Sam Cassell

Sixers Adding Sam Cassell, Dan Burke To Doc Rivers’ Staff

Sam Cassell, a longtime Clippers assistant coach under Doc Rivers, will be joining Rivers in Philadelphia, becoming part of the Sixers‘ staff, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

A former NBA player who won two titles with the Rockets and a third with the Celtics, Cassell transitioned into coaching after he retired in 2009. He spent five seasons on the Wizards’ staff as an assistant and has worked since 2014 under Rivers in Los Angeles.

Rivers endorsed his longtime assistant as a deserving NBA head coaching candidate last month before he parted ways with the Clippers. Cassell reportedly interviewed to replace Rivers in L.A. and drew some interest from Houston, but the expectation was that he’d continue to work on Rivers’ staff if he didn’t get a head coaching job, per Pompey.

Meanwhile, the 76ers are also hiring veteran Pacers assistant Dan Burke, league sources tell Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

Burke, who began his career with the Trail Blazers, has been a fixture in Indiana for over two decades, having served as a Pacers assistant under six different head coaches, dating back to Larry Bird‘s days on the sidelines. As Bontemps notes, Burke is highly respected around the NBA and is known for his defensive acumen.

Cassell and Burke will be joining a growing Sixers staff that will also reportedly feature former Kings and Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger.

Rivers’ group is also expected to include former Clippers video coordinator Pete Dominguez, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, who tweets that Dominguez earned a promotion to the bench after impressing Rivers and the Clips in multiple roles in recent years.

Clippers Interview Sam Cassell For Head Coaching Job

The Clippers interviewed assistant coach Sam Cassell on Tuesday for their open head coaching job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Cassell, a former NBA player who won two titles with the Rockets and a third with the Celtics, transitioned into coaching after he retired in 2009. He spent five seasons on the Wizards’ staff as an assistant and has worked since 2014 under Doc Rivers in Los Angeles. Rivers endorsed his longtime assistant as a deserving NBA head coaching candidate last month before he parted ways with the Clippers.

“Sam Cassell should be a head coach, period,” Rivers said at the time.

Cassell is the second Clippers assistant to have interviewed for the team’s coaching vacancy so far, joining Tyronn Lue. The club has also reportedly met with Mike Brown, Darvin Ham, and Wes Unseld Jr. and is said to have interest in Jeff Van Gundy. It’s not clear how many other candidates the Clippers may interview before making a decision.

Cassell was also said to be drawing some interest from the Rockets, but it doesn’t appear that he has interviewed with Houston to this point. If he doesn’t receive a head coaching job this fall, it will be interesting to see whether Cassell remains in his assistant role with the Clippers, follows Rivers to Philadelphia, or ends up on another team’s coaching staff.

Rockets Notes: Butler, Coaching Search, Lue, JVG, Cassell

Before he committed to the Heat during last year’s free agency period, Jimmy Butler was a prime target for the Rockets, who attempted to go all-in for him on two separate occasions, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details.

Houston’s first run at Butler came during the 2018/19 league year, when he was being shopped by the Timberwolves. At the time, the Rockets were willing to offer a package that included four first-round picks, but Minnesota ultimately preferred a Philadelphia offer headlined by two affordable veterans who were ready to contribute immediately (Robert Covington and Dario Saric).

Still convinced that Butler could be the player that helped push the team over the top, Rockets GM Daryl Morey was prepared to renew his push for him during 2019’s free agent period. According to Feigen, the club was lining up trades to move Clint Capela and Eric Gordon in order to create the cap flexibility necessary to land Butler. However, despite the fact that he’s from the Houston area and is close with James Harden, Butler decided early in free agency that he wanted to head to Miami, closing the door on the Rockets’ pursuit.

Here’s more on the Rockets, with a focus on their head coaching search:

  • While the Rockets have interest in Doc Rivers, they’re also preparing to schedule meetings with several other candidates for their head coaching job. According to Feigen, Houston had planned to begin scheduling those interviews by this Wednesday and Thursday, and the club’s list of candidates is expected to include Tyronn Lue, Jeff Van Gundy, Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., Stephen Silas, and perhaps Sam Cassell.
  • Lue and Van Gundy were the first two candidates identified as possibilities for the Clippers, but it sounds like both coaches are high on Houston’s list as well. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links), Morey wanted to hire Van Gundy in 2016 and owner Tilman Fertitta is believed to be a JVG fan, while Lue has also “received support” for the Rockets’ job.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic explores whether Lue or Cassell would be good fits as the Rockets’ head coach, expressing a belief that Cassell may actually check a lot of the boxes on Houston’s list.

More On Clippers-Doc Rivers Breakup

The Clippers’ decision to part ways with Doc Rivers could be the riskiest coaching change in NBA history, Kevin Pelton of ESPN opines. The team is rolling the dice with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George potentially opting out and becoming unrestricted free agents after next season. L.A.’s collapse against the Nuggets can be attributed to poor shooting, Pelton adds, as the Clippers took higher percentage shots than the Nuggets but made substantially fewer of them.

We have more on Rivers and the Clippers:

  • The Clippers’ front office concluded that issues that had cropped up during the season surfaced under the stress of the playoffs, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. That led to the assessment that Rivers had to be held accountable for the team’s collapse.
  • By severing ties with Rivers, the Clippers indeed are blaming him for their playoff flop, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated opines. Could Phil Jackson be the answer? Jackson is 75 but he’s had time to recharge his batteries and this wouldn’t be a long-term job anyway, Mannix notes.
  • Tyronn Lue and Jeff Van Gundy are reportedly two of the former head coaches the Clippers will consider. Dan Loumena of the Los Angeles Times speculates that the Clippers might also consider assistant coach Sam Cassell, Chauncey Billups, Mark Jackson, Stan Van GundyMike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan, Kenny Atkinson, Alvin Gentry, Jason Kidd and Becky Hammon.
  • Lue is the 3-2 favorite to get the job, according to Bet Online, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. Van Gundy is the second choice at 3-1 with Billups surprisingly listed as the third choice at 4-1.
  • Add the Rockets to the list of teams interested in Rivers, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Pelicans and 76ers have already made contact.

Windhorst’s Latest: Coaching Rumors

The Pacers have interviewed more than 20 candidates for their head coaching opening and are now scheduling second interviews, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Appearing on The Jump (video link) on Friday, Windhorst said that former Kings coach Dave Joerger, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka are among the candidates expected to receive second interviews with the Pacers. ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups is also in the mix.

Windhorst doled out a number of other tidbits regarding coaching vacancies:

  • The Sixers have focused in on two high-profile candidates, Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue, and that could impact what the Pelicans will do. New Orleans is “very interested” in Clippers assistant Lue, who won a championship in Cleveland with current Pelicans executive David Griffin. However, the Pelicans may have to wait until Philadelphia decides what it wants to do before pursuing Lue in earnest.
  • The Thunder appear to be going into rebuild mode and that increases the chances it will hire a first-time head coach. Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin and perhaps Spurs assistant Will Hardy have emerged as contenders for the job.
  • As previously reported, the Rockets are looking seriously at Clippers assistant and former Houston player Sam Cassell and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy.

Rockets, Sam Cassell Have Mutual Interest

The Rockets and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell have mutual interest in a potential partnership, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link).

Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Rockets for the past four seasons, informed the franchise earlier on Sunday that he he won’t be returning. Several figures around the league view Cassell as a strong head coaching candidate, including current Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

“Sam Cassell should be a head coach, period,” Rivers said earlier this week. “He’s got an incredibly high basketball IQ, and I just hope he gets a shot. … When they talk about paying dues, he’s paid every due that is possible and he’s yet to get a job. So, I’m hoping that happens.”

Houston will likely consider other coaches for the job, with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue being a second potential candidate, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Marc Stein of the New York Times (via Twitter) also mentioned Jeff Van Gundy as a name that’s surfaced in recent coaching rumblings.

Cassell, 50, was drafted by the Rockets with the No. 24 pick in 1993. He spent the first three years of his career with the franchise, winning two titles, and went on to play 15 NBA seasons with several teams, winning another championship with the Celtics in 2008. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Wizards from 2009-14 and has worked for the Clippers ever since.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is expected to remain with the team and will face increased pressure to build a championship roster around Russell Westbrook and James Harden. In addition to finding a new head coach, the team also has several players set to reach free agency this offseason, including Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and likely Austin Rivers ($2.43M player option).

Pacific Notes: Cassell, Kings, Lakers, Warriors

While Tyronn Lue has gotten a ton of head coaching buzz this summer, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers believes another one of his assistants, Sam Cassell, also deserves consideration, observing this week that Cassell has a high basketball IQ and his paid his dues, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Sam Cassell should be a head coach, period,” Rivers said.

Cassell hasn’t been linked to any current coaching openings, but perhaps Rivers’ endorsement will inspire teams to take a closer look at his potential candidacy.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Trajan Langdon has already withdrawn from consideration for the Kings‘ head of basketball operations job and there’s an expectation that a second candidate will likely pull out soon too, a source tells Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sachin Gupta, Adam Simon, Calvin Booth, Monte McNair, and Wes Wilcox are the other execs who have been linked to the job, with interviews set to begin next week, per Anderson.
  • The Lakers didn’t end up forming a “Big Three” last offseason after acquiring Anthony Davis to join LeBron James, but head coach Frank Vogel said after Thursday’s Game 4 win over Houston that the team’s defense is its de facto “third star,” as Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “That’s as powerful a weapon there is in one of these playoff runs. It’s as powerful as a superstar,” Vogel said. “If you have an elite defense, that can be your third star, so to speak.”
  • NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh is skeptical that the Warriors have a chance to acquire Marcus Smart in an offseason trade, but points to Kris Dunn as another defensive-minded guard who could be of interest to Golden State on the free agent market. Grant Liffmann of NBC Sports Bay Area has the details.

Clippers Notes: Free Agency, Dunn, Lue, Hiatus

The Clippers have a realistic opportunity to bring back their 11-man rotation next season, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Many of the decisions will come down to whether the organization wants to make a financial commitment to its current players or explore other options.

L.A. has Bird rights on Montrezl Harrell and can offer him a longer and more valuable contract than anyone else. The Clippers have Non-Bird rights on Marcus Morris, who was acquired from the Knicks last month, and can offer a new deal starting at $18MM per season. JaMychal Green has a $5MM player option, and the team might decide to use part of its mid-level exception to re-sign Reggie Jackson.

Buha adds that the loss of revenue from the shortened season could work in the Clippers’ favor by depressing a free agent market that’s already limited by the small number of teams with cap space. Harrell and Morris may not get the offers they would have under normal circumstances, while Green could decide to stick with his guaranteed money.

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • There may be something to the rumors that Doc Rivers would like to add Bulls guard Kris Dunn as a defensive specialist next season, Buha states in the same piece. Dunn will be a restricted free agent if Chicago makes a $4.6MM qualifying offer, and he could be a nice backcourt partner for Lou Williams coming off the bench. The downsides are Dunn’s poor 3-point shooting — 25.9% this year — and his season-ending knee injury.
  • Speculation regarding Tyronn Lue as the next head coach of the Nets has died down while the league has been on hiatus, but Buha understands why Brooklyn would be interested. During his time in Cleveland, Lue proved he could win a title and he developed a strong relationship with Kyrie Irving. Buha identifies two other members of Rivers’ staff, Rex Kalamian and Sam Cassell, who might get head coaching offers soon.
  • The Clippers may benefit as much as anyone from having several weeks off, Buha suggests in a separate column. They are among the league’s oldest teams and injuries have been a concern, particularly for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley. New additions Morris and Jackson will also get more time to learn Rivers’ system.

Latest On Kidd, Bucks’ Coaching Job

Former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale is considered the early favorite to get the Bucks job after this season but there are some other viable candidates, according to Hoops Hype’s Bryan Kalbrosky.

Milwaukee fired Jason Kidd on Monday and replaced him on an interim basis with lead assistant Joe Prunty. Fizdale was fired in late November, in part because of a strained relationship with the team’s star, Marc Gasol.

Former Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Raptors G-League coach Jerry Stackhouse, Hawks assistant Darvin Ham, Thunder assistant Adrian Griffin, Clippers assistant Sam Cassell and Spurs assistants Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka are some of the other candidates that Milwaukee may consider, Kalbrosky adds.

Here are some nuggets regarding Kidd and the Bucks job:

  • Bucks franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to help Kidd save his job, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets. Kidd and the All-Star starter spoke 15 minutes before Kidd was officially notified he’d been fired, Shelburne adds.
  • Milwaukee’s front office had been mulling over a coaching change for at least two weeks, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports.
  • Williams, who has been working in the Spurs’ front office, has been patiently waiting for another opportunity and is a name to remember, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets.
  • Kidd leaves with no regrets and added “we took an organization that was in a bad place and shined a light on it,” according to another Shelburne tweet.
  • Tensions between Kidd and the front office had been building for months, according to the Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps. There was friction between Kidd and forward Jabari Parker, Bontemps continues. Kidd also rubbed management the wrong way by lobbying for roster changes and harping on the lack on experience among the front office staff, Bontemps adds.
  • Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Pitino are two other candidates the Bucks might consider, Forbes’ Mitch Lawrence reports. However, the organization does not have a stellar reputation and potential replacements for Kidd will likely want to know who’s calling the shots on personnel, Lawrence adds.

Latest On Rockets Coaching Search

9:46pm: The Rockets are intrigued by college coaches Shaka Smart (Texas) and Bill Self (Kansas), and also may seek to interview former Rocket and current broadcaster Kenny Smith, Stein relays (Twitter links).

9:08pm: Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni will interview for the vacant post this week, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Houston will also desire an interview with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Pacers, Stein adds.

8:00pm: Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has withdrawn from consideration for the team’s head coaching position after meeting with team ownership and front office personnel on Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Other NBA teams have now begun reaching out to Bickerstaff about available lead assistant positions, which is what he is now focusing on, the Vertical scribe adds, though Wojnarowski makes no mention of which teams have been in contact with the coach.

Houston intends to conduct a wide-ranging search for its next head coach, Wojnarowski relays. GM Daryl Morey and team owner Les Alexander met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as with Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Rockets assistant Chris Finch, league sources informed Wojnarowski. The Rockets are trying to arrange interviews with Jeff Hornacek and Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources told Wojnarowski. The franchise also reportedly plans to interview former Cavs coach David Blatt, though reports peg former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy as the front-runner for the vacant post.

Bickerstaff posted a mark of 37-34 after taking over for the fired Kevin McHale, who got off to a 4-7 start to the campaign. Houston indicated that Bickerstaff would receive consideration to have his interim tag removed, but apparently guiding the team to the playoffs wasn’t enough to sell ownership on him as a viable long-term option.