Charles Lee

Celtics To Hire Charles Lee As Lead Assistant Coach

Charles Lee is finalizing an agreement to join the Celtics as their lead assistant coach, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Lee, 38, was one of the hottest names on the coaching market this spring. He was reportedly a finalist for the coaching vacancies in Detroit and Toronto and received consideration from the Bucks and Suns as well. He served as associate head coach under Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee and worked with Budenholzer in Atlanta as well.

Lee is the latest high-profile addition for the Celtics, who were determined to rebuild Joe Mazzulla‘s coaching staff after a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. The team also plans to add former Sixers assistant Sam Cassell, according to a report last week.

Mazzulla didn’t get the chance to build his own team of assistants after Ime Udoka was suspended shortly before the start of the regular season. Damon Stoudamire left Boston in March to become the new head coach at Georgia Tech, and assistants Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser, Garrett Jackson and possibly Aaron Miles are reportedly headed to Houston to join Udoka.

Charles Lee Still In Mix For Raptors’ Head Coaching Job?

Longtime Bucks assistant Charles Lee may be among the finalists for the Raptors‘ head coaching job, according to Marc Stein, who writes at Substack that Lee is believed to have had a second interview with the team.

Steve Bulpett of reported on Friday evening (via Twitter) that the completion of some NBA coaching staffs has been delayed because teams are waiting to see whether Lee will end up in Toronto.

Lee is reportedly receiving consideration for multiple teams as an assistant, so if he’s hired by the Raptors or another team, it could have a domino effect on his other suitors, who would have to look elsewhere.

Lee is a former Bucknell shooting guard who played professionally in international basketball leagues for several seasons. He has been a longtime assistant under Mike Budenholzer, first with the Hawks (2014-18) and then with the Bucks (since 2018). With Budenholzer seemingly set to take a year off, it appears Lee will seek a new opportunity outside of Milwaukee.

The Raptors’ head coaching search is the only one yet to be completed, and there hasn’t been much solid reporting on which candidates are among the finalists. As Stein writes, Virtus Bologna coach Sergio Scariolo, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic are thought to still be in the running. Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez had also been mentioned as a possible finalist, but recent reporting suggests he’s not a frontrunner.

Pistons Rumors: Burks, Grant, Johnson, Bogdanovic, Frontcourt, More

The Pistons are expected to pick up their $10.5MM team option on veteran swingman Alec Burks for the 2023/24 season, Michael Scotto said during the latest episode of The HoopsHype podcast. However, Scotto’s guest James L. Edwards of The Athletic believes Detroit will be in the market for at least one more three-and-D wing in free agency, naming Jerami Grant and Cameron Johnson as potential targets.

If the Trail Blazers hang onto Damian Lillard and continue trying to contend immediately, Grant may simply re-sign in Portland. But if the Blazers pivot to a rebuild, the Pistons should be considered a prime suitor for the veteran forward, according to Edwards, who notes that Grant still has a great relationship with general manager Troy Weaver and loves the city of Detroit.

Should the Pistons strike out on top-tier targets like Grant and Johnson, they could pursue lower-level free agents such as Torrey Craig and Yuta Watanabe, per Edwards.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • Scotto has heard that the Pistons still consider Bojan Bogdanovic a core piece, and Edwards agrees that the team seems to want to keep him rather than move him. Still, Edwards notes that if the team makes a big addition at forward (such as Grant or Johnson) and gets a good offer for Bogdanovic, a trade isn’t out of the question.
  • Scotto has spoken to rival executives who think the addition of James Wiseman to a frontcourt that also includes Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley III could land Isaiah Stewart on the trade block. Edwards is skeptical though, suggesting that the Pistons saw an opportunity to roll the dice on Wiseman and still like the big men they’ve drafted. “As someone who’s on the ground floor, I think the situation has been misinterpreted a little bit,” Edwards told Scotto. “I think it’s far more likely that Duren and Stewart are the frontcourt. I think Wiseman was a guy they had a chance to get that they liked coming into his draft and see if they could unlock some potential as a backup big or starting big. Right now, it’s Duren and Stewart’s frontcourt job.” Stewart is more likely to be extended than traded this summer, Edwards adds.
  • Killian Hayes is open to signing a rookie scale extension with Detroit this offseason, according to Scotto. Edwards expects the Pistons to hold off on a new deal though, suggesting the team will wait another year and then evaluate Hayes’ situation in 2024, when he’s eligible for restricted free agency.
  • Before the Pistons made a last-minute push to hire Monty Williams as their head coach, they were preparing to offer the job to Charles Lee. “His second interview really sealed that home for a lot of people, everyone in the front office, until they sat down as a group, I’m told, and explored and made sure this was what they wanted to do,” Edwards said. “The owner brought up bringing one more run at Monty. They make the run, break the bank, and Monty is the coach.”

Celtics Notes: Cassell, Lee, Mazzulla, Brown

Sam Cassell was the perfect choice to fill the role of lead assistant to Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Cassell held the same position on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Sixers and was universally liked throughout the organization, Weiss adds.

After losing Damon Stoudamire to Georgia Tech in March, Boston needed an ex-player on its bench who could relate to the team’s stars as well as those who rarely play, Weiss notes. He states that Cassell was responsible for keeping James Harden focused in Philadelphia and helped to develop Tyrese Maxey.

The Celtics have a lot of open spots to fill on the coaching staff, especially if Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser, Garrett Jackson and possibly Aaron Miles are joining Ime Udoka in Houston, as rumored. Weiss suggests that Boston might consider other Sixers coaches such as Dave Joerger, Dan Burke and Jamie Young, who spent several years with the Celtics as an assistant to Rivers and Brad Stevens, along with Jerome Allen, who coached under Dwane Casey with the Pistons.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Charles Lee, who was one of the finalists for Detroit’s head coaching job, is under consideration to join the Celtics as an assistant, tweets Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. However, Lee “remains involved in several situations,” Fischer adds.
  • Former Celtics boss and current Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is a strong supporter of Mazzulla after watching his first year as a head coach, per Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe. Ainge says the players never quit on Mazzulla, despite accusations after Game 3 of the conference finals, and he adapted and learned as he made his way through the playoffs. “You see Joe’s toughness and stubbornness,” Ainge said. “He’s a relentless worker. He has a passion to learn. Joe is a leader, and I think this was a difficult situation with the high expectations the team had coming in. I don’t think there’s anybody there that doesn’t believe that Joe is better than Ime (Udoka) as a coach.”
  • Steve Bulpett of talks to several rival executives and coaches who believe the Celtics should keep Jaylen Brown and re-sign Grant Williams. “I hear fans up there are debating whether to give Brown the super-max, but at some point the numbers don’t really matter,” one general manager said. “First of all, the guy is one of the better players in the league. Start there. I know people are all upset about his last game, and sure he was bad, but that was a team-wide collapse. Just take a step back and look at where he is and what he can do. The guy can play.”

Pistons Hire Monty Williams As Head Coach

JUNE 2: In a lengthy press release, the Pistons announced that Williams is officially the team’s new head coach. The Pistons also described how the agreement came to pass.

I couldn’t be more proud to have Monty joining us at this important time to lead us into the next decade of our future,” said Gores. “He embodies all of the qualities we want in a leader for our Pistons franchise, and most importantly a teacher and mentor for our players. He will have an impact on every aspect of our franchise, on and off the court.

After spending some time with Monty, it’s clear that he’s found a unique balance between achieving victory at the highest level while at the same time nurturing a culture of growth, development and inspiration. I’m beyond excited. This is a huge win for us.”

MAY 31: Monty Williams has reached an agreement to become the next head coach of the Pistons, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The former Suns coach will receive a six-year contract and the deal is expected to be finalized within a few days, sources tell Charania.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Williams’ salary as $78.5MM, which makes it the largest coaching contract in league history (Twitter link).

The agreement also includes two additional team option years and could reach $100MM with incentives, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo. Owner Tom Gores was heavily involved in the recruitment of Williams, Goodwill adds, as was general manager Troy Weaver, who worked with Williams in Oklahoma City.

Williams rejected Detroit’s initial interest and had planned to take a year off before coaching again. However, Gores remained in contact with Williams and was able to get him to reconsider, Goodwill writes. The team prepared an offer and negotiations began over the weekend, sources tell Goodwill, adding that Gores and Williams held their first meeting Sunday night in Los Angeles.

The Pistons began an interview process shortly after Dwane Casey resigned to take a management role after the regular season ended. Former Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, and Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins were reported as the three finalists for the position way back on April 21, but the Pistons waited to see if a more experienced coach would become available.

With a young roster highlighted by former overall No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, the Pistons are hoping that Williams can transform them the same way he turned around Phoenix after arriving in 2019. Williams took the Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021 and compiled a 194-115 record in four seasons, but new owner Mat Ishbia opted to make a coaching change after a second straight disappointing playoff exit.

Central Notes: M. Williams, Pistons, Bucks, Pacers

If Monty Williams hadn’t accepted an extremely lucrative offer to become the Pistons‘ new head coach, the team likely would’ve ended up deciding between Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee. According to reporting from Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic and Omari Sankofa of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required), the Pistons met again with Ollie last Thursday and Lee on Friday before convening on Saturday to discuss their options.

Team sources who spoke to The Athletic said that both Ollie and Lee impressed the franchise “in different ways,” but the Pistons decided to circle back to Williams once more after he had rebuffed their initial advances.

Following Saturday’s meeting between Pistons ownership and management, team owner Tom Gores sent a private plane to pick up Williams in Phoenix on Sunday and flew him to Gores’ home in California. One day later, on Memorial Day, the Pistons made a formal offer to Williams, who agreed to the “fundamentals of the terms” but took a couple more days to weigh his decision before deciding on Wednesday to accept Detroit’s offer.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes a look at what the Pistons are getting in Williams, writing that the veteran coach will demand accountability in Detroit and is capable of building and nurturing a positive culture like he did in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • There’s plenty to like about the Bucks‘ decision to hire Adrian Griffin as their new head coach, according to Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who views Griffin’s extensive and varied experience as both a player and a coach as a good sign that he’ll be able to connect with players of all skill levels and backgrounds.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Eric Nehm considers the Bucks‘ next moves with Khris Middleton (player option for 2023/24) and Brook Lopez (UFA). As Nehm points out, Milwaukee’s cap situation would make it difficult to find suitable replacements for Middleton and/or Lopez if they’re not brought back, but the team may still have some leverage in contract talks with the duo if cap-room teams don’t prioritize the Bucks’ vets.
  • Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star breaks down the pros and cons of some of the players who could be available for the Pacers with the No. 7 overall pick, including Cam Whitmore, Ausar Thompson, Taylor Hendricks, and Anthony Black.
  • After wrapping up his college career at Iowa this spring, Connor McCaffery – the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery – is taking what he refers to as an “entry-level” job with the Pacers, per Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register. “I’ll play dummy defense, run the scout team, help coaches on film stuff, help on video projects if they need, scouting reports if they need,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s kind of all-hands on deck, whatever you’re asked to do, be ready to do it.”

Pistons Notes: Walker, Miller, Williams, Draft Pick Trades

Houston’s Jarace Walker appears to be the most likely draft choice for the Pistons, but the possibility of Alabama’s Brandon Miller sliding to No. 5 shouldn’t be dismissed, Mike Curtis of The Detroit News writes in a mailbag column. Miller is currently expected to be taken second or third, but unanswered questions about his connection to a fatal shooting in January continue to hang over him. He reportedly brought a legal brief from his attorneys to the draft combine that explained why he couldn’t go into detail about the case.

If the Hornets opt for Scoot Henderson at No. 2, Curtis views the Trail Blazers‘ pick as unpredictable due to rumors that they’re seeking to trade it for veteran help. The Rockets would also have to pass on Miller at No. 4, and while Curtis admits the scenario seems unlikely, he says it’s possible that Miller could continue to slip if teams are concerned about his legal issues.

If Detroit does wind up with Walker, Curtis sees it as a smooth fit for an organization that hopes to rebuild around defense. Walker is considered one of the strongest front court defenders in the draft, and he’s versatile enough to handle either forward position and maybe even see time as a small-ball center. Curtis notes that Walker has exhibited some promise as a play-maker as well.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • A report earlier today indicated that the Pistons are willing to give Monty Williams $10MM per year to become their next head coach, and Marc Stein states in an email that the offers he has heard are $50MM over five years or $60MM over six years. Stein adds that owner Tom Gores‘ recent meetings with finalists Charles Lee and Kevin Ollie came after Williams turned down the team’s first offer. The Pistons view Williams as a perfect choice to establish the culture for a young roster, according to Stein.
  • There’s a wide variance in opinions on prospects after the top three, so the Pistons’ best move might be to trade back and pick up more draft assets, state James L. Edwards III and John Hollinger of The Athletic. The authors view the Thunder, Jazz and Wizards as teams that might have interest in moving up to No. 5.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required) also considers possible trades with the fifth pick, suggesting that it might be used in a package to get Jaylen Brown from the Celtics or Dejounte Murray from the Hawks.

Pistons Continue To Pursue Monty Williams

The Pistons remain in heavy pursuit of Monty Williams for their head coaching position, according to Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic.

Detroit has been hopeful since Williams was dismissed by Phoenix that he’d consider accepting the Pistons’ job and is preparing an offer in the neighborhood of $10MM per year for the veteran coach, league sources tell Charania and Edwards.

Marc Stein has been on top of this story, reporting last week that the Pistons’ efforts to hire Williams with a “big-money” offer had thus far been unsuccessful, then following up a few days later to say that the team may not have given up on the idea of landing Williams.

When Williams was let go by Phoenix, he still had $20MM+ left on his contract with the team, so there was a sense that he wouldn’t be in any rush to take another head coaching job this offseason. He told interested teams, including the Pistons and Bucks, that he was leaning toward taking a year off, per Charania and Edwards. However, the Pistons appear to be doing all they can to convince him to change his plans.

Reports earlier in May indicated that Detroit had narrowed its head coaching search to Bucks assistant Charles Lee, former Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie, and Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins, but those three candidates have been referred to as finalists for weeks, with little indication that the club was nearing a decision.

If Williams ultimately decides to turn down the Pistons’ pitch, Lee is expected to be the team’s next choice, sources tell The Athletic. Lee and Ollie have both met twice with team owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver and remain in contention to replace Dwane Casey on Detroit’s bench, according to Charania and Edwards.

Stein’s Latest: Irving, Russell, Wizards, M. Williams, Raptors

If the Lakers opt to pursue Kyrie Irving in free agency, the Mavericks wouldn’t be interested in taking back free agent guard D’Angelo Russell as the primary player in a sign-and-trade deal, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack column.

There hasn’t been any concrete information that trying to sign Irving is part of the Lakers’ offseason plans, Stein adds, but there’s plenty of speculation that LeBron James would like to reunite with his former Cavaliers teammate. L.A. was heavily rumored as a possible destination for Irving when he considered opting out of his contract last summer and again when he asked the Nets for a trade in February.

James’ retirement talk after being swept by Denver is widely seen as a message to the Lakers’ front office that a roster upgrade is needed, but Stein isn’t convinced that they’ll be active on the free agent market. He states that the team’s preferred plan is to reach new deals with two of its own free agents, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. It’s less certain that L.A. wants to keep Russell after his disastrous performance in the Western Conference Finals, Stein adds.

The Mavericks appear committed to keeping Irving after paying a high price to acquire him from Brooklyn, according to Stein. A report last weekend indicated that a “handshake deal” may already be in place for Irving to remain in Dallas.

Stein passes along more inside information:

  • Teams around the league are expecting new Wizards president Michael Winger to be aggressive in trying to reshape the roster this summer, but Bradley Beal‘s no-trade clause may complicate his plans. Stein points out that Beal has four seasons left on his five-year, $251MM contract and can’t be sent to any other team unless he agrees to the deal. Stein also wonders how the front office change will affect Kristaps Porzingis, who reportedly began extension talks in March.
  • Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee were set for second interviews this week for the Pistons‘ head coaching vacancy, but Stein hears that the team hasn’t given up on its pursuit of Monty Williams. The former Suns head coach reportedly turned down a “big-money” offer from Detroit, but some members of the organization are hoping he might reconsider.
  • A source tells Stein that Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez is a legitimate candidate to become the Raptors‘ new head coach.

Latest On Suns’ Head Coaching Search

There are conflicting accounts on exactly where things stand in the Suns‘ head coaching search.

On Tuesday evening, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN both reported that Phoenix was advancing a handful of candidates to the final stage of the process, but the names the two reporters identified didn’t match up.

Charania and Wojnarowski agreed that Nick Nurse, Doc Rivers, Kevin Young, and Jordi Fernandez are among the Suns’ finalists, but Charania added Frank Vogel to that list, while Woj said there were only four remaining candidates.

In a story published late on Tuesday, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic came down on Charania’s side, citing sources who say that the Suns have five finalists, with Vogel still in the mix.

However, Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report has pushed back on that entire series of reports, tweeting overnight that Phoenix has actually yet to reach the final stage of its interview process. According to Haynes, the team is still expected to meet with Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson.

[RELATED: 2023 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

It’s odd that the NBA’s top two news-breakers and a plugged-in local beat writer would each separately report that the Suns are entering the final stage of their head coaching search process if the club still has interviews on tap with additional candidates. Perhaps Phoenix could expand its list of finalists to include Lee and/or Atkinson — based on the reports from Charania, Wojnarowski, and Rankin, I wouldn’t consider either of them a frontrunner at this point, but it sounds like they shouldn’t be entirely ruled out either.

The Suns are seeking a replacement for Monty Williams, who was let go after four seasons with the franchise despite compiling a 194-115 regular season record, leading Phoenix to the 2021 NBA Finals, and earning Coach of the Year honors in 2022.

Initial reporting following Williams’ dismissal indicated that Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue may be atop Phoenix’s wish list. Lue’s name hasn’t come up at all in recent days, which likely suggests that the Suns are resigned to the fact that he’ll be staying in Los Angeles.