Kelvin Sampson

Magic Notes: Clifford, Stackhouse, Sampson

The Magic officially decided on their new head coach this week, announcing the hiring of former Hornets coach Steve Clifford on Wednesday. Clifford reportedly agreed to a four-year contract to become Frank Vogel‘s replacement in Orlando.

As Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel details, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond – who interviewed Clifford for the Bucks’ job in Milwaukee back in 2013 – met with him twice this time around. The first of those meetings happened on May 16, with the second taking place on May 24. Weltman and Hammond liked what they heard in those sessions, and their deal with Clifford reflects that — the final year isn’t a team option, sources tell Robbins.

“I’m not betting on something that I don’t know,” Weltman said on Wednesday. “Steve Clifford has proven himself to be an elite-level NBA coach in addition to having great personal skills, player-development abilities [and] all the organizational bullet points that we had hoped to address.”

Here’s more on the Magic’s new coach and the search that led the team to him:

  • Despite being rumored to have significant interest in Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, the Magic never interviewed Stackhouse, sources tell Robbins.
  • University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, cited as a Magic candidate, confirmed that he met with the club “multiple times,” as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston relays. However, Sampson said that he’ll remain at his current job with the University of Houston.
  • Before hiring Clifford, the Magic made plays for “some big fish in the collegiate ranks,” according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). One of those targets was presumably Tom Izzo, as the Michigan State head coach was linked to Orlando last week.
  • One possible factor in the Magic’s decision to hire Clifford? His impressive work in games against Orlando. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes, Clifford’s Hornets had defeated the Magic 11 times in a row prior to his ouster in Charlotte.

Magic Eyeing Kelvin Sampson For Head Coaching Job?

There’s a “growing belief among league insiders” that Kelvin Sampson has emerged as the prime target in the Magic’s coaching search, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). It’s the second time we’ve heard Sampson linked to Orlando, as Mitch Lawrence recently tweeted that the University of Houston head coach was being regarded as a “top candidate” for the Orlando job.

Of the four NBA teams currently seeking a new head coach, the Magic are the only club whose search has been ongoing since the end of the regular season. The Bucks and Raptors began looking for head coaches after they were eliminated from the playoffs, while the Pistons didn’t make a decision on Stan Van Gundy until early May. However, Orlando’s search has now taken over a month, and the team has been cagey about which candidates it’s focusing on.

So far, the only confirmed interviewees for the Magic are Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, and David Fizdale, who has since been hired by the Knicks. Nick Nurse and Jerry Stackhouse of the Raptors were viewed as possible contenders, given their connection to Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, but Lawrence suggests those Toronto assistants aren’t in the mix. It’s not clear if Dwane Casey is on Orlando’s list of candidates.

While Sampson may seem like an out-of-left-field target for the Magic, he has a link to Weltman as well — Sampson was an assistant coach in Milwaukee several years ago when Weltman was serving as an assistant GM for the Bucks.

Sampson, who was also a Rockets assistant for a few years, returned to the college ranks in 2014 after his five-year show-cause penalty for NCAA violations with Indiana expired. He has been the head coach of the Cougars for the last four seasons, and was named the AAC Coach of the Year this spring.

Western Notes: Young, Llull, Sampson, Kings

Following last night’s game against Sacramento, Lakers guard Nick Young hinted that he plans to opt out this summer and enter free agency (Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com reports). The 6’7 swingman referred to his popular epithet when responding to a question about whether or not he’s already made up his mind:  “A little bit. It’s a mystery, though. I’ve got to keep y’all on your toes. That’s what Swaggy P does.”

Last week, we noted that Young would likely test the waters in July and remains interested in re-signing with the Lakers. Though he does hold a 2014/15 player option worth roughly $1.2MM, the L.A. native believes it’s time for a raise: “Most definitely. I deserve much more than that.” 

Here’s what else we’ve gathered out West this evening:

  • The Rockets have the draft rights to Spanish league guard Sergio Llull, but he’s not among the players the team appears to be considering, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Llull, 26, is considered an NBA-level talent, but his contract with Real Madrid would require a hefty in-season buyout, Stein notes (Twitter links).
  • The abruptness of Kelvin Sampson’s departure from the Rockets wasn’t entirely by choice, as league rules mandate that he couldn’t remain with the team after having accepted the head coaching job at the University of Houston, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston.
  • Plans for a new Kings arena in Sacramento took another step forward today as the city won an appeals court ruling allowing it to retain possession of a building that sits on the site where the arena is to be built, as Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee details.
  • Nearly one year removed from a failed attempt to purchase and relocate the Kings franchise, Chris Hansen tells Percy Allen of the Seattle Times: “It’s inevitable Seattle will have a basketball team. It’s just a matter of when…The next time an opportunity comes our way, we’re going to be in a lot better position. We’re not going to have to prove to the NBA that we’re likely to get an arena built. We’ll have a fully-baked, signed off on deal.” 
  • As far as an arena proposal goes, Hansen mentions the EIS (Environmental State Impact) process as one hurdle that needs to be cleared; However, he says that the process is going well and expects it to be settled by this summer at the earliest.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.   

Western Notes: Warriors, Seattle, Rockets

Warriors GM Bob Myers thinks coach Mark Jackson has done a “tremendous job” and is supportive of the decision to reassign former assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, as Myers said today on KNBR radio, notes Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group (All Twitter links). Ownership and management have a great relationship with Jackson, Myers also asserted. The reason no one from the Warriors front office has publicly defended Jackson is because the team prefers to have only one spokesperson on the rumors surrounding the coach, according to Myers. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The group of Seattle investors that came close to purchasing the Kings last season is intact and focused solely on attracting an NBA team to the city, rather than going after an NHL club, primary investor Chris Hansen tells Tim Booth of The Associated Press.
  • Rockets assistant coach and frequent NBA head coaching candidate Kelvin Sampson has agreed to become the head coach at the University of Houston, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. He’s leaving the Rockets after tonight’s game. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported a deal was close.
  • Victor Claver enjoys Portland but he’s not satisfied with his playing time, having seen his minutes cut from 16.6 last year to 8.8 per game this season, as he tells Adriano Correal of Gigantes (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Claver, under contract with the Blazers for one more season, has denied rumors that he wants to return to Europe.

Odds & Ends: Barea, Kenyon, Sampson, Copeland

Here's more from the NBA on an landmark night in free agency:

  • A Dallas source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities that the Mavs' agreement with Jose Calderon likely knocks them out of discussions for J.J. Barea. Still, the Wolves remain upbeat about their chances of a Barea deal with the Mavs, in what would be a salary dump enabling Minnesota to clear money for a defensive-minded wing player (All Twitter links).
  • The Spurs have been one of many teams reportedly interested in Kenyon Martin, and now they're "in hot pursuit" of the veteran big man, though the Knicks and others remain in play, tweets Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com. 
  • Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game heard that Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson wouldn't return to the team, but Sampson tells Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston that he'll be back in Houston. (Twitter links). "That's just a bad rumor," Sampson said. "I'm looking forward to a great year with the Rockets."
  • The Pacers and Chris Copeland discussed a third year that would have been a team option, but settled instead on their two-year, $6.12MM agreement, writes Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group briefly looks at what the Warriors could do with the trade exceptions they'll acquire as part of their deal with the Jazz. He also hears that the W's see Andre Iguodala as capable of handling backup point guard duties, so the team will prioritize finding a backup center over a backup point guard (Sulia link).
  • In a separate piece, Thompson recounts the steps Iguodala took on the way to his agreement with the Warriors, noting that Iggy has long considered Golden State a desirable destination. 
  • Lately, agent Dan Fegan has been preoccupied with other free agent clients, such as Dwight Howard, so he and the Wizards have yet to begin discussing an extension for John Wall, writes J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Wall is extension-eligible this season, and will hit restricted free agency next summer if he and the Wizards don't strike a deal by Halloween.
  • In an interview with DraftExpress.com, Dario Saric suggests that the Mavericks were interested in making him a promise at No. 13 had he not withdrawn from last week's draft.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

David Fizdale, Melvin Hunt On Sixers’ Radar

Maurice Cheeks is said to be the frontrunner for the Pistons' head coaching job, and the openings with the Clippers, Nets, and Nuggets appear to be turning into a game of musical chairs featuring Brian Shaw, Lionel Hollins, George Karl, and others. Since Sam Hinkie was hired in Philadelphia though, we haven't heard a whole lot about the Sixers' head coaching targets.

According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein (via Twitter), a pair of assistant coaches are on the 76ers' radar: David Fizdale of the Heat and Melvin Hunt of the Nuggets. Fizdale had been mentioned as a candidate for Detroit earlier in the Pistons' process, and actually was said to be on the Sixers' list before Hinkie was hired as well. Hunt, meanwhile, hasn't received any head coaching buzz since he was named as a potential Cavs candidate back in April.

Besides Fizdale and Hunt, Rockets assistants Kelvin Sampson and Chris Finch have also been cited as possible candidates for the Sixers' job, while Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweeted earlier this week that Philadelphia appears to have interest in Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger.

Grantland's Zach Lowe also noted yesterday that Hinkie has long been an admirer of George Karl's offensive creativity, but Lowe hears from coaching sources that the new GM may prefer to develop a strong relationship with a first-time head coach of his choosing.

Odds & Ends: West, Cousins, Ginobili, Celtics

David West seems content with the Pacers, as he tells Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, but the Hawks, armed with plenty of cap space, might be planning to make a run at him in free agency this summer, a source tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. That's not entirely surprising, since Atlanta is on track to have enough cap room for a pair of max free agents. The Hawks probably wouldn't make West their top priority, since they seem ready to go after Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but if they strike out on them, West might not be too far down the list. Here's more as we enter the final month before free agency starts:
  • Rival teams may have been behind a report that the Kings are ready to trade DeMarcus Cousins, Deveney hears, adding that the team's new owners have yet to decide what they want to do with the turbulent big man. Deveney wonders if the Kings might do some message-management of their own and have incoming coach Michael Malone talk up Cousins to increase his value.
  • As for Cousins, sources tell Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that he isn't looking for a trade (Twitter link).
  • Manu Ginobili's contract is up June 30th, but he told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News that he has no plans to retire. The 35-year-old seems likely to return to the Spurs and expects to take a paycut to do so, though he and agent Herb Rudoy aren't starting negotiations with the team until July 1st.
  • The Celtics attempted to acquire either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson at the trade deadline, but couldn't work out a deal with the Jazz for one of their big men, tweets Greg Dickerson of CSNNE.com. Boston is reportedly interested in Millsap as a free agent.
  • The Rockets plan to pursue Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but with the league telling teams to expect a $58.5 million salary cap and $71.5MM tax line next season, squeezing both onto the team will be nearly impossible, as HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram examines.
  • Kelvin Sampson would have been Brandon Jennings' choice to coach the Bucks, reports Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. The team hired Larry Drew instead, a choice that was definitely GM John Hammond's call, unlike the team's hiring of former coach Scott Skiles (Twitter links).

Odds & Ends: Jackson, Drew, Allen, Hollins

Although Phil Jackson recently criticized Mike D'Antoni and seemed skeptical about the thought of Dwight Howard wanting to re-sign with the Lakers, the eleven-time NBA champion coach appeared to backtrack on those comments during an appearance on the Willard and Thompson Show on 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles (Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News). Also, Jackson reiterated that he has no plans of coaching again and explained how he's still somewhat connected with his former team: "I’m playing a role regardless whether I’m hired and on the staff and part of the payroll, I’m here to be a sounding board and personal companion to my fiance, who’s the chief operating officer I guess you would say of the Lakers. As they ferry their way through these contract problems they have and the whole mess they have right now in the organization, I’m listening. There’s not a whole lot I’m doing. But my role right now is to be attentive and supportive.”

Here are more of tonight's miscellaneous news and notes:

  • The Pistons and former Hawks coach Larry Drew appear to have some mutual interest in an interview for Drew, sources tell Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News. Drew is believed to be one of two finalists for the Bucks' coaching opening, along with Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson
  • Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida tweets that Heat guard Ray Allen hasn't thought about whether or not he'll pick up his $3.23MM player option this summer.
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo tweets that the Nets, Clippers, and Bucks have not contacted the Grizzlies for permission to talk to Lionel Hollins as of yet. Coincidentally, we relayed a report yesterday which indicated that the 59-year-old coach doesn't expect to be granted permission to speak with other teams before his contract expires on June 30.
  • In light of the rumblings that the Nuggets might not match the Raptors' five-year, $15MM offer to Masai UjiriSBNation’s Tom Ziller makes the argument that coaches and general managers should be paid more.
  • Ben Couch of BrooklynNets.com reviews Gerald Wallace’s season in Brooklyn. Just over a month ago, Wallace had alarmingly admitted that he didn’t “have a clue” as to what his role on the team was, but as of today the veteran forward seemed to be encouraged about what his future holds with the Nets: "All in all I think this was kind of a down year for me, but I feel comfortable and excited about the way I finished the season," Wallace says."I'm going into the summer knowing the things I can do to get better."
  • Marcus Thompson of Mercury News reported that Warriors big man David Lee had surgery to repair a torn right hip flexor today and is expected to begin rehab within the next two weeks.
  • According to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post, Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari had a slight setback in rehab and won't have surgery on his ACL for another two weeks. Consequently, an expected return date of January 1 has now changed to late January or February. 

Bobcats Hire Steve Clifford

WEDNESDAY, 1:33pm: The Bobcats have made the hiring of Clifford official, announcing the move in a press release.

"We are excited to have Steve Clifford as our new head coach," said president Rod Higgins in a statement. "He brings a strong pedigree and a track record of success to our franchise.  He has built a reputation as an innovator, especially defensively, and has experience in multiple systems.  We look forward to utilizing his knowledge as we continue to build this team."

MONDAY, 5:13pm: The Bobcats are set to hire Steve Clifford as their next head coach, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).  The Lakers assistant will receive a three-year, $6MM deal with a team option on the third year, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

The longtime assistant came to L.A. under head coach Mike Brown.  Clifford spent most of the last decade working for Jeff and Stan Van Gundy as a defensive specialist before joining up with Brown and the Lakers.  He'll now be charged with turning around a woeful Bobcats franchise that is coming off of a 21-61 campaign.

Clifford was also in the mix for the vacant Bucks job.  With Clifford out of the running in Milwaukee, the Bucks search will now focus on Larry Drew and Kelvin Sampson, tweets Wojnarowski.  Each candidate has second interviews coming up this week.

The Bobcats fired Mike Dunlap last month following just one year at the helm in Charlotte.  The former St. John's assistant coach managed to improve upon the club's dreadful .106 winning percentage but rubbed people in the front office the wrong way and found himself at odds with veteran guard Ben Gordon.

Bucks Down To Three Coaching Finalists

The Bucks' coaching search is now down to three finalists - Hawks coach Larry Drew, Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson, and Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.  Clifford will visit Milwaukee again on Tuesday, and Sampson and Drew on Wednesday for their second interviews, according to league sources.

Bucks GM John Hammond has a stronger history with Sampson thanks to the two years he spent on the Milwaukee staff under Scott Skiles.  However, Hammond has been increasingly impressed by Clifford, who comes strongly recommended by the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau and Stan and Jeff Van Gundy.

Sampson had a strong run as the Rockets' interim coach while Kevin McHale had to leave the team and showed that he can handle the pro game.  In three seasons in Atlanta, Drew has a 128-102 record and took the club to the playoffs all three years, including the conference semifinals in 2010-11. Drew's contract expires on June 30 with the Hawks, and he's expected to be replaced as coach soon.

While Sampson and Clifford are also strong candidates in Charlotte, each is eager for the opportunity with the Bucks, according to league sources. Milwaukee made the playoffs this season and has a much better overall roster than the Bobcats/Hornets.