Rick Pitino

And-Ones: Upshaw, Pitino, NCAA Tournament, Players’ Health

Grand Rapids Drive player Zeke Upshaw passed away this past Monday after he collapsed during the final minute of a weekend game against the Long Island Nets. It was a tragic and unexpected event for a 26-year-old professional player who displayed no signs of health issues.

Per a report from USA Today, Upshaw suffered a “sudden cardiac death.” The medical examiner who was assigned Upshaw’s case said he discovered ” cardiac abnormalities” but an in-depth investigation into his depth will take several weeks.

Upshaw had played internationally before spending the past two seasons with the Piston’s G League affiliate. The Pistons honored Upshaw with a posthumous call-up to honor his contributions to the organization.

Check out more news and notes out of the basketball world:

  • The New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League reportedly offered former Louisville coach Rick Pitino their head coaching position, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. There has been virtually no NBA interest in his services with the lone conversation between his reps and an NBA team (the Bucks) initiated by Pitino’s side, Stein noted.
  • Shaun Powell of NBA.com examines which injuries will have the biggest impact as the postseason nears. The list includes injured All-Stars the likes of Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant. Powell also looks at players out for the rest of the year (DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Roberson) and Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN looks at a diverse pool of 11 players who could impact the NBA’s future. All of Pelton’s choices are 28 years old or younger, and some are expected to be lottery picks in the 2018 NBA draft.
  • Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago looks at which NBA prospects benefited from a further look during the NCAA tournament.

Stein’s Latest: Pistons, Knicks, Bucks, Magic, Suns

Earlier today, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Pistons have expressed interest in Chauncey Billups for a potential front office role, with an eye on possibly pairing him with Arn Tellem in their basketball operations department. The report quickly drew responses from multiple sides — Billups stated that he would “never push for a job with any NBA franchise that is not open,” while a Pistons ownership spokesman simply called the report “false.”

Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) also hears from a source that there’s “nothing whatsoever” to the idea of a Billups/Tellem team-up in the Pistons’ front office, but Stein doubled down on the report in his latest newsletter for The New York Times, citing league sources who say that Detroit has “great interest” in hiring Billups. According to Stein, the Pistons believe they have a real shot to convince Billups to leave his TV job for an executive role.

Stein’s newsletter includes a few more tidbits on coaching and front office situations around the NBA. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There’s a growing belief that Knicks GM Scott Perry will want to hire his own hand-picked head coach at season’s end, says Stein. According to Stein, if the club replaces Jeff Hornacek and makes a high-profile hire, Mark Jackson and David Blatt would be among the candidates to watch.
  • With a move to a new arena around the corner, the Bucks may want to make a big splash with their next head coaching hire. League sources tell Stein that Jeff Van Gundy and Kevin McHale are among the names on the Bucks’ list of potential candidates, while Monty Williams and David Fizdale have also been mentioned. Rick Pitino could even get an “exploratory look,” says Stein.
  • There’s a “widely held assumption” in coaching circles that the Magic will replace Frank Vogel, according to Stein, who identifies Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse as possible targets for Orlando. All three of those coaches are in the Raptors organization, which is where Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman previously worked.
  • While Jay Triano will receive an interview as part of the Suns‘ head coaching search, Stein is hearing buzz that Triano is more likely to be asked to stay on as an assistant. Phoenix wants to explore the college ranks, and Villanova’s Jay Wright is one name that figures to come up during that search, per Stein.