Mark Jackson

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.

Lakers Fire Coach Byron Scott

Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports Images

Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports Images

11:18pm: The move is official, the team announced. The Lakers called it a decision not to pick up Scott’s team option for next season. That’s likely a reference to the partial guarantee on next season’s salary that Shelburne alluded to, as the terms are often used interchangeably.

“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” Kupchak said.

10:10pm: The Lakers have fired head coach Byron Scott, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Scott just completed a 17-65 season and had a 38-126 record in two years on the Lakers’ bench. The move was a joint decision by GM Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss and doesn’t signal a shakeup in the front office, tweets Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Primary owner Jeanie Buss reportedly an advocate for Scott behind the scenes, but it appears she’s allowed the basketball department to make its own call.

Warriors assistant Luke Walton may be the favorite to land the L.A. job, tweets Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times, although he points out that by waiting to fire Scott the Lakers missed out on Tom Thibodeau, whom the Wolves hired Wednesday, and Scott Brooks, who is the new coach of the Wizards (Twitter link). Pincus says the Lakers never would have given Thibodeau the organizational control he wanted (Twitter link), but may have had interest in Brooks for his record in developing young players and his ties to Kevin Durant (Twitter link). Along with Walton, Pincus lists David Blatt, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Kevin Ollie as potential replacements (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski also mentions Walton, Van Gundy and Ollie as possibilities, as well as Spurs assistant Ettore Messina. He adds that the Lakers don’t have a definite replacement in mind, and Kupchak will conduct a search in conjunction with team owners.

Earlier this month, Kupchak refused to commit to another year for Scott and said he planned an informal meeting with the coach to discuss his job status. “It does take time to develop young players,” Kupchak said. “We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.” Scott was initially believed to have one more season of guaranteed money on his contract, with a team option for 2017/18, but Ramona Shelburne explains on ESPN Now that the deal became only partially guaranteed for next season because Scott failed to meet performance incentives.

Timberwolves Interview Mark Jackson

WEDNESDAY, 9:42am: Jackson had his interview with the Wolves on Tuesday, Krawczynski notes amid a story on Sacramento’s coaching search.

TUESDAY, 9:44am: The Timberwolves will interview Mark Jackson for their coaching job, a source tells Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter links). The team has reportedly made Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy its top candidates, having interviewed both, and Minnesota is apparently thinking about hiring one or the other for a dual coach/executive role. It’s unclear if that’s the case with Jackson. Krawczynski doesn’t indicate that he’s up for the president of basketball operations position.

The Wolves also had interest in Jackson long ago, as he was one of the finalists when the team hired Kurt Rambis in 2009, as Krawczynski points out. Jackson, who frequently draws mention as a potential candidate for openings, has drawn interest from the Kings and was in the mix this spring for the Nets job that’s since gone to Kenny Atkinson. He’s been Van Gundy’s broadcast partner on ABC and ESPN since the Warriors fired him following a 51-win campaign two years ago. Jackson’s dismissal came in large measure 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 the Warriors, helping turn around a long-dormant franchise that’s since gone on to record-breaking success under coach Steve Kerr.

Dave Joerger and Scott Brooks are also reportedly candidates for the Timberwolves coaching gig, and owner Glen Taylor apparently discussed the job with Brooks last week. Taylor, 74, has been trying to find a buyer who will eventually succeed him as primary owner, and the subject of just how long he plans to remain has come up during the coaching interviews, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link).

The Wolves have partnered with the search firm Korn Ferry, which helped the Pistons land Stan Van Gundy. Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix of The Vertical reported that Taylor is expected to be willing to pay the right candidate $7MM a year, but it appears that salary would be only for someone the team would hire to both coach and run the front office.

Do you think Jackson would fit with the Timberwolves? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Kings To Interview Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro

8:05pm: The Kings’ first three interviews for their vacant coaching position will be with Jackson, Del Negro and former Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, Marc Stein of reports (via Twitter).

TUESDAY, 2:50pm: The Kings are scheduled to interview Vinny Del Negro next week, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, confirming a tweet from Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that indicated as much. They’d like to interview Kevin McHale, but he hasn’t decided whether he’ll meet with the team, league sources told Wojnarowski, who earlier reported the team plans to interview Mike Woodson. The team is expected to meet with a handful of candidates for initial interviews before moving on to the next stage of its search, Wojnarowski hears.

Del Negro’s name emerged among several in the mix for the Kings job when Wojnarowski reported his candidacy last week. Sacramento reportedly contacted Del Negro for its vacancy in December 2014, shortly after firing Michael Malone, but since then, the Kings have had two head coaches, and Vlade Divac succeeded Pete D’Alessandro as the front office chief.

Sacramento has reached out to Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Ettore Messina, Luke Walton and David Blatt in addition to Del Negro and Woodson, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link), though Thibodeau and Brooks appear to be long shots, at best. Jeff Hornacek, Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing, Nate McMillan and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga are others in whom the team reportedly has interest as it seeks a replacement for the fired George Karl.

Experience appears to be a key for Divac as he looks at candidates, and Del Negro fits that bill. The 49-year-old is 210-184 in five seasons as an NBA head coach, split between the Bulls and the Clippers.

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