams, Cavaliers, Ham

Per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, the Pistons should disregard any positional need with the No. 15 overall selection in this year’s draft and simply pick the player whom the team feels with have the biggest impact during his rookie contract.

Langlois provides examples of teams who have had success employing the same strategy, noting the Spurs in 2011 (traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard when they had Richard Jefferson) and the Bucks in 2013 (shocked the world by drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo while already having John Henson and Ersan Ilyasovsa on the roster) as ideas for the Pistons to emulate.

One would think that the Pistons should look to upgrade their backcourt to complement both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but as Langlois notes, Drummond can opt out of his contract after next season and Griffin is versatile enough to play alongside another power forward.

So who should the Pistons take? For now, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Detroit taking Indiana swingman Romeo Langford, his 11th ranked prospect and the top-ranked player left on the board when the Pistons make their selection.

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • In addition to adding Chris Fleming to his staff, Bulls’ head coach Jim Boylen is trying to add one more assistant, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. The top candidate appears to be Texas Tech assistant coach Mark Adams.
  • The Cavaliers were left without an identity for the first time in nearly two decades when homegrown superstar LeBron James left for Los Angeles, but as Ben Golliver of The Washington Post writes, new head coach John Beilein should be able to create a new identity and culture for the franchise.
  • As we relayed yesterday afternoon, Bucks’ assistant coach Darvin Ham has been identified by the Timberwolves as another head coaching candidate under Gersson Rosas and the team’s new front office.

Stein’s Latest: Beilein, Lakers, Rockets

John Beilein, who recently accepted the Cavaliers‘ coaching position, strongly considered the Pistons‘ job last offseason, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter. Beilein passed up on the chance to become an NBA head coach then but couldn’t pass up the opportunity this time around in part due to Dan Gilbert. The Cavs owner has a reputation for his willingness to spend when necessary in order to win on the court.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest piece:

  • The Lakers did not formally offer their coaching job to Monty Williams before Williams signed on with the Suns, Stein hears. Williams ultimately decided to go to Phoenix before the competition between he and Tyronn Lue was complete. Stein also hears that Kurt Rambis and Linda Rambis were the strongest supporters of hiring Williams and the couple was the loudest influence when it came to hiring Frank Vogel.
  • Not offering a five-year deal to Lue—a coach that won a championship with LeBron James—was a major mistake for the franchise, Stein opines. Los Angeles only offered Lue a three-year deal, something that Lue had to see as disrespectful.
  • The Rockets may be limited in what they can spend, but don’t count out GM Daryl Morey when it comes to making major moves, Stein contends. Houston doesn’t have much flexibility with regard to signing free agents, as it has roughly $116MM in guaranteed salary on the books for next season. However, we’ve seen Morey pull of unlikely trades in the past, as he did with Chris Paul.

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.

Cavaliers Notes: Beilein, Howard, Gansey

The Cavaliers‘ head coaching search came to an end today and reached a surprising resolution, as longtime University of Michigan head coach John Beilein will make the jump to the NBA, having agreed to a five-year deal with Cleveland.

While we hadn’t heard word of the Cavs’ interest in Beilein before today, he interviewed with the club early last week in Ann Arbor and then spoke to owner Dan Gilbert face-to-face on Friday, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. As Fedor explains, the two sides agreed to keep those talks quiet out of respect for the university.

Meanwhile, Joe Vardon of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Gilbert’s involvement in the process with Beilein was a good sign that the Cavaliers were serious about the Wolverines’ coach. According to Vardon, at least four other head coaching candidates who interviewed for the job didn’t meet with the Cavs’ owner.

Here’s more on the Cavs’ hiring on Beilein:

  • According to Fedor, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of the candidates the Cavaliers interviewed for their head coaching position becomes Beilein’s associate head coach. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter) that Juwan Howard, who met with the Cavs, was viewed as a candidate to become Beilein’s lead assistant if he had ended up with the Pistons last spring.
  • A source who spoke to Fedor pointed to Beilein’s ability to develop and mold young players as a key reason why the Cavaliers are hiring him. “He takes players right out of high school and turns them into lottery picks,” the source told Fedor, who cites Tim Hardaway Jr. as one Michigan player who wasn’t a highly sought-after recruit but ended up being drafted in the first round.
  • Cavaliers assistant GM Mike Gansey, who played for Beilein at West Virginia 15 years ago, was always a fan of the coach’s abilities as a player development specialist and an offensive tactician, sources tell Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News (Twitter link).
  • The Cavs like Beilein’s offensive system, which is predicated on outside shooting, ball movement, and constant motion, writes Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net. As Amico outlines, the team views that system as one that can succeed even without star players.

Cavaliers Hire John Beilein As Head Coach

11:11am: The Cavaliers have officially named Beilein their new head coach, with general manager Koby Altman indicating in a statement that the decision came after a “deep and thorough” search.

“Following the end of [our] interviews, it became clear to us that Coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise,” Altman said. “John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game. He has a unique ability to create an outstanding culture that will promote the development of young players and provide a solid structure to the entire program; not to mention the fact that John Beilein wins everywhere he goes.”

7:46am: The Cavaliers have picked a head coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has reached a deal with Michigan’s John Beilein. The two sides have agreed to a five-year contract, per Wojnarowski.

It’s a surprising conclusion to a lengthy head coaching search which saw the Cavs focused primarily on NBA assistants. The club reportedly interviewed nearly a dozen other candidates, most of whom are currently members of NBA staffs, including Ettore Messina (Spurs), David Vanterpool (Trail Blazers), Alex Jensen (Jazz), and many others.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Instead of going with one of those options though, Cleveland will dip into the college ranks for Beilein, who informed Michigan’s administration on Monday morning of his decision to make the leap to the NBA, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Woj adds that discussions between Beilein and the Cavs escalated over the weekend before they reached an agreement on Sunday.

Beilein, a veteran NCAA coach who had stops at a number of other schools – including West Virginia, Richmond, and Canisius – before arriving at Michigan, has a career college record of 754-425 (.640). With the Wolverines, that mark is 278-150 (.650). Although he didn’t win an NCAA championship at Michigan, he led the team to appearances in the title game in 2013 and 2018.

Beilein interviewed last spring for the Pistons’ head coaching job and also talked to the Magic, but ultimately decided to stick with the Wolverines. It appears his interest in the NBA was legit though, and now he’ll get the opportunity to reunite with Cavaliers assistant general manager Mike Gansey. As Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports observes (via Twitter), Gansey played under Beilein at West Virginia from 2004-06.

In his full story on Beilein’s hiring, Wojnarowski explains that the Cavaliers have been using the term “culture-driver” internally as they weighed the possibility of bringing in the Michigan head coach, who is considered one of the best teachers in college basketball. From Beilein’s perspective, the opportunity to lead a Cavs rebuild – with Collin Sexton already on the roster and a top-six draft pick set to join him – was appealing, says Woj.

The Cavaliers, who become the fourth team to hire a new head coach this offseason, intend to surround Beilein with an “experienced staff of NBA assistants,” sources tell Wojnarowski.

Cleveland had been on the lookout for a new head coach for over a month, having mutually agreed to part ways with Larry Drew on April 11.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.