Sam Mitchell

Southwest Notes: Mitchell, Hanga, Draft

The Pelicans are considering Sam Mitchell as an assistant coach on Alvin Gentrys staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). Mitchell has previous head coaching experience, leading the Raptors before becoming the coach of the Wolves.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Adam Hanga, who won the Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year award, could come to the Spurs next season if Manu Ginobili retires, international journalist David Pick reports (Twitter link). Hanga is a draft-and-stash prospect whom San Antonio drafted with the No. 59 pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
  • The Mavericks could finally find their long-term answer at the point guard position in this year’s draft, Newy Scruggs of the Dallas Morning News. The scribe believes Dennis Smith Jr. or Frank Ntilikina could be a good fit with the team.
  • Wayne Selden Jr. impressed during his rookie season and Michael Wallace of NBA.com believes the Grizzlies should keep the shooting guard in their long-term plans. The Kansas product played 11 games for Memphis last season and the team signed him to a multi-year pact near the end of the 2016/17 campaign.

Kings To Interview David Blatt

The Kings have scheduled an interview for early this week with former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Blatt was one of the first names connected to the Sacramento coaching vacancy and has been a rumored candidate for several jobs since Cleveland fired him in January.

Blatt met with the Knicks this week to discuss the possibility of replacing interim coach Kurt Rambis and was believed to be a candidate for the Lakers’ job before they hired Luke Walton. During his brief stay in Cleveland, Blatt led the Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals and compiled an 83-40 record.

Blatt will be at least the fifth candidate to interview for the head coaching position, according to James Ham of CSNBayArea. Ham reports that Sam Mitchell, Mike Woodson, Kevin McHale and Vinny Del Negro have all gone through formal interviews.

Indiana assistant Nate McMillan may soon join that group, Ham reports, depending what the Pacers do in tonight’s Game 7 with the Raptors. McMillan has a 266-269 career record in 12 years as head coach of the SuperSonics and Blazers.

The Kings are also planning to interview Charlotte assistant Patrick Ewing, whose team was eliminated from the playoffs today. Ham says Mark Jackson of ESPN and Grizzlies assistant Elston Turner are also on the list to be interviewed.

Once the interviews are complete, GM/executive Vlade Divac plans to whittle the list down to three finalists that he will present to Sacramento management. Despite earlier reports that the Kings wanted to find a coach this week, Ham says there is no timetable. The organization has been without a coach since it fired George Karl after the season ended.

Latest On Kings’ Coaching Search

Former Rockets coach Kevin McHale has emerged as a serious contender for the Kings’ vacant head coaching post, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays. McHale and Sacramento executive Vlade Divac have engaged in exploratory discussions regarding the position, but the talks haven’t escalated to the point where a deal is imminent, Stein adds. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported that Sacramento was interested in speaking with McHale as it looks to replace the fired George Karl.

The only official interview for the team’s vacant coaching slot thus far has been with former Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, though the team plans on sitting down with former Clippers and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro later this week, Stein adds. Also said to be on the Kings’ list of candidates are former Hawks and Knicks coach Mike Woodson, former Warriors head man Mark Jackson, Pacers assistant Nate McMillan and former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, the ESPN scribe notes. The Kings reportedly plan to interview Woodson and Hornacek. Sacramento apparently reached out to Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks prior to both men landing jobs last week and has also touched base with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, Warriors assistant Luke Walton and former Cavs coach David Blatt, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee.

McHale, 57, had entered the 2015/16 season as the NBA’s fifth-longest tenured head coach, having taken over the Rockets in June 2011. Houston had a winning record in each of McHale’s full seasons, with last year’s 56-26 mark the best of his tenure. But a 4-7 start to the season as well as reported locker room issues led the Rockets to part ways with the former Celtics great. His .598 regular season winning percentage is the best of all-time among Rockets coaches. He was 193-130 in the regular season and 13-16 in the playoffs overall with the Rockets. McHale went 39-55 over two separate stints as coach of the Timberwolves in the 2000s, and he didn’t coach Minnesota in a postseason game.

Latest On Kings Coaching Search

THURSDAY, 5:34pm: McMillan intends to wait until the Pacers’ playoff run is over before interviewing for the Kings’ post, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets.

6:50pm: There has been no official contact yet, but the Kings are also interested in former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter links). The interest is mutual, Amick says.

WEDNESDAY, 10:19am: Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton and Kings GM Vlade Divac are expected to meet to discuss Sacramento’s head coaching vacancy, likely after Golden State’s first-round playoff series with Houston, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Walton is “extremely fond” of Divac, who was briefly his Lakers teammate, and the location of Sacramento is increasingly appealing to Walton, who is fond of life in Northern California and has several close relatives in the Sacramento area, Voisin writes. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Monday that no team had asked permission to interview his top assistant, but Voisin reported Tuesday that Walton was among the coaches to whom the Kings had reached out.

Divac is especially interested in Walton, Spurs assistant Ettore Messina and NBA coaching veterans Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, but he’s planned to speak with several others. Divac is inquiring about the interest of Monty Williams, Jeff Van Gundy, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka and at least two college coaches, among other names previously reported as Kings coaching targets, Voisin relays. The Kings are poised to interview Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro and Mike Woodson, according to reports. Mitchell’s interview is to take place today, a source told The Bee’s Jason Jones.

Sacramento has natural appeal to Brooks, who’s from the nearby city of French Camp, California, but Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported last week that he’s not interested in coaching the Kings, with the Wizards apparently the front-runner for the former Thunder head coach. Thibodeau and Van Gundy, apparent co-favorites for the Timberwolves job, don’t want to coach Sacramento either, according to Wojnarowski.

The Kings have reached out to Messina, as Voisin reported previously, though Messina and fellow Spurs assistant Udoka are busy with the playoffs. Both were reportedly candidates for the Nets vacancy, with Udoka the apparent front-runner at one point before the job instead went to Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, who also reportedly drew interest from the Kings.

Williams is a Thunder assistant but has been away from the team since his wife died in February. He won’t rejoin the team for the playoffs and, as The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater hears, he’s not expected to return to Oklahoma City for next season, either. Top free agent Kevin Durant has a close bond with Williams, the former Pelicans head coach.

Kevin McHale, Mark Jackson, David Blatt, Jeff Hornacek, Patrick Ewing, Nate McMillan and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga are the other candidates in whom the Kings are reportedly interested. Sources who spoke with Marc Stein of ESPN.com have speculated that Heat assistant David Fizdale and former Cavs and Lakers coach Mike Brown could become Kings candidates as well.

Which of the many names mentioned here do you like best for the Kings? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Kings To Interview Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro

8:05pm: The Kings’ first three interviews for their vacant coaching position will be with Jackson, Del Negro and former Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter).

TUESDAY, 2:50pm: The Kings are scheduled to interview Vinny Del Negro next week, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, confirming a tweet from Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that indicated as much. They’d like to interview Kevin McHale, but he hasn’t decided whether he’ll meet with the team, league sources told Wojnarowski, who earlier reported the team plans to interview Mike Woodson. The team is expected to meet with a handful of candidates for initial interviews before moving on to the next stage of its search, Wojnarowski hears.

Del Negro’s name emerged among several in the mix for the Kings job when Wojnarowski reported his candidacy last week. Sacramento reportedly contacted Del Negro for its vacancy in December 2014, shortly after firing Michael Malone, but since then, the Kings have had two head coaches, and Vlade Divac succeeded Pete D’Alessandro as the front office chief.

Sacramento has reached out to Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Ettore Messina, Luke Walton and David Blatt in addition to Del Negro and Woodson, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link), though Thibodeau and Brooks appear to be long shots, at best. Jeff Hornacek, Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing, Nate McMillan and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga are others in whom the team reportedly has interest as it seeks a replacement for the fired George Karl.

Experience appears to be a key for Divac as he looks at candidates, and Del Negro fits that bill. The 49-year-old is 210-184 in five seasons as an NBA head coach, split between the Bulls and the Clippers.

Wolves Notes: Prince, Bjelica, Olympics, Mitchell

The Wolves’ Tayshaun Prince surprised even himself by playing 78 games and averaging 19 minutes a night, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. The 36-year-old says he feels good and has no plans to retire. The only question for Prince, who is headed toward free agency, is whether to come back to Minnesota or try to sign with a contender. “It’s all up in the air,” he said. “I really can’t speculate. I would love to see some of the things they do here and what opportunities would present themselves. Definitely it’s a possibility to come back, but it’s a crazy business.”

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Nemanja Bjelica‘s rookie season wasn’t what he expected, but he ended it with a flourish, Zgoda writes in the same story. The Wolves reached agreement with the draft-and-stash player last summer and watched as Bjelica struggled though his first NBA season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 60 games. However, he raised his scoring average to 12.5 points per night and shot 68% over the final four games. “At the end of the day, I’m happy to be here,” Bjelica said. “I belong in this league. I compete with the best players. Of course, I have some up and downs. This is normal. I’m just happy because I finish season in good way, like positive.” Bjelica, 27, has two years and $8MM left on the contract he signed in July.
  • Wolves management is asking players to do more of their offseason workouts in Minnesota, Zgoda continues in the same piece, but the Olympics could get in the way. Possible Wolves Olympians include Ricky Rubio with Spain, Bjelica with Serbia, Gorgui Dieng with Senegal and Andrew Wiggins with Canada.
  • Former coach Sam Mitchell deserved the chance to build on the work he did with the young core in Minnesota, contends Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. Mitchell, who was dismissed after the season’s final game Wednesday, took over the team on an interim basis in September after Flip Saunders encountered health problems that proved fatal. Continuity is important to a young team, Hartman argues, and there will be an adjustment process even if the Wolves are able to hire an experienced coach like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks or Jeff Van Gundy, who have drawn mention as candidates. They will also expect a higher salary and more control over personnel decisions than Mitchell would have, Hartman notes.

Wolves Part Ways With Sam Mitchell

William Hauser / USA TODAY Sports Images

William Hauser / USA TODAY Sports Images

The Timberwolves have officially relieved interim coach Sam Mitchell of his duties, effective immediately, the team announced. Minnesota will begin its search for a new head coach and head of basketball operations posthaste. The news was first relayed by Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune (on Twitter). Milt Newton remains the team’s GM for now.

The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves has never been brighter,” team owner Glen Taylor said in the official release. “It’s important that we find the best leaders to shape our talented team and help them realize their full potential. We owe it to our fans, our community and to our players to ensure our team has the best possible chance at winning an NBA title.

I would like to thank both Sam and Milt for a good job under very difficult circumstances in guiding our team this season,” Taylor continued. “They were put in a historically challenging position as no team in NBA history has had an active head coach pass away. Both men provided our team with continuity and direction for the 2015/16 season. We will always be grateful to Sam for his contributions this season and wish him and his family the best in the future.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical relayed earlier today that Mitchell was to be part of the search process for a new coach, but that apparently isn’t the case since the team was so quick to cut ties with Mitchell after tonight’s 144-109 drubbing of New Orleans. Taylor has hired the search firm Korn Ferry to help in the hunt for a new coach as well as a new president of basketball operations, though the team may elect to hire one person for both slots, as Wojnarowski and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reported. The Wolves coaching targets reportedly include Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks.

Minnesota went just 29-53 this season under Mitchell, but that was a significant improvement over last season’s 16-66 record, and not much was expected from the youthful roster despite the presence of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the last two No. 1 overall picks. The team has shown promise and Towns has swept the league’s Rookie of the Month honors thus far. Mitchell was to have continued serving as an assistant coach this season but took the head coaching reigns in September while Saunders suffered complications from cancer treatment. Saunders died in October, a few days before opening night.

Wolves GM Milt Newton Not Assured Of Job

9:00pm: Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger is among the candidates the Wolves will consider, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com tweets. The ESPN scribe also notes that Mitchell won’t be among the coaches considered for the post. Team owner Glen Taylor has hired the search firm Korn Ferry to help in the hunt for a new coach as well as a new president of basketball operations, though the team may elect to hire one person for both slots, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press relays.

A chance exists that the team will circle back to Mitchell, but it appears to be a long shot, as Krawczynski details. Minnesota’s plans also throw into question the future of Newton, as the new president of basketball operations would decide whether to retain him, Krawczynski writes. Wojnarowski wrote earlier that it was unclear whether Newton would remain atop the basketball operations department, but Newton isn’t initially a candidate for the president of basketball operations job, according to Krawczynski. It’s possible the next coach and president of basketball operations will be the same person, as Taylor is intrigued with the success the Pistons have had under coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, Wojnarowski hears.

3:07pm: The Timberwolves coaching search will include Mitchell as part of candidate process, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical relays (on Twitter). Minnesota’s current coaching short-list includes Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, Wojnarowski adds.

1:37pm: The growing belief around the NBA coaching community is that the Timberwolves will elect not to retain coach Sam Mitchell, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Wolves only assured Mitchell of the head coaching position through this season when he took over for the late Flip Saunders this fall, and Mitchell’s contract doesn’t cover next season, Stein notes (on Twitter). Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Shabazz Muhammad have endorsed Mitchell’s return in the past few days, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link) and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press have noted, but it appears that might not be enough to save the coach’s job.

Minnesota is just 28-53 this season under Mitchell, but it’s a significant improvement on last season’s 16-66 record, and not much was expected from the youthful roster despite the presence of Wiggins and Towns, the last two No. 1 overall picks. The team has shown promise, particularly in a win at Golden State earlier this month, and Towns has swept the league’s Rookie of the Month honors thus far. Mitchell was to have continued serving as an assistant coach this season but took the head coaching reigns in September while Saunders suffered complications from cancer treatment. Saunders died in October, a few days before opening night.

“We’ve done a great job this year, especially the coaching staff,” Towns said this week, as Krawczynski relays. “With the tragedy happening, I think they did a great job for us this year.”

Veteran leader Kevin Garnett made it known earlier this season that Mitchell has his support after speculation to the contrary, but it’s unclear whether Garnett, who turns 40 next month, will return to play next season. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will make the call on whether to retain Mitchell, Taylor said, though he added that he’ll solicit the input of GM Milt Newton. Taylor said last month that Newton would keep his job through the summer, at least.

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Kanter, Huestis, Olshey

Interim Wolves coach Sam Mitchell hasn’t asked for a decision on his future from owner Glen Taylor, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota has been a much-improved team of late and just completed a 3-0 road trip, but Mitchell said he doesn’t look at victories as a way to secure his job on a permanent basis. He’s more concerned with developing young talent, which has been his focus since taking over the team in September. Taylor has made few public statements about the coaching situation, saying it will be resolved after the season ends. “It’s funny to me, now all of a sudden this is a great job,” Mitchell said. “After last year, nobody wanted this job. Nobody thought this was a good job. Now all of a sudden it’s a good job, so I’m proud of that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder center Enes Kanter has become a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. Oklahoma City raised some eyebrows this offseason when it matched a four-year, $70MM offer to keep the restricted free agent, but Kanter has done his best to live up to that contract. He brings 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game off the bench in just 20.8 minutes of action and is shooting 58% from the floor, fourth best in the NBA. “To be honest, I don’t look at my stats – not this year, not last year,” Kanter said. “If I do, I feel like I’m going to stress about it, so I don’t even look at my point average, [or] what’s my rebound average? I think the only thing I’m doing is I’m going out there to play my game.”
  • Josh Huestis has only played three NBA games, but the Thunder are hurting so much for an effective backup wing player that he might become an option, writes Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman“I’m not going to say we know for sure we’re gonna all of a sudden throw him in there the last three games a lot of minutes,” said OKC coach Billy Donovan. “But it’s good to see him progressing the way he has.”
  • GM Neil Olshey deserves Executive of the Year honors for rebuilding the Blazers over the offseason, writes Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. Portland clinched a playoff spot this week despite losing four starters from last year’s team.

Northwest Notes: Miller, Harkless, Wiggins

Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed about Mike Miller this week, and the team would like to re-sign him when he again becomes a free agent this summer, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Malone is willing to have him back even as an assistant coach, but Miller believes he can continue to play. The 36-year-old who’s in his 16th NBA season isn’t sure whether he’ll re-sign with Denver and said he’d like to play more minutes than the career-low 7.8 he’s seen this season, an unlikely proposition if he returns to the Nuggets, according to Dempsey. Still, Miller said he’s in a “good situation” in Denver and added that he’s learned a lot from Malone. “I just can’t speak enough about his work ethic, his example that he sets every day,” Malone said. “Even [Thursday]. This was practice No. 118. Even [Thursday], three games to go, Mike Miller is in here, working hard, setting the example. I don’t think you can have enough guys like that. The fact that he has two world championships, sixth man of the year, rookie of the year. … I’d love to have Mike back. I think he’s been a tremendous help for me, the staff and all of our players. I hope he’s a Nugget for a while.”

See more from the Northwest Division:

  • An early February injury to Noah Vonleh was the catalyst for the return of Maurice Harkless to the Blazers rotation, and now Harkless is thriving as a starter, notes Jason Quick of Comcast Sportsnet Northwest. It’s fortuitous not just for Portland’s playoff push but for the bank account of the Relativity Sports client who’s eligible for restricted free agency this summer.
  • Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell acknowledges that he coaches Andrew Wiggins with more subtle instruction because of the 21-year-old’s mellow demeanor, but GM Milt Newton is confident the former No. 1 overall pick will become an elite player based on his performances against superstars, as Rob Mahoney of SI.com chronicles. The extension window for Wiggins opens in 2017, but, as Mahoney notes, it’s unclear whether Mitchell or Newton will still be in their jobs this time next year.
  • The Nuggets will likely look this summer for a stretch four or sizable wing player who can play both forward positions with strong 3-point shooting and defense, but a healthy Wilson Chandler is liable to fit that bill, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps nonetheless suggests that Chandler also makes for an intriguing trade chip. Chandler is under contract for at least the next two years but missed all of this season because of hip surgery.
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