Mark Jackson

Stein’s Latest: Pistons, Knicks, Bucks, Magic, Suns

Earlier today, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Pistons have expressed interest in Chauncey Billups for a potential front office role, with an eye on possibly pairing him with Arn Tellem in their basketball operations department. The report quickly drew responses from multiple sides — Billups stated that he would “never push for a job with any NBA franchise that is not open,” while a Pistons ownership spokesman simply called the report “false.”

Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) also hears from a source that there’s “nothing whatsoever” to the idea of a Billups/Tellem team-up in the Pistons’ front office, but Stein doubled down on the report in his latest newsletter for The New York Times, citing league sources who say that Detroit has “great interest” in hiring Billups. According to Stein, the Pistons believe they have a real shot to convince Billups to leave his TV job for an executive role.

Stein’s newsletter includes a few more tidbits on coaching and front office situations around the NBA. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There’s a growing belief that Knicks GM Scott Perry will want to hire his own hand-picked head coach at season’s end, says Stein. According to Stein, if the club replaces Jeff Hornacek and makes a high-profile hire, Mark Jackson and David Blatt would be among the candidates to watch.
  • With a move to a new arena around the corner, the Bucks may want to make a big splash with their next head coaching hire. League sources tell Stein that Jeff Van Gundy and Kevin McHale are among the names on the Bucks’ list of potential candidates, while Monty Williams and David Fizdale have also been mentioned. Rick Pitino could even get an “exploratory look,” says Stein.
  • There’s a “widely held assumption” in coaching circles that the Magic will replace Frank Vogel, according to Stein, who identifies Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse as possible targets for Orlando. All three of those coaches are in the Raptors organization, which is where Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman previously worked.
  • While Jay Triano will receive an interview as part of the Suns‘ head coaching search, Stein is hearing buzz that Triano is more likely to be asked to stay on as an assistant. Phoenix wants to explore the college ranks, and Villanova’s Jay Wright is one name that figures to come up during that search, per Stein.

Jeff Hornacek Gets Vote Of Confidence From GM

Amid speculation that Jeff Hornacek’s job could be jeopardized by what appears to be another lost season, Knicks GM Scott Perry offered a vote of confidence today, writes Adam Zagoria of

Already five games out of a playoff spot, New York suffered a crushing blow Tuesday night when star forward Kristaps Porzingis tore his left ACL. Perry says he understands the situation and plans to judge Hornacek and his staff by more than just their won-loss record.

“No, we’re not looking to make any changes,” Perry said. “We’re evaluating the entire season. Jeff and his group are working really hard with this basketball team and doing the very best they can and obviously this is an adversity for them to deal with [Kristaps Porzingis] being out, but I’m confident that they’ll be able to do a good job of keeping this team playing hard and playing together. That’s what we’ll be looking at moving forward.”

Hornacek has one season remaining on the three-year deal he signed when he was hired in 2016. He has a 54-83 record during his time in New York and hasn’t developed the Knicks into a playoff contender.

Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, a longtime friend of team president Steve Mills, has been mentioned as a possible replacement, along with ex-Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who spent nearly seven seasons with the Knicks as a player.

In the wake of Porzingis’ injury, Hornacek plans to devote more minutes to younger players for the rest of the season.

“We’re still trying to win games,” he said. “We’re still trying to develop our guys. This is going to give them an opportunity to get some minutes and see what they can do against NBA guys. We’ve seen some of it, because they practice with us, and we see what they can do against our guys.”

Coaching Shakeup May Be On The Way

Coming off a rare season in which no coaches were fired, the NBA may be preparing for a shakeup that will affect a third of the league, writes Frank Isola of The New York Daily News.

Isola suggests as many as 10 teams could be looking at coaching changes at the end of the season, if not sooner. The actual number will depend on how things play out, but several more names may join David Fizdale of Memphis and Earl Watson of Phoenix as coaching casualties for 2017/18.

Both Los Angeles teams could be open to changes, with the Lakers far out of the playoff race at 16-29. The front office was slow to defend Luke Walton after recent derogatory comments by LaVar Ball, and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently suggested that hiring former Fizdale, a former assistant with the Heat, would give the organization a better shot at LeBron James. However, Walton still has an important ally in majority owner Jeanie Buss.

Across town, Doc Rivers is doing a remarkable job with a depleted roster, but he may not remain with the Clippers if they decide to rebuild by following through with rumored trades involving DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. Rivers, who has one more year left on the extension he signed in 2014, was removed from his front office duties before the start of the season. Isola says Rivers may return to television if he leaves the Clippers, though he would become a candidate for possible openings in New York and Orlando.

There will be no shortage of prominent candidates if the Knicks decide to move on from Jeff Hornacek. Isola identifies ABC/ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy as potential replacements, along with former Pelicans coach and Knicks player Monty Williams, reigning G League Coach of the Year Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova coach Jay Wright, although there is speculation that Wright would only leave the college ranks to take the Sixers’ job.

Gasol, Fizdale Tensions Went Far Beyond Benching

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and former coach David Fizdale had such a strained relationship that they rarely spoke to one another, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins. Fizdale was fired on Monday, one day after he benched his leading scorer, rebounder and shotblocker in the fourth quarter against the Nets. The benching served as the breaking point and Gasol, who has a tight relationship with owner Robert Pera, had expressed major concerns about the team’s direction under Fizdale, Calkins continues.

Commercial Appeal beat writer Ronald Tillery confirms the longterm disconnect between coach and star player. A team source told Tillery that the tension between them and Sunday’s benching weren’t the only reasons that Fizdale was axed. That source said the team was “trending down in several categories.” However, Tillery tweets that as recently as Saturday, a source close to the owner said that Fizdale’s job was safe because of the team’s injury issues. That’s an indication that Sunday’s incident swiftly changed Pera’s thinking.

In other reactions to Fizdale’s dismissal:

  • Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both expressed their dismay on social media, demanding answers regarding the firing, as Joe Vardon of relays. Both played under Fizdale when he was an assistant with the Heat.
  • Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff is one of the potential long-term replacements for Fizdale but Sean Deveney of the Sporting News lists several other intriguing names. Former head coaches Mark Jackson, David Blatt and Monty Williams, former player Shane Battier, and several current college coaches such as Tony Bennett, Patrick Ewing and John Calipari are some of the candidates Memphis could look at, according to Deveney.

Atlantic Notes: Kerr, Bender, Sixers, Biyombo

As the Warriors prepare for Monday’s Game 7 with the Thunder, Marc Berman of The New York Post offers a reminder that the results of Golden State’s last Game 7 prevented Steve Kerr from coaching the Knicks. After the Warriors lost to the Clippers in 2014, owner Joe Lacob decided to fire coach Mark Jackson. The team contacted the agent for Kerr, who had a verbal agreement with New York but nothing on paper. Kerr met with the Warriors and decided that was a better opportunity for him. With the expected hiring of Jeff Hornacek, the Knicks are now on their third coach since Kerr’s change of heart.

There’s more news from the Atlantic Division:

  • Danny Ainge, the Celtics‘ president of basketball operations, is in Israel this weekend to scout Dragan Bender, according to Mike Petraglia of WEEI. Ainge was accompanied by his son, Austin, who serves as director of player personnel. They planned to watch Bender practice Saturday and today, but will not see him in a game. The 18-year-old is considered a possibility with Boston’s No. 3 pick in next month’s draft.
  • The Sixers will hold a workout Monday for six players, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Potential second-rounders Joel Bolomboy of Weber State and James Webb III of Boise State will be the top players at the session, according to Pompey. They will be joined by Brannen Greene of Kansas, Daniel House of Texas A&M, Tim Quarterman of LSU and Isaiah Taylor of Texas.
  • Bismack Biyombo’s playoff performance virtually assures his future won’t be in Toronto, claims Scott Stinson of the National Post. Biyombo put up dazzling numbers after Jonas Valanciunas was sidelined by a sprained ankle and may have earned a maximum contract. Valanciunas has a four-year, $64MM extension that begins next season, and Stinson doesn’t think the Raptors want to give huge money to two centers.

And-Ones: Shaw, Saric, Jackson

Brian Shaw does not expect to interview for the Knicks head coaching job and speculates that interim coach Kurt Rambis will be retained, as Shaw said in an ESPN TV interview that was relayed by’s Ian Begley. The ex-Nuggets coach, who is considered a candidate for the Grizzlies’ head coaching opening as well as the Pacers’ job, told SportsCenter’s Hannah Storm that Rambis is a better fit. “Kurt Rambis is there,” Shaw said. “He’s very adept at running the triangle, and if Phil Jackson wanted a coach that’s going to run that system for him, he has a guy that’s there that he has confidence in. So I don’t see him bringing in somebody else who has the knowledge of that system when he already has somebody there.”

In other news and notes around the league:

  • Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown will fly to Turkey this month to meet with Dario Saric, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The 6’10” forward reportedly told his teammates in the Turkish Basketball League that he’ll opt out of his European contract and sign with the Sixers, who acquired his NBA rights during the 2014 draft. But Colangelo wants to find out for himself, as he told Pompey. “I don’t want to go on hearsay and what might have been said by him or what his friends are telling people he’s telling them,” he said. “I’d rather speak to the individual.”
  • Mark Jackson would be an ideal candidate to replace Frank Vogel as the Pacers coach,’s David Aldridge opines in his latest Morning Tip column. He proved he could turn around a franchise in his last head coaching job with the Warriors and led Indiana to an NBA Finals appearance as a player, Aldridge points out. Jackson has also learned from his missteps with Golden State and will hire a more experienced staff and maintain better lines of communication with management, Aldridge contends.
  • The Jazz must decide this summer whether small forward Gordon Hayward fits in their long-term plans, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes in his offseason evaluation of the team. Hayward will likely seek a max deal that could approach $30MM per year next summer when he can opt out of his contract, but he didn’t show much growth this season, Marks continues. The Jazz must also sort out their point guard situation and add an athletic wing and reserve center, Marks adds.

Grizzlies Notes: Coaching Search, Joerger, Conley

Former Pacers coach Frank Vogel will be part of a long list of candidates to replace Dave Joerger, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Tillery expects the Grizzlies to reach out to veteran coaches David Blatt, Brian Shaw, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. GM Chris Wallace promised a “thoughtful and comprehensive” process, adding that there is no rush to find a replacement. He plans to consider college coaches as well as NBA assistants. “We don’t have a guy,” Wallace said. “We’ll talk to people and see how it goes. It’s not about dealing from a pre-existing category. It’s about finding the right guy. We’re very much in the preliminary stages.” Tillery writes that “reshaping” the team, which the front office didn’t believe Joerger was willing to do, will be among the responsibilities for the next coach.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • Wallace’s call for stability in the organization is laughable, writes Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal, pointing out that in the past four years, the Grizzlies have been through an ownership change, two GM changes and two coaching changes. Joerger had been expressing his unhappiness in subtle ways throughout the season, Calkins notes, and felt betrayed when Jeff Green and Courtney Lee were dealt away at the trade deadline. Joerger also said the roster was “old and slow” and repeatedly praised Jazz rookie Rodney Hood, whom the Grizzlies passed over in the draft. Calkins questions whether free agent point guard Mike Conley will want to re-sign with an organization that has seen so much turnover.
  • The Grizzlies may not have enough to offer on the free agent market, according to Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders. Memphis must decide by June 29th whether to pick up a $9.4MM option for next season on Lance Stephenson. If the Grizzlies keep him and all their other contracts while renouncing Matt Barnes and Chris Andersen, they will have about $60MM in guaranteed salary against a cap projected at more than $90MM. However, Conley carries a $14MM cap hold, which means money must be cut in other areas for the team to offer a max contract. Vince Carter and JaMychal Green are possibilities, as they both have contracts that won’t be guaranteed until January. Brandan Wright and his $5.7MM deal could be traded to clear more room. Dowsett speculates about Eric Gordon, Joe Johnson, Arron Afflalo, Gerald Henderson and Leandro Barbosa as possible free agent targets.

Kings To Interview Mark Jackson

MAY 3RD, 6:25pm: Jackson’s interview is scheduled for Wednesday, Jones tweets.

APRIL 28TH, 5:27pm: The Kings’ reported list of coaching candidates is a wide-ranging one that continues to grow, with Mark Jackson the latest to land an interview with Sacramento, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays via Twitter. The interview hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the Kings want to hire a coach by sometime next week, as Jones previously reported. That would appear to mean any sit-down between the two parties will likely occur in the near future, though that is merely my speculation.

Jackson reportedly interviewed with the Wolves prior to Tom Thibodeau being hired and was in the mix for the Nets job that’s since gone to Kenny Atkinson. He’s been Jeff Van Gundy’s broadcast partner on ABC and ESPN since the Warriors fired him following a 51-win campaign two seasons ago. Jackson’s dismissal came primarily because his personality clashed with key members of the organization, and it was in spite of the widespread support he had from players. Jackson was 121-109 in three seasons with Golden State.

The Kings have received permission to interview Grizzlies assistant coach Elston Turner and have asked the Pacers for permission to interview assistant Nate McMillan, as Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago reported earlier today. They’ve interviewed Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro and Mike Woodson and would like to do so with Luke Walton, Kevin McHale and Jeff Hornacek, according to earlier reports. Van Gundy, Brian Shaw, Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka, Monty Williams, Patrick Ewing, David Blatt, Jay Larranaga and Henry Bibby are the other names the team is said to be considering.

Kings To Interview Corliss Williamson

7:59am: The interview with Williamson will take place this week, sources told Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.

9:58pm: Kings assistant coach Corliss Williamson will receive a formal interview for the head coaching job, tweets Marc Stein of The Kings are also conducting interviews this week with David BlattMark Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Patrick Ewing for their opening, league sources told Stein (Twitter link).

Williamson has been an assistant coach with the Kings since the 2013/14. Prior to joining Sacramento’s staff, the 42-year-old Williamson was the head coach at Central Arkansas. Williamson began his playing career with the Kings in 1995 and played for five teams, winning a championship with the Pistons in 2004.

Willliamson would seem to be a long shot, considering all the big names under consideration for the position. He’s the only known candidate from George Karl’s staff.

Pacers assistant Nate McMillan is also expected to get an interview in the near future. Other possible contenders for the job, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors detailed last week, include Henry Bibby, Vinny Del Negro, Jay LarranagaKevin McHaleEttore Messina, Sam Mitchell, Brian Shaw, Elston Turner, Ime Udoka, Jeff Van Gundy, Monty Williams and Mike Woodson.

Blatt is also expected to interview with the Rockets, and he’s under consideration for the Knicks’ job.

Latest On Kings’ Coaching Search

Former Rockets coach Kevin McHale has emerged as a serious contender for the Kings’ vacant head coaching post, Marc Stein of relays. McHale and Sacramento executive Vlade Divac have engaged in exploratory discussions regarding the position, but the talks haven’t escalated to the point where a deal is imminent, Stein adds. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported that Sacramento was interested in speaking with McHale as it looks to replace the fired George Karl.

The only official interview for the team’s vacant coaching slot thus far has been with former Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, though the team plans on sitting down with former Clippers and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro later this week, Stein adds. Also said to be on the Kings’ list of candidates are former Hawks and Knicks coach Mike Woodson, former Warriors head man Mark Jackson, Pacers assistant Nate McMillan and former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, the ESPN scribe notes. The Kings reportedly plan to interview Woodson and Hornacek. Sacramento apparently reached out to Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks prior to both men landing jobs last week and has also touched base with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, Warriors assistant Luke Walton and former Cavs coach David Blatt, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee.

McHale, 57, had entered the 2015/16 season as the NBA’s fifth-longest tenured head coach, having taken over the Rockets in June 2011. Houston had a winning record in each of McHale’s full seasons, with last year’s 56-26 mark the best of his tenure. But a 4-7 start to the season as well as reported locker room issues led the Rockets to part ways with the former Celtics great. His .598 regular season winning percentage is the best of all-time among Rockets coaches. He was 193-130 in the regular season and 13-16 in the playoffs overall with the Rockets. McHale went 39-55 over two separate stints as coach of the Timberwolves in the 2000s, and he didn’t coach Minnesota in a postseason game.