Rick Brunson

Knicks Notes: Rose, Thibodeau, Brunson, Draft

The upcoming week will mark the first chance for new president of basketball operations Leon Rose to put his stamp on the Knicks, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The trade moratorium ends Monday, followed by the draft on Wednesday and the start of free agency on Friday. New York has a chance to play a significant role in all three events.

Bondy notes that Rose could opt for a win-now approach by trading for an expensive veteran such as Russell Westbrook. Or he could keep the team’s draft picks, target young free agents and accumulate assets to build for the future. Rose may also avoid adding significant payroll to set up a run at an elite free agent next summer, possibly Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Two sources in contact with the Knicks about their personnel tell Bondy that new coach Tom Thibodeau is advocating moves to turn the team into an immediate playoff contender. Thibodeau expects to have a say in roster moves, but Rose’s direction for the franchise won’t become clear for a few more days.

There’s more from New York:

  • There’s speculation that former NBA guard Rick Brunson, who served as an assistant to Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves, could be joining the Knicks in some capacity, Bondy adds in the same story. Brunson recently resigned as head coach at Camden High School. He was Rose’s first NBA client and had been working out Kevin Knox and other players while the league was shut down.
  • The Knicks are considered candidates to move up in the draft, but they haven’t been overly impressed with either LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Tyrese Haliburton also doesn’t appear to be a target, Popper adds, so New York may trade down to acquire more assets. He mentions Kira Lewis Jr. or Killian Hayes as possibilities, along with wing players Isaac Okoro, Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell.
  • Okoro and Haliburton are the best fits for Thibodeau’s coaching style, Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national basketball recruiting director, tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Biancardi, who played for Thibodeau in college, likes Okoro’s mindset and commitment to defense, while Haliburton would be a “high-IQ” leader at point guard. Biancardi points to Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey and Washington’s Isaiah Stewart as players to watch at No. 27.

Knicks Notes: Woodson, Assistants, Thibodeau, Harkless

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, who interviewed for the team’s top coaching position again this time around, is expected to rejoin the organization in some capacity, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

There were rumors during the Knicks’ coaching search that Woodson was a candidate to be hired as an assistant, so Charania’s report doesn’t come as a real surprise. Still, it’s worth noting that on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Knicks GM Scott Perry said that Thibodeau will have the autonomy to build his own coaching staff, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News tweets. Perry added that the staff will be “diverse,” with a focus on player development.

Based on reports to date, it sounds like the support for Woodson has come from within the Knicks organization. If he ends up joining the team’s coaching staff, that should be confirmation that Thibodeau wants him on board as well.

Here’s more on the Knicks and their new head coach:

  • In addition to Woodson, Mike Miller, Rick Brunson, and Daisuke Yoshimoto are the names that Steve Popper of Newsday keeps hearing as possibilities for Thibodeau’s new coaching staff (Twitter link). Brunson and Yoshimoto both worked under Thibs in Minnesota.
  • Speaking to reporters today, Thibodeau cited three main reasons why he viewed the Knicks’ job as an attractive one, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Thibs praised the current roster, referring to it as “young and talented” with “room for growth”; he said he’s excited about the draft assets and cap flexibility the team has at its disposal; and he indicated that the presence of Leon Rose and William Wesley in the front office is also appealing.
  • Maurice Harkless, an unrestricted free agent this fall, isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be back with the Knicks in 2020/21, but he’s intrigued by the hiring of Thibodeau, calling him a “great coach,” writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Harkless hasn’t played for Thibodeau before, but met him earlier in 2019/20 when the veteran coach visited the Clippers.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Van Gundy, Miller, Woodson

Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy believes the organization is making the right choice in Tom Thibodeau, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau, who is close to finalizing a five-year agreement with the team, was brought to New York as an assistant by Van Gundy in 1996.

“I’m extremely happy for Tom and equally happy for the Knicks as they hired an elite coach who will give everything he has to turn the Knicks around,” the ABC/ESPN broadcaster said.

New York began its search June 4 and talked to 11 candidates. However, many were considered to be courtesy interviews as Thibodeau was reportedly a strong favorite all along. Berman points out that five of the candidates — Ime Udoka, Wes Hardy, Chris Fleming, Pat Delaney and Jamahl Mosley — have no experience as NBA head coaches.

“Tom has always been their guy,” a source told Berman.

There’s more news on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks first offered the job to Thibodeau on Thursday morning, Berman tweets. He responded with a counter offer later in the day, but they didn’t make significant progress toward an agreement until Saturday.
  • Thibodeau should have plenty of time to prepare for a proposed group workout next month involving the eight teams not in Orlando, Berman writes in a separate story. Knicks president Leon Rose supports the idea of the gathering so the young roster can learn the new coach’s system, but isn’t in favor of scrimmages with other teams.
  • Interim coach Mike Miller and former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson both have “strong internal support” to be part of Thibodeau’s staff, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Among those conducting the interviews along with Rose were executive vice president and senior advisor William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, general manager Scott Perry, and vice president of basketball and strategic planning Brock Aller.
  • The Knicks’ new management team has long supported Thibodeau, and the only real alternative would have been John Calipari if he had been willing to leave Kentucky, a source tells Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • Ed Pinckney, Andy Greer and Rick Brunson served as assistants to Thibodeau in both Chicago and Minnesota and should be considered candidates to join his staff in New York, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who also hears that Miller may be retained to provide some continuity. Vorkunov speculates that the hiring of Thibodeau means the Knicks aren’t interested in a long rebuilding process.

Thibodeau Shoots Down Chemistry Concerns

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau shot down reports regarding chemistry issues and Jimmy Butler‘s desire to leave after next season during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Butler was supposedly unhappy with his younger teammates and looking to pair up with Kyrie Irving when he can enter free agency next summer. Thibodeau said Butler has not voiced any displeasure about his teammates to him.

“I’ve been around a long time, I don’t buy into any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “You have to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real. You never heard any of that come from Jimmy’s mouth. It’s always a source close to Jimmy. If Jimmy has something to say to someone, he usually says it directly.”

Thibodeau also said he anticipated that Butler would turn down the team’s extension offer because he could make more in free agency but the franchise is still optimistic on re-signing him.

“We know the position we’re in. We have a lot to offer him. We think this is the best place for him and it’s up to us to show him the reasons why.”

Thibodeau also addressed a number of other topics:

  • He’s also “very optimistic” big man Karl-Anthony Towns will sign a contract extension by the October 15 deadline. “We know how important Karl is to the future of the organization,” Thibodeau said. As we noted in our Extension Candidate series, Towns is likely to sign a max extension.
  • Former Pistons assistant Malik Allen has been added to his coaching staff, replacing Rick Brunson. Allen joined the staff of ex-Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy in 2014. Brunson resigned in May amid allegations of misconduct.
  • Center Justin Patton should be cleared for contact by the start of training camp. The 7-foot Patton, the 16th overall pick in 2017, appeared in just one game last season after undergoing two foot surgeries.

Timberwolves’ Brunson Resigns Amid Allegations Of Misconduct

3:46pm: The Timberwolves have issued a statement regarding Brunson’s resignation, as Krawczynski relays at The Athletic.

“Our entire organization – made up of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Minnesota Lynx and Iowa Wolves — is deeply committed to creating a safe work environment for our employees, partners and fans,” the Wolves’ statement reads. “Our teams strive to have our actions reflect our values each and every day. We work to maintain high standards of conduct and expect our staff to lead by example. We did not believe Mr. Brunson’s conduct was consistent with those standards.”

Sources tell Krawczynski that the most recent incident involving Brunson occurred during the playoffs, when a woman who doesn’t work for the Timberwolves lodged a complaint with the team after Brunson made “several unwanted advances” toward her.

2:50pm: Veteran NBA coach Rick Brunson has resigned from his position as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau‘s staff in Minnesota, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link).

It’s the fourth coaching change this week for the Timberwolves, who also cut ties with player development coach Vince Legarza, shooting coach Peter Patton, and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn, as we relayed on Monday. However, Brunson’s departure appears to fall into a different category.

According to Jon Krawcyznski of The Athletic (Twitter link), Brunson was facing allegations of “improper interactions with several women while on the job.” Wolfson and ESPN’s Chris Haynes confirmed as much, with Haynes tweeting that one of those women is a member of the media.

A former NBA player, Brunson began his coaching career in 2007, and has also served as an assistant in Denver, Chicago, and Charlotte. He has run into legal troubles in the past, having been arrested in June 2014 and indicted on criminal sexual assault charges following an encounter with a massage therapist. Brunson was later acquitted of those charges.

While the Timberwolves, who hired Brunson in 2016, were willing to give him a second chance two years after that incident, he seems unlikely to catch on with another NBA team anytime soon.

Western Notes: Payne, Suns, Barnes, Wolves Coaches

Second-year Thunder guard Cameron Payne has shown encouraging signs in his recovery from the Jones fracture surgery he had in July, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Payne has gone through full contact during Oklahoma City’s first two days of practice and is expected to participate in a scrimmage on Tuesday. Coach Billy Donovan said Payne has been working to recapture his timing, but the medical staff hasn’t recommended any limitations on his playing time. “He probably feels like the more he can play, the more comfortable he’ll get back into a routine,” Donovan said. “He’s obviously been in practice. He’s been active. Cam’s got a really, really instinctive game. He’s got a good feel for the game. I think getting his timing back playing, because he hasn’t done a lot of 5-on-5 will take him a little bit of time. But he looks good; he’s moving well.”

There’s more news from the Western Conference:

  • The four players the Suns added to their training camp roster today will probably end up in the D-League, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix reached agreements with undrafted rookies Gracin Bakumanya, Shaquille Harrison and Derrick Jones, along with returning D-League player Derek Cooke. Teams can assign up to four waived players to the D-League as long as they aren’t claimed by other organizations.
  • As he gets ready for his first training camp with the Kings, one of Matt Barnes‘ objectives will be to improve team chemistry, relays Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee. The 36-year-old Barnes agreed to a two-year, $12MM contract this summer to come to Sacramento. He joins an organization that was beset by internal problems last season, especially between star big man DeMarcus Cousins and former coach George Karl. “I’ve never been a star player, so to speak,” Barnes said, “but I’ve been one of the leaders, one of the voices of reason, and I have, I think, an uncanny ability to be able to get through to everybody, and not so much by talking. I lead by example, so that when I do talk, people listen, and I’m respected.”
  • The Timberwolves finalized their coaching staff today, the team announced on its website. Minnesota named Andy Greer and Rick Brunson as assistant coaches, Peter Patton as shooting coach and Daisuke Yoshimoto as special assistant to the president of basketball operations. In addition, Vince Legarza was promoted to player development coach.

Bobcats’ Dunlap Close To Choosing Staff

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that new Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap is close to filling out his first coaching staff in Charlotte. Brian Winters and Dan Leibovitz have emerged as heavy favorites to take the final two spots on Dunlap's bench, joining Rick Brunson and Stephen Silas.

Winters, who was named an All-Star twice as a player, has NBA head coaching experience, having coached the Vancouver Grizzlies from 195 to 1997. He has also served as head coach of the WNBA's Indiana Fever, and as an assistant in the NBA with the Cavs, Hawks, Nuggets, and Warriors.

Leibovitz, like Dunlap, comes from the college coaching scene, having served four seasons as Hardford's head coach, as well as stints as an assistant with Temple and Penn.