Rod Higgins

Hawks Announce Front Office Changes

As they enter their second year under the leadership of general manager Travis Schlenk, the Hawks have made some changes to their front office, announcing a series of additions and promotions in a press release. Here are some of the notable announcements from the franchise:

  • Veteran NBA executive Rod Higgins, formerly the general manager in Golden State and Charlotte, has been named the Hawks’ vice president of basketball operations. He served as a college scout for the team last season.
  • Former Warriors GM Larry Riley, who has also worked for the Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Bucks during his extensive NBA career, has been hired by the Hawks as a senior advisor. Like Higgins, Riley worked in the Warriors’ front office when Schlenk was in Golden State.
  • Daniel Starkman, who joined the Hawks in 2015 and served as the club’s manager of basketball information and scouting coordinator in 2017/18, has been named Atlanta’s manager of basketball operations.
  • Former Timberwolves basketball operations analyst Dwight Lutz has joined the Hawks as the team’s director of basketball strategy & analytics.

For more details on the Hawks’ front office changes, plus new additions to Atlanta’s athletic department and medical staff, be sure to check out the full press release from the club.

Hawks Notes: Cook, New Hires, Front Office Moves

The Hawks will look much different this season than they have in past, after losing four All-Stars via trade and free agency over the last two years. Atlanta’s new look team will allow its youth an opportunity to shine and Quinn Cook, who the team officially signed earlier this week, looks forward to suiting up for the club, as KL Chouinard of NBA.com relays.

“It’s a great opportunity for all of us,” Cook said. “We have a younger team.”

Cook played collegiate ball at Duke University under coach Mike Krzyzewski and he believes his time in the program will help him thrive in coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense.

“We did a lot of [the same things] at Duke,” Cook said. “I know Coach Bud and Coach K are really, really, really close friends so they talk a lot. That’s one thing Coach K told me: Be prepared for motion and spacing. That’s really all I’ve been working on since before I got here.”

There’s more from Atlanta, as the franchise announced several hires and promotions within the front office (via NBA.com). Here’s a rundown of the moves:

  • Rod Higgins, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, has been hired as a College Scout.
  • Brady Howe, who previously worked for the Salt Lake City Stars, has been hired as an Assistant Athletic Trainer.
  • Dan Martinez has been named the Senior Director of Team Operations.
  • The team added Adam Loiacono as a Performance Therapist and Derek Pierce as a Pro Player Personnel Scout.
  • Daniel Bove has been promoted to Sports Scientist/Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach.
  • The team promoted Scottie Parker to Head Athletic Trainer, Zach Peterson to Video Coordinator and Patrick St. Andrews to Assistant Coach.
  • Daniel Starkman has been named Manager of Basketball Information and Scouting Coordinator.

Eastern Notes: Heat, Vogel, Brooks, Olynyk

Several Heat players had their minds on the future after today’s Game 7 loss at Toronto. The overall feeling is that most players want to return next season and they hope free agent center Hassan Whiteside is with them, tweets Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. One exception could be Amar’e Stoudemire, who was unhappy with his playing time after signing a one-year deal with Miami as a free agent last summer (Twitter link). However, Stoudemire also felt the Heat had “great chemistry” and said, “I enjoyed the guys and I had the best time of my life with my teammates this season.” (Twitter link). Veteran Udonis Haslem, who has been with Miami for his entire 13-year career, understands he may have to find a new team to stay in the league next season. “There’s a business side to everything, so you never know,” Haslem said (Twitter link). Joe Johnson, who will be a free agent after joining the Heat in late February, said it’s too early to think about his next move (Twitter link). Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts are the only Miami players with guaranteed deals for next season.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks are hoping to hire a coach in the next week or so, writes Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal. Frank Vogel, who met with team president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills Wednesday in Los Angeles, is apparently a finalist for the job, along with David Blatt and interim coach Kurt Rambis. Vogel reportedly spent much of his interview making the case that the understands the triangle and would incorporate it into his offense.
  • The Bucks will interview Utah executive Justin Zanik and former Charlotte GM Rod Higgins for an open front office position, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Milwaukee is looking for someone to work with GM John Hammond (Twitter link).
  • New Wizards coach Scott Brooks traveled to Orlando this week for a meeting with Marcin Gortat, according to Keely Diven of CSNMidAtlantic. Brooks is hoping to establish a better relationship with his starting center than former coach Randy Wittman, who feuded publicly with Gortat.
  • Kelly Olynyk will have to undergo surgery soon on his injured right shoulder in order to be ready for the start of next season, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Olynyk has been hoping he can help the Canadian national team qualify for the Summer Olympics, but with a five-month projected recovery time, he is already likely to miss at least some of the Celtics‘ training camp.

Hornets Rumors: Batum, Zeller, Cho, Clifford

The Celtics offered the Hornets a package that included four first-round picks to entice Charlotte to give up the No. 9 pick last month, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Boston was willing to give up its own pick at No. 16, the No. 15 pick that they would tentatively have acquired from the Hawks, an unprotected future first-round pick from the Nets (presumably the 2018 pick Brooklyn owes Boston) and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or the Timberwolves (presumably the ones those teams already owe Boston), as Lowe details. Some front office members in Charlotte liked the idea, but owner Michael Jordan preferred to roll with Frank Kaminsky, whom the Hornets took at No. 9, several sources said to Lowe. The Grantland scribe delves into the implications of that choice, and he touches on more, too, as we highlight amid the latest from the Queen City:

  • Nicolas Batum‘s camp has been talking about how much he’d like to play with the Raptors, given the international appeal of Toronto, several league sources tell Lowe. The native of France, whom the Hornets traded for last month, is set to become a free agent after this coming season.
  • The Hornets have been willing to talk about Cody Zeller when they discuss trades with other teams, sources tell Lowe. That jibes with a report from shortly before the draft that Charlotte was aggressively shopping the big man.
  • GM Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford have had a chilly relationship since last year’s departure of president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, sources familiar with the situation tell Lowe, yet Cho, Clifford and Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk all downplay the notion. “I would say it’s a good relationship now,” Cho says. “I value his input. We’re not always going to agree, but I wouldn’t expect to.”
  • Polk, Jordan, Cho, assistant GM Chad Buchanan and director of player personnel Larry Jordan, Michael’s brother, are the primary decision-makers for the team, according to Lowe.
  • Charlotte shopped Noah Vonleh and the No. 9 pick in a package to try to move up in the draft before abandoning that pursuit and trading Vonleh in the Batum deal, as Lowe details.
  • The Hornets had interest in Rodney Hood going into last year’s draft, Lowe hears. Hood wound up going at No. 23 to Utah, and Charlotte had an opportunity to move down into a spot where it might have nabbed him instead of Vonleh, as Lowe explains.
  • Hornets brass likes Elliot Williams, whom the Hornets have reportedly agreed to sign to a camp deal, but they see him as an insurance policy and don’t view him as a replacement for backup point guard Brian Roberts, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter links).

Rod Higgins Resigns From Hornets

SATURDAY, 8:29am: Jordan tells Bonnell that his contract offer to Higgins was not technically a demotion, but that he did propose moving some of Higgins’ responsibilities over to Cho. Higgins viewed the arrangement as a practical demotion, and was given the choice of immediately stepping down or waiting until after the draft to do so, and he chose the latter.

“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that. One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams. Sometimes when teams would call [proposing trades], they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich… [That arrangement caused] confusion over who reported to whom. It created a contentious environment where I had to step in.”

Jordan said that Cho will step into running basketball operations in place of Higgins, and that the Hornets will hire an assistant GM moving forward.

FRIDAY, 10:56am: Higgins turned down a new contract from the Hornets that would have kept him with the organization, a source tells Bonnell. It’s not clear whether the deal would have kept him as president of basketball ops or shifted him to a different role.

8:51am: Hornets president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has stepped down from his post, the team announced. The move puts GM Rich Cho exclusively in charge of the team’s player personnel. He’ll report to owner Michael Jordan and vice chairman Curtis Polk, who handles the team’s business affairs.

“I would like to thank Rod for his seven years of dedication to this organization,” Jordan said in the team’s statement. “Rod has been a consummate professional throughout his time with the team. Thanks to his hard work and commitment, we have an improved roster and we are poised for success in the future. Rod was of great help to me as I navigated my first four years as majority owner of this franchise. I wish him all the best.”

The announcement, which came shortly after midnight Charlotte time, is oddly timed, and not just because of the overnight hour. The draft is 13 days away, and free agency starts in less than three weeks. The Hornets hold the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft, and they’re poised to be one of the most active teams on the free agent market, with only about $41MM in commitments, not counting their pair of first-rounders. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer called the timing of Higgins’ departure “bizarre” and took the Hornets to task for what he deems a “dysfunctional” move (Twitter links). Still, it’s unclear whether Higgins left entirely of his own volition or whether the team had any influence on his decision.

The amount of control Higgins asserted in the front office following the hiring of Cho in 2011 has also been difficult to ascertain. Higgins had held the GM title for the club prior to that move, having assumed that role in 2007, before Jordan bought the majority stake in the team. Still, Higgins was one of the team’s first hires after Jordan purchased a minority share in 2006, having worked under Jordan when he owned part of the Wizards and having been a teammate of Jordan’s on the Bulls. Higgins played a key role in the signing of Al Jefferson last summer, Bonnell writes.

Cho is familiar with oddly timed front office changes from his time in Portland. He became Blazers GM in July 2010, replacing Kevin Pritchard, whom the team had fired on draft night that year. Portland dismissed Cho less than a year later, in May 2011.