Mike Longabardi

Wizards Announce Changes To Coaching Staff

The Wizards have formally announced a series of changes to Scott Brooks‘ coaching staff, issuing a press release to confirm the moves.

Tony Brown, who has been an assistant on Brooks’ staff since 2016, has been promoted to associate head coach, making him the lead assistant in Washington. The team also hired Mike Longabardi, Corey Gaines, and Dean Oliver as assistants.

Longabardi, a veteran coach who served as an assistant for the Rockets, Celtics, Suns, and Cavaliers, has won titles with Boston and Cleveland. Gaines served as a coaching consultant for the Pistons last season after spending time as an assistant for the Knicks and Suns. Oliver, whom the Wizards call a “pioneer in sports analytics,” comes to D.C. from Sacramento.

Ryan Richman, an assistant coach for Brooks last season, has been named the head coach of the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s G League affiliate. Jarell Christian, the Go-Go’s head coach in 2018/19, has joined the Wizards’ staff as an assistant. Interestingly, the Go-Go’s press release refers to both moves as “promotions.”

Despite all the incoming hires, the Wizards are also bringing back several members of last year’s staff, including assistants Robert Pack and Mike Terpstra, and developmental coach Kristi Toliver.

“Coach Brooks and I worked closely to pinpoint what areas we needed to improve and identify the best candidates, both internally and externally, to make the appropriate changes,” new permanent Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “We’re very confident that we have a strong staff in place that is in line with the vision we have for our rebuilding our culture and focusing on the overall development of our players.”

Cavaliers Notes: Lue, Smith, Defense, Blatt

The Cavaliers are in their worst position since LeBron James returned and nobody is sure what’s coming next, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Dan Gilbert is known as an emotional and reactionary owner, and giving up 148 points to the Thunder on Saturday may push him to make a move. That could be a trade, alterations to the lineup or changes on the coaching staff.

Head coach Tyronn Lue is probably safe because there is no obvious choice to replace him. If Lue is dismissed, assistants Larry Drew and Mike Longabardi would probably follow, and Jim Boylan isn’t viewed as a potential head coach, according to Lloyd. The other assistants, James Posey, Phil Handy and Damon Jones, don’t have the experience to handle a high-profile team like the Cavaliers. Someone outside the organization would be put in a difficult position trying to install a new system in the middle of a season, Lloyd adds.

There’s more news out of Cleveand:

  • The Cavs aren’t getting much production from J.R. Smith, but they don’t have a good option to replace him until Iman Shumpert returns from knee surgery, Lloyd adds in the same story. Kyle Korver isn’t an option to start at age 36, and Cedi Osman isn’t a long-term solution. Dwyane Wade began the season as a starter, but has settled into his role as the leader of the second unit. Another problem is the poor play of Jae Crowder, Lloyd writes, which could force Lue to reinsert Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup and put Channing Frye back in the rotation.
  • Personnel changes are the only thing that can fix the mess in Cleveland, contends Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. The Cavaliers aren’t as good as they appear on offense, he writes, with poor ball movement and too much one-on-one play that leads to too many 3-pointers. They’re even worse at the other end of the court, with no rim protectors and no strong defenders on the perimeter. “I think it’s tough for us one-on-one [to defend],” Lue said Saturday when asked whether the issue was personnel or effort. “Look at the final score — you score 124 and still lose by 24, that’s tough to swallow.”
  • The Cavaliers’ problems haven’t escaped the notice of former coach David Blatt, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. “I hope we don’t give up as many points as Cleveland did last night,” Blatt said before the Turkish All-Star Game.

Cavaliers Rumors: LeBron, Irving, Williams, Lue

After a week filled with speculation sparked by comments that he would like to team up with three of his friends, LeBron James is expressing confidence in the Cavaliers’ chances at an NBA title, writes Fred Kerber of The New York Post. James said he dreams of joining forces with Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul for at least one season before they all retire. That came on the heels of a decision Monday to unfollow the Cavs’ official Twitter account. On Saturday, James, who can opt out of his contract this summer, expressed confidence in his current teammates and indicated his long-term future will be in Cleveland. “I believe in what we have,” he said. “And I know we can win a championship with the group we have. And I’m confident in my abilities to lead this group and everything else is smoke and mirrors and doesn’t really matter to me.”

There’s more news out of Cleveland:

  • The constant hints about his future have turned James into a distraction, contends Mark Heisler of The Los Angeles Daily News. Replacing head coach David Blatt with Tyronn Lue was supposed to bring peace to the locker room, but Heisler writes that point guard Kyrie Irving isn’t willing to become a second option to James the way that Wade did in Miami. Irving is seven years younger than James and is signed through 2019, so Heisler thinks he considers himself a cornerstone in Cleveland regardless of what James decides.
  • Backup point guard Mo Williams returned to the court Saturday for the first time in a month after getting an injection in his left knee, according to Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. Williams had just started practicing a few days ago, but Lue asked him to help out with Irving sidelined. “I just started on-court stuff Monday,” Williams said. “In my mind it was next week, that’s what I was telling everyone silently. Every situation is different and I’m the ultimate team guy. I’m not going to put our team in a bind.” Williams said he will probably have knee pain the rest of his career but doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon.
  • Lue resumed coaching the defense after the Cavs gave up 122 points last week in a loss to Miami, Lloyd writes in the same piece. He had given those duties to assistant Mike Longabardi after being named head coach.

Central Notes: Drummond, Blatt, Longabardi

Andre Drummond‘s free-throw shooting leaves much to be desired, but he’s working on it with Pistons shooting coach Dave Hopla, and the deficiency is not nearly glaring enough to dissuade the team from giving him a maximum-salary contract in the summer, MLive’s David Mayo contends. Besides, failing to max him out would break the trust between team and player forged when they let the extension deadline pass in the fall for the benefit of cap flexibility in the offseason ahead, and the consequences of such a betrayal would be profound, Mayo argues. See more from the Central Division:

  • The lack of pace with which the Cavs played under former coach David Blatt was a source of conflict between him and the front office, as even though Blatt was aware the team played better when it ran, he was unable to quicken the attack, according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Still, members of the Cavs have told Pluto that the team could take a step back before it improves while adjusting to the new speed under Tyronn Lue.
  • The Cavs formally hired Mike Longabardi as an assistant coach before Wednesday’s game, the team announced. Longabardi was one of two assistants the Suns fired a month ago. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com first reported that Longabardi would be joining the Cleveland staff as a defensive specialist.
  • Mike Dunleavy will play rehab games on D-League assignment before making his return to the Bulls from back surgery, his father, Mike Dunleavy Sr., said Wednesday on SiriusXM NBA Radio, as host Justin Termine tweets.

And-Ones: Cavs, Wiggins, Nets

The Cavs will add veteran assistant Mike Longabardi to new head coach Tyronn Lue‘s staff, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports. Lue and Longabardi spent four seasons together on Doc Rivers‘ staff in Boston, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Longabardi is expected to take over the defensive specialist role that Lue held, Windhorst adds. The Suns fired Longabardi, who is known as a defensive specialist, from his role as assistant coach in late December.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Andrew Wiggins has not spoke candidly about his feelings regarding the Cavs, the team that shipped him to the Wolves as part of the deal for Kevin Love, and instead has preferred to let his play speak for itself, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes. Wiggins has performed particularly well against the Cavs, as Youngblood points out.
  • One of the top assistants in the league, like Sean Sweeney of the Bucks, would be a sensible fit for the Nets‘ coaching vacancy because it would be wise for Brooklyn to avoid the long term implications of a flashy hire, Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders argues.
  • Center Salah Mejri, who was recently coming off the bench in the D-League, found himself starting for the Mavs in place of the injured Zaza Pachulia and is making the most out of his opportunity, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News relays.
  • Arinze Onuaku, who was with the Wolves at the end of last season, will be signing with the D-League, international journalist David Pick reports (on Twitter). Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv released Onuaku, Pick adds.

Jeff Hornacek On Hot Seat With Suns

MONDAY, 11:05am: The Suns have officially announced the assistant coaching moves in a press release. “It is never easy to make changes to a coaching staff in the middle of a season but we feel Earl and Nate are ready to take the next steps in their careers and provide some creative ideas to our group,” said GM Ryan McDonough. “We thank Mike and Jerry for their contributions. They are both good coaches who made significant contributions to our team winning 87 games over the previous two seasons.

11:10pm: The Suns are firing assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, while Stein hears that fellow assistants Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson will take on more prominent roles (Twitter links). Hornacek’s future is still unclear, Wojnarowski says, though Stein suggests in a second tweet that the moves indicate the team is giving Hornacek another chance.

SUNDAY, 1:39pm: Jeff Hornacek‘s job as head coach of the Suns is under immediate threat because of the team’s 12-20 record and its recent 5-15 skid, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. With belief growing within the organization that the team is no longer responding to Hornacek, the organization is thinking about making a coaching switch, according to Stein. This is the final guaranteed season on Hornacek’s original four-year contract.

The Suns were viewed as having a strong chance to make the playoffs this season after solid campaigns in each of Hornacek’s first two seasons. Phoenix was one of the league’s most improved teams in 2013/14, Hornacek’s first year. The Suns went 48-34 that season yet did not make the playoffs. They were 39-43 last season and again missed the playoffs. The Suns’ signing of Tyson Chandler was thought to be a significant addition and one that would make the Suns a much better team, as Stein points out.

Things have not worked out that way, especially lately. The Suns’ loss to the Sixers on Saturday seems to have been especially tough for the organization to swallow, Stein writes. It was Philadelphia’s first road win since last March. What’s more, as Stein adds, it was the first game on the Sixers’ bench for former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who was hired recently by new Philadelphia chairman of basketball operations and former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo to serve as associate head coach to the Sixers’ Brett Brown. The timing of the news is also interesting because Eric Bledsoe will likely miss a significant amount of time with a knee injury, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Hornacek’s agent, Steve Kauffman, reportedly engaged in an odd exchange on an online message board over the summer in which he denied that Hornacek declined to interview for the then-vacant head coaching position at Iowa State, his alma mater. Shortly before that, Hornacek expressed his commitment to the Suns when asked if he had interest in coaching the Cyclones.

Hoops Rumors Community Shootaround: 12/27/15

The positive momentum the Suns gathered from nearly landing LaMarcus Aldridge this past summer was short-lived. Markieff Morris demanded a trade later in the offseason, and though he seemingly recanted that at the start of training camp, Phoenix has apparently engaged in serious talks about dealing him away, and coach Jeff Hornacek is reportedly in danger of following him out the door. Eric Bledsoe isn’t going anywhere, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be on the court anytime soon, as the initial belief is reportedly that he’ll be out until the All-Star break is through with an injured left knee.

Suns ownership and management has been reluctant to fire Hornacek, but owner Robert Sarver and GM Ryan McDonough had one-on-one meetings with Suns players today to try to understand why the team has fallen to 12-20, a record that includes an ugly home loss to the Sixers on Saturday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Assistants Mike Longabardi and Earl Watson are possible replacements if the Suns oust Hornacek, Wojnarowski writes. A source with ties to the Suns who spoke with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck a few weeks ago speculatively predicted that the Suns would get rid of Hornacek and go after Warriors interim coach Luke Walton in the offseason (Twitter link). Morris is in the middle of a two-game suspension the team handed down after he threw a towel that connected with Hornacek during Wednesday’s game, though Morris says he didn’t mean to hit the coach.

It all leads to our question for the day: What do the Suns need to do to fix their issues? Should they fire Hornacek? If so, with whom should they replace him for the short term and long term? Should they trade Morris? If so, who or what should they realistically try to obtain in return? If they keep Hornacek and Morris, what’s the solution to their problems?

Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the matter. We look forward to what you have to say.

And-Ones: Garnett, Williams, Longabardi

Here’s what else we’ve heard from around the Association tonight:

  • Despite his drop in production, all indications still point to Kevin Garnett returning to the Nets in 2014/15 for his 20th NBA season, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post.
  • With Deron Williams scheduled to undergo dual ankle surgery soon, it obviously complicates Brooklyn’s chances of moving him this summer, says Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
  • It’s difficult to understand why Suns assistant Mike Longabardi hasn’t been on the radar of any NBA teams with head coaching openings right now, opines Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Longabardi, who previously served as an assistant coach to both Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau, is credited for improving Phoenix’s defense last season (Twitter link).
  • Mannix suggests (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies should consider surrendering a first round draft pick in exchange for Thibodeau.
  • The Knicks were not one of the teams that contacted Florida coach Billy Donovan about their coaching vacancy, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Coaching Rumors: Jazz, Knicks

The Jazz do not currently have a timeline set for finding their new head coach, writes Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. Genessy adds that GM Dennis Lindsey is entering uncharted territory, as the only time he had been involved in a head coaching search was in 2003 with the Rockets, when he assisted then-GM Carroll Dawson as vice president of basketball operations. Despite his inexperience, Lindsey insisted that the search will be conducted with the “right professional decorum” and later added:

“…we’ll meet quickly, internally…We’ll set some criteria. We’ll look at some objective measures. We’ll look at some subjective measures about coaches and who’s going to be the new leader of the Utah Jazz and define some timelines about who we’re going to interview.”

According to Genessy, the new coaching hire will be decided on as a group that includes Lindsey, Jazz owner Gail Miller, CEO Greg Miller, Miller Sports Properties president Steve Miller, team president Randy Rigby, executive VP of basketball operations Kevin O’Connor, and CFO Bob Hyde.

You can read more coaching-related links below:

  • Genessy mentions that in addition to Jazz assistant Brad Jones, Lindsey has close ties with Jeff Van Gundy (who the Rockets ultimately hired to succeed Rudy Tomjanovich in 2003), Suns assistant Mike Longabardi, and Bulls assistant Andy Greer. Along with Jones, Genessy lists Jim Boylen and Ettore Messina as possible candidates, just as we had noted from Mike Monroe of the San Antonio-Express News and ESPN’s Marc Stein earlier today.
  • Former Bulls player Bill Wennington tells Newsday’s Al Iannazzone that Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson would fit together well in New York: “Their history together and just the way they work together and have worked together in the past with the offense and everything is a good combination…To me it’s a no-brainer.” Though Wennington admits that he has an interest in coaching, he tells Iannazzone that he hasn’t spoken to Jackson about possibly joining the Knicks.
  • Iannazzone lists Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Scottie Pippen, Kurt Rambis, and Derek Fisher as a few names who could join the Knicks in some capacity at some point. As Marc Berman of the New York Post mentioned earlier, Ron Harper could surface on the team’s radar as well.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Suns, Jordan

A few notes from around the league's Pacific Division.