Royal Ivey

Brian Keefe Top Candidate For Wizards’ Coaching Job?

The Wizards are expected to start interviewing candidates for their head coaching vacancy within the next few days, a team source told Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Brian Keefe, who finished out the 2023/24 season as interim head coach, is viewed by sources from three rival teams as the top candidate for the job, they told Robbins.

Robbins’ sources also speculated that the Wizards might be eyeing Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Rockets assistant Royal Ivey, and Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney as potential candidates.

Washington’s coaching search has been very quiet since the regular season concluded. Multiple staff members were reportedly let go three weeks ago, but the Wizards retained Keefe and assistant coach David Vanterpool.

Multiple reports have stated Keefe will be in the running for the permanent job despite compiling a 8-31 record in his 39 games. He has a “strong player-development background,” Robbins writes, and players were very supportive of Keefe when the season ended. Jordan Poole, for instance, performed much better after Keefe decided to bring him off the bench to be a primary ball-handler and play-maker, Robbins notes.

I can really only just really speak on the stuff that B.K. has brought since he’s been here, and I think he’s been really good for our young team: the detail-orientedness that he brings, the structure that he brings,” Poole said after the regular season ended. “He loves the game, and that’s something that goes a really long way, especially at the highest level. And he’s willing and very genuine and authentic about putting our team (and) putting guys in positions to be successful and play to their strengths and really unlocking them because he cares about them as individuals. He’s done a really good job.”

Ott, Stackhouse, Ivey To Interview For Hornets Job

The Hornets have added Lakers assistant Jordan Ott and former Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse to their list of head coaching candidates, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Ott has been with the Lakers since Darvin Ham brought him in as an assistant in September 2022. He was previously on the Nets’ staff.

Stackhouse was hired by the Commodores in 2019 and fired last month. The former All-Star guard has also been an assistant with the Raptors and Grizzlies and was also the head coach of the G League 905 Raptors.

Rockets assistant Royal Ivey will also be interviewed, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. Ivey was also a Nets assistant for three seasons before joining coach Ime Udoka with the Rockets this season. Ivey has also been an assistant with the Thunder and Knicks.

Denver’s David Adelman, Boston’s Charles Lee, Sacramento’s Jordi Fernandez, the Clippers’ Jay Larranaga, Phoenix’s Kevin Young and Kings G League coach Lindsey Harding have also been identified as candidates to be interviewed for Charlotte’s position. Steve Clifford announced prior to the end of the season that he’d be stepping down.

Southwest Notes: Green, Ivey, Wemby, Popovich, Pelicans

Early-morning workouts and late-night phone calls with assistant coach Royal Ivey have been a factor in Jalen Green breakout this season, according to the Rockets guard, but Ivey is happy to give all the credit to Green, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

“It’s all kudos to Jalen,” Ivey said. “I’m just empowering him and encouraging him. He’s doing the work. At the end of the day, that’s a credit to his resiliency, his determination. And not being in that situation before, facing adversity, sitting down at the end of games, not being in (the game) in defensive possessions, he took that personally. This is the result of that.”

Green’s play earlier in the season was up and down, but he has been one of the league’s top scorers in recent weeks, averaging 28.0 points and 3.9 assists on .479/.394/.798 shooting in his past 17 games. Ivey said the former No. 2 overall pick has had the ball in his hands more lately and has looked more comfortable reading defenses and being aggressive.

“I can say his decision-making is A-1, making the right reads,” Ivey said. “And the finishing, it’s been (about) concentration, not looking for fouls. He’s so athletic, if he gets to his launchpad, good things happen. He’s working with his finishing every day. He’s been more assertive to get to that rim. I just think it’s confidence. It goes back to his mindset. That’s everything.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs star rookie Victor Wembanyama admitted he was a bit surprised to be hit with a $25K fine for throwing the game ball into the stands at the end of last Friday’s win over New York, calling it “funny,” according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “When I threw the ball, I thought, ‘Yeah, I remember players being fined for this,'” Wembanyama said. “But they always threw it in a bad way. I threw it to please somebody. It’s not like I was trying to hurt anybody.”
  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr doesn’t expect long-tenured Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call it a career anytime soon, as Orsborn relays. “He was supposed to have retired five years ago, so why would we predict he is going to retire any time soon?” Kerr said when asked if he expects Popovich to fulfill the five-year contract he signed in 2023. “He is still going strong and still doing a great job and loving his work, so I can see it.”
  • Pelicans head coach Willie Green is still figuring out how to distribute minutes at center as the postseason nears, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The team has gone back and forth between Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr. at the five for much of the season, depending on the matchup. However, Green has also experimented with other options, including using Zion Williamson in that role for the last five minutes of Monday’s game vs. Phoenix, Clark notes.
  • Green was critical of his defense after it allowed Devin Booker to score 52 points in New Orleans for a second time this season on Monday. “Quite frankly, we were soft guarding him,” the Pelicans‘ head coach said after the game, per William Guillory of The Athletic. “We just had a soft mentality.”

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Lively, Graham, Ivey

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic surpassed the 10,000-point mark for his career on Monday night, doing so in the fewest games of any NBA player since Michael Jordan, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic reached the milestone in style, putting up an eye-popping 50 points, 15 assists, six rebounds, four steals, and three blocks in a victory over Phoenix.

“Always, when this kind [of] award comes with a win, it’s even more fun,” Doncic said. “It was a tough road game, and we won. So, outside of the 10K and 50 points, we won the game. So, I’m really happy.”

As MacMahon details, Doncic’s 358 games to score 10,000 points are tied with Bob McAdoo for the seventh-fewest in league history. The only players who reached five digits in career scoring faster were Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and George Gervin.

“I have never been on a team where someone is scoring the ball like this at such a high rate and also getting his teammates involved and making sure that everybody feels comfortable on the floor,” said Doncic’s teammate Derrick Jones, who is in his eighth NBA season. “It’s incredible. It’s amazing. I have never seen this before.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Following Monday’s win, the Mavericks are now 17-7 with rookie center Dereck Lively active and 1-5 when he doesn’t play. Head coach Jason Kidd said on Monday that the team had missed Lively during his recent injury absence, while Doncic admitted that he didn’t expect the rookie to play such an important role so soon, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “Obviously, I knew he was going to be great, but the way he’s performed since the first game has been amazing,” Doncic said. “I didn’t expect this impact of him. He’s been playing like he’s been in the league 10 years already. I’m really proud of this guy. He works on his game and he listens to me.”
  • Spurs guard Devonte’ Graham has barely played at all this season, logging just 60 total minutes in six appearances. However, head coach Gregg Popovich praised the way Graham has handled being out of the rotation, referring to him as “one of the most respected guys on the team,” according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News, who takes a look at how the guard’s upbringing helped him deal with adversity.
  • Former NBA guard Royal Ivey, a New York native, played his college ball for the Texas Longhorns, but was never on a Southwest team during his 10 seasons as an NBA player. Now back in Texas as an assistant coach with the Rockets, Ivey spoke to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle about returning to the state he refers to as a “second home” and explained how he got into coaching after his playing days ended.

Rockets Announce Coaching Staff For 2023/24

New head coach Ime Udoka officially announced his coaching staff for the 2023/24 season, the Rockets announced in a press release.

Ben Sullivan, Royal Ivey, Garrett Jackson, Tiago Splitter, Cam Hodges and Mike Moser will be Udoka’s assistants, per the team. Sullivan, Ivey, Jackson, Splitter and Moser were all previously reported additions (or in Splitter’s case, nearing a deal). That makes Hodges the only real new hire, based on reporting we’ve seen.

All six coaches have ties to Udoka. According to the Rockets, Sullivan got his NBA start as an assistant video coordinator after Udoka recommended him to the Spurs. Udoka was an assistant coach in San Antonio at the time. Sullivan has been an assistant with the Hawks, Bucks and Celtics over the past several seasons, including under Udoka in Boston in 2021/22.

Ivey, a 10-year NBA veteran as a player, has made previous coaching stops with Oklahoma City, New York and Brooklyn. He was a Nets assistant for the past three seasons, including alongside Udoka in ’20/21.

Jackson and Moser were player enhancement coaches for the Celtics. Jackson was with Boston for the past two seasons, while Moser was there for one. Udoka was suspended for all of last season by Boston after an affair with a team staffer, but he likely hired Moser even though they only worked together for a short period.

Splitter, another former NBA player, was Udoka’s teammate on the Spurs in ’10/11 and coached alongside him in Brooklyn in ’20/21. He has been an assistant with the Nets for the past four years.

Hodges got his NBA start with the Spurs as a player development assistant and worked with Udoka in both San Antonio and Philadelphia. He has been a coaching associate with the Clippers since 2020, according to Houston’s release.

Southwest Notes: Udoka, Ivey, Spurs, Mavericks

Ime Udoka understands that the Rockets hired him as their head coach to help the team become competitive again. In an interview with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Udoka talks about how Houston can take the next step in its development, going from a team of highly rated prospects to a cohesive unit capable of contending for a playoff spot.

Udoka discusses the possibility of using Jalen Green and Jabari Smith in setups similar to what he did with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston. He also repeats a message that he emphasized at his introductory press conference — youth won’t be an excuse for failure.

“I want guys that can catch on quickly but also adapt to what we’re trying to do,” Udoka said. “I’m not gonna hold anything back defensively or schematically because we’re a young group, that’d be going against what I’m saying. I want guys to get up to speed quickly, have smart, cerebral players that can do a lot of different things.”

The Rockets will have nearly $60MM in cap space to try to improve their roster this summer, and there have been persistent rumors that James Harden is interested in returning. Udoka said he expects the front office to target free agents who will mix well with the young core already on hand.

“You want to add veterans that aren’t just a voice only, you want them to be out there, play and push the guys,” he said. “But, as I’ve said, regardless of free agency and the draft, we still have a group of guys we want to grow, and we’re looking for internal growth. More so than necessarily looking for an outside guy to try to save the day.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Nets assistant Royal Ivey will join the Rockets‘ coaching staff, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Ivey is the first assistant coach to be added since Udoka was hired last month.
  • The Spurs are reaping the financial benefits of winning the draft lottery, writes David Rumsey of Front Office Sports. San Antonio fans are thrilled at the prospect of adding Victor Wembanyama, and team employees worked well past midnight Tuesday to handle new season ticket requests.
  • The Mavericks are ready to make a “meaningful overhaul” to their roster after missing the playoffs, team sources tell Fred Katz and Tim Cato of The Athletic. Dallas was relieved to keep its first-round pick, which will be 10th overall, in Tuesday’s lottery. The pick remains top-10 protected for the next two years, leaving Dallas with only its 2027 first-rounder to use as a trade asset. The Mavericks were one number away from moving up to fourth in the draft, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.

Coaching Rumors: Rivers, Sixers, Rockets, Nets, Vogel, More

As the Sixers enter the offseason, there’s a sense that James Harden‘s and Doc Rivers‘ futures are linked, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne explained during an appearance on NBA Today (podcast link). The star guard will become a free agent if he declines his 2023/24 player option, while the head coach finds himself on the hot seat after another second-round playoff exit for Philadelphia.

“James Harden can become a free agent, which means you have to decide if you want to give him a four-year contract. Do you want to lock this in for the next four years?” Shelburne said (hat tip to RealGM). “That decision, from what I understand talking to people around the (Sixers), also now becomes tied to the decision about Doc Rivers. Because James Harden was not all that supportive of Doc Rivers in his press conference (on Sunday). I think behind the scenes, from what I’m told, one person said, ‘It would be hard for me to see James wanting to come back and play for Doc again.’

“This is going to be a situation where those two decisions are linked. As we go forward into this offseason and you have another second round exit, you have to decide if you want to lock in your future around (Joel Embiid and Harden). And then, if you’re doing that, what does that mean for Doc Rivers? Because the decisions seem to be linked.”

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to a handful of NBA executives and scouts at this week’s draft combine to get an idea of which head coaching candidates the Sixers might look at if they do decide to move on from Rivers.

Multiple execs identified Nick Nurse as a logical fit, according to Scotto, who says there’s also been a sense for some time that Mike D’Antoni would be an option due to his longtime relationship with Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. A couple sources named Monty Williams as a possible target too, but he’s drawing interest from multiple teams and may have a more favorable opportunity available, Scotto notes.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • As the Rockets look to fill Ime Udoka‘s coaching staff, it’s worth keeping an eye on Celtics assistants Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan and Nets assistant Royal Ivey as potential targets, league sources tell Scotto.
  • The Nets are hiring Jay Hernandez as an assistant coach, according to Scotto. Hernandez worked in recent years as an assistant in Charlotte and was previously a member of Jacque Vaughn‘s staff in Orlando.
  • Will Weaver, a former NBA assistant who is currently coaching Paris Basketball, has drawn interest from multiple NBA teams this offseason, including the Nets and Raptors, reports Scotto.
  • If veteran coach Frank Vogel doesn’t get a head coaching opportunity this spring, he’ll be a popular target for teams seeking an experienced assistant. He has received interest from the Mavericks, according to Scotto, who adds that Vogel and Stephen Silas could be targets for the Celtics.

And-Ones: Woodson, Ivey, McCall, Brooks

Knicks assistant Mike Woodson has accepted a position to become the new head coach of Indiana men’s basketball program, the school announced today (Twitter link).

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported (via Twitter) that the sides were finalizing a six-year contract. The agreement allows Woodson to officially return to his alma mater.

Woodson moved up in the program’s wish list after Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann both declined the job, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link).

Woodson, a former NBA player and veteran coach, joined Tom Thibodeau‘s staff with the Knicks last September. He has previously served as an assistant with several teams from 1996-2004, head coach of the Hawks from 2004-10, head coach of the Knicks from 2012-14 and assistant with the Clippers from 2014-18.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Woodson isn’t the only New York-based assistant coach eyeing a college job. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Nets assistant Royal Ivey interviewed for the Texas Longhorns’ open coaching position on Sunday. Ivey played his college ball for Texas before entering the NBA in 2004, appearing in the Final Four with the program in ’03.
  • Free agent guard Tahjere McCall is signing in France with Orléans Loiret Basket, his agent told Hoops Rumors. The 26-year-old recently played with the Lakeland Magic and received NBA G League All-Defensive Team honors. He also averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 15 games, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.
  • Despite an announcement from the team last week, guard Armoni Brooks will no longer be reporting to Orléans Loiret Basket, sources said. McCall will essentially be replacing Brooks, who averaged 16 points per game in the G League this season. The 22-year-old Brooks went undrafted in 2019.

New York Notes: Knicks, Greer, Nets, Ivey, Stoudemire

Three Knicks employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the team to temporarily shut down its practice facility while the building gets a “thorough cleaning,” the team announced on Tuesday night in a press release.

The NBA recently allowed teams to begin conducting group workouts at their facilities, though players who are participating in those group activities must return daily negative coronavirus tests. There’s no indication that the Knicks employees who tested positive for COVID-19 were players. However, the temporary shutdown of the team’s facility is an early sign of the challenges the league will face in the coming weeks as teams all over the U.S. ramp up for the 2020/21 season without the safety of a bubble.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Larry Greer, who was an assistant coach in Phoenix last season, is joining the Knicks as an advance scout, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Marc Berman of The New York Post first reported that the Knicks may hire Greer, whose brother Andy Greer joined the team as an assistant coach in the summer.
  • The Nets have added another coach to Steve Nash‘s staff, announcing (via Twitter) that they’ve hired Royal Ivey as an assistant. Formerly a Knicks player development coach, Ivey is good friends with Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant.
  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at another Nets assistant, exploring why Amar’e Stoudmire is getting into coaching and why he should be a good fit in Brooklyn.
  • News that the 2020/21 NBA season will start next month comes at a good time for Nets owner Joe Tsai, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who writes that Tsai recently lost over $1 billion in net worth due to the impact of new China regulations on the value of his company Alibaba.

Nets Notes: Coaching Staff, Arena Workers, J. Smith

It has been five weeks since the Nets hired Steve Nash as their new head coach, but there haven’t been many updates since then on who will be part of Nash’s coaching staff beyond Jacque Vaughn, who is expected to remain in Brooklyn as the associate head coach.

According to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, current Nets assistant Adam Harrington is also likely to be retained, given his connection to Kevin Durant — Harrington briefly served as the Thunder’s shooting coach during Durant’s time in Oklahoma City.

A source tells Schiffer that the Nets had some interest in trying to add former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov as an assistant. However, Kokoskov recently agreed to become the head coach of EuroLeague team Fenerbahce and prefers to remain with his new club in Turkey, per Schiffer.

Schiffer also names Jay Triano, Royal Ivey, and Phil Handy as possible candidates for the Nets’ staff, though Ivey has received interest from multiple teams. As for Handy, Schiffer recently heard from a source that the veteran assistant is happy working on Frank Vogel‘s staff with the Lakers, but would be open to other opportunities.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Nets owner Joseph Tsai intends to pay his Barclays Center employees – who lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic – through the rest of the year, Brian Lewis of The New York Post confirms. The decision, originally reported by The Atlantic Yards Report, may cost Tsai in the neighborhood of $10MM.
  • Maryland power forward Jalen Smith is the No. 20 prospect on ESPN’s big board, which could put him in play for the Nets at No. 19 in this year’s draft. As Lewis relays in a separate story for The New York Post, Smith is intrigued by the idea of being selected by Brooklyn and becoming teammates with a superstar he grew up watching. “Just being able to play with KD, that’s a dream come true,” Smith said. “Obviously growing up watching him so much and pretty much just learning from him, being the same size as him, just being able to get so much from him that he’s done in the league and continue to work and just compete against him would be tremendous and a good thing for me and my skills.”
  • In case you missed it, we previewed the Nets’ upcoming offseason in a feature last week.