Terry Stotts

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Atkinson, Pelicans, Blazers, Wizards

Although Penny Hardaway has reportedly emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Magic‘s head coaching job, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says Kenny Atkinson‘s name continues to be the one most frequently linked to the Orlando job.

As Fischer notes – and as has been reported elsewhere – the Magic are believed to be seeking a candidate who has previous head coaching experience. While Hardaway holds the top job at the University of Memphis, he lacks the NBA experience that Atkinson has. Sources tell Fischer that former Blazers coach Terry Stotts also remains a strong option for Orlando.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors:

  • The Pelicans‘ search is expected to continue until at least later this week, with current New Orleans assistant Fred Vinson still to be interviewed, says Fischer. However, Jacque Vaughn appears to be the frontrunner for that job, sources tell Bleacher Report. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said last week that Vaughn’s candidacy was gaining traction.
  • Trail Blazers officials were caught off guard by Damian Lillard‘s public support for Jason Kidd early in the team’s coaching search, and several staffers were surprised the All-NBA guard didn’t name former Portland assistant David Vanterpool as his preferred candidate, according to Fischer. Lillard advocated for Vanterpool to be named Minnesota’s coach following Ryan Saunders‘ dismissal earlier in the year.
  • Spurs assistant Becky Hammon impressed the Trail Blazers during the interview process, but the background intel the team got on Hammon “was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities,” Fischer writes. While team owner Jody Allen liked Hammon, there were doubts about whether she was best suited to navigate “delicate waters” with Lillard, Fischer adds.
  • Fischer says that the Wizards‘ coaching search will be “lengthy and thorough,” which suggests that Washington may end up being the last team to fill its head coaching opening.

Chauncey Billups Emerges As Blazers’ Choice For Head Coach

Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups has emerged as the Trail Blazers’ choice to be their next head coach and the two parties are looking to finalize a deal, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic tweet.

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni were the other finalists for the job previously held by Terry Stotts.

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen reportedly pushed for Hammon while president of basketball operations Neil Olshey preferred Billups. Both of them came in for second interviews this week. Hammon became the first female finalist for an NBA head coaching position.

For Billups, it’ll be his first head coaching job, assuming the two sides finalize an agreement. The 2004 Finals MVP for the Pistons, the organization in which he acquired the nickname “Mr. Big Shot,” joined Tyronn Lue‘s staff this season after a stint with ESPN. Billups, 44, retired as a player after the 2013/14 season.

Billups, who has frequently been cited as a frontrunner for the job, received an endorsement from point guard Damian Lillard following Stotts’ exit. He also interviewed for the Celtics’ job, which went to Nets assistant Ime Udoka.

The Wizards, Magic and Pelicans are still in the process of hiring new head coaches.

Pacers To Interview Clifford, Stotts, Shaw For Head Coaching Job

The Pacers are beginning to interview head coaching candidates this week in Chicago, where the NBA draft combine is taking place, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski, the candidates who are interviewing with Indiana include Steve Clifford, Terry Stotts, and Brian Shaw.

After taking a chance on first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren a year ago, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is unlikely to go that route again, as Bob Kravitz of The Athletic writes. Wojnarowski echoes that point, tweeting that Indiana is “putting a premium” on previous head coaching experience in its search.

Clifford and Stotts have recent head coaching experience, having coached the Magic and Trail Blazers, respectively, up until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Clifford, who also spent several years as the head coach in Charlotte, has an overall regular season record of 292-345 (.458), with four playoff berths in eight seasons.

Stotts had brief stints as a head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee before spending the last nine seasons with the Trail Blazers. He led Portland to a 402-318 (.558) regular season mark, with eight consecutive postseason appearances.

As for Shaw, he briefly served as the Nuggets’ head coach from 2013-15 and is currently the head coach of the G League Ignite. He also has extensive experience as an assistant, including a stint as the Pacers’ associate head coach from 2011-13.

Rick Carlisle has also been identified as a possible target for the Pacers, and Mike Budenholzer would reportedly be at or near the top of the team’s wish list if the Bucks let him go — that seems less likely now that Milwaukee has advanced to the Eastern Finals. Mike D’Antoni also received serious consideration from Indiana a year ago and could be in the mix again this time around.

Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren

12:15pm: The Pacers have officially announced in a press release that Bjorkgren won’t be retained for the 2021/22 season.

“The 2020/21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

“We have determined this is the right time to move in a different direction, and on behalf of the Simon Family and the entire Pacers organization, I want to express my gratitude to Nate for his efforts leading our team. While we do not have a definite timetable for our search, we will move quickly to identify candidates who will make our team and our organization stronger.”


10:56am: The Pacers have decided to part ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren after his first year on the job, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Bjorkgren was informed today of the Pacers’ decision to let him go after he met with management on Tuesday. The team intends to seek out a more experienced, established head coach to replace Bjorkgren, who lost the locker room and “much of the organization” this season, Wojnarowski adds.

The Pacers moved on from Nate McMillan a year ago after a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit in the hopes of hiring a new coach who would modernize the team’s offense and increase its ceiling. Although Bjorkgren did help improve Indiana’s offense, the defense took a major step backward and the former Raptors assistant reportedly had major communication issues with players and coaches alike.

Multiple reports during the final weeks of the regular season indicated that Bjorkgren was on the hot seat, and failing to secure a playoff spot in the play-in tournament presumably didn’t help his chances of sticking around.

Given how many injuries the Pacers dealt with during the 2020/21 campaign, it’s unclear how much more another coach could’ve gotten out of the roster. And since Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract, there was a belief that the small-market Pacers may prefer to give him another chance rather than having to commit financially to a second head coaching contract. However, it sounds like the issues with Bjorkgren were too widespread to make continuing the relationship a viable choice.

Indiana becomes the fourth team to enter the market for a new head coach this spring, joining Boston, Portland, and Orlando. Because they conducted an extensive search for a coach in 2020 before landing on Bjorkgren, the Pacers may already have a leg up in this year’s search, having gotten familiar with several candidates who could be on their radar again. However, new candidates will be considered as well.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

One of those new candidates, who wasn’t available a year ago, is former Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers are expected to take a look at Stotts, while Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says (via Twitter) league sources have increasingly identified Stotts as a leading candidate for the job in Indiana. Josh Robbins of The Athletic previously reported that league sources expect the Pacers to interview Steve Clifford following his exit from Orlando.

As for Bjorkgren’s future, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Nurse‘s former assistant – and good friend – ends up returning to Toronto. The Raptors lost a top assistant midway through the 2020/21 season when Chris Finch was hired as Minnesota’s head coach, and Nurse strongly defended Bjorkgren amidst last month’s negative reports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Rumors: Billups, Lillard, Roster Changes, Kidd

On Monday, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said there have been whispers among league personnel for weeks about Chauncey Billups being the most likely candidate to replace Terry Stotts as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach.

Today, John Hollinger of The Athletic echoed that point, writing that league sources view Billups as the likeliest choice for the Blazers. That belief may be one reason why Jason Kidd removed his name from consideration for the Portland job so quickly, Hollinger speculates.

Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said on Monday that the team will look at upwards of 20-to-25 candidates, so it doesn’t sound like he has zeroed on Billups quite yet. However, it’s worth noting that Billups – along with Kidd – was one of the candidates Damian Lillard endorsed last week. And Olshey confirmed during his press conference on Monday that Lillard will have a say in the hiring process, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details.

“Obviously, Dame’s opinion is very important,” Olshey said. “If you ask him, we have very rarely made a big free-agent decision, very rarely made a trade without his participation and his insight. And it will be the same thing (with this coaching hire).”

According to Olshey, when the team made its decision on Stotts, Lillard was the first player to be informed.

“I called Dame to let him know we were making a coaching change, and I kind of told him the model of what we are looking at in terms of profile and the kind of candidates we would be looking at,” Olshey said, per Quick. “And I said, ‘Hey, if you have a few names, let me know.’ And he gave me a couple names. It’s unfortunate it was made public, because it didn’t actually serve the guys whose names were thrown out there. It certainly didn’t serve them well in the ensuing 48 hours.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Olshey said on Monday that finding a coach capable of improving the Blazers’ defense will be a top priority. As Quick writes, Olshey pointed to certain teams – such as the Knicks and Hawks – that made defensive improvements after changing coaches without major roster shakeups. “Teams that made big jumps on the defensive end were led in part by coaches who players knew on day one they were going to have to defend and be held accountable on that end of the floor because that’s what the coach valued,” Olshey said.
  • Although Olshey didn’t close the door on roster changes, he argued on Monday that the Blazers’ first-round loss “was not a product of the roster,” according to Hollinger. He also suggested that the coaching hire is Portland’s top priority since it’s a decision that the team can fully control. “We don’t control whether or not a superstar player wants to come to Portland or not. Or whether we have the pieces to get a deal done for that level of player,” Olshey said, per Quick. “But right now, we do control one element where we think we can find someone who can make more of an impact — with the current group, with improvements coming in the offseason — to get us to the level we expect to be at.”
  • Asked on Monday about changes to the roster, Olshey declined to specifically discuss any players, stating his preference not to do in a public forum. “We are going to look to make our team better; nothing is ever off the table if it advances us closer to a championship,” he said, per Quick. “But I’m not going to start bandying names about because people in the media think that there is some predetermined resistance to making a trade.”
  • Following Lillard’s public endorsement of Kidd, there was some back-and-forth between Lillard’s camp and the Blazers’ front office, according to Quick, who believes that conversation may have revolved around the team’s concerns about Kidd’s domestic violence history.

Trail Blazers Notes: Lillard, McCollum, Stotts

Damian Lillard will wait to see what the Trail Blazers do during the offseason before making a decision on his future, a person close to the star guard told Jabari Young of CNBC. Lillard has stated repeatedly that he wants to stay in Portland and help the franchise win a title, but that could change if he’s not convinced that the Blazers are moving in that direction. The team’s willingness to pay the luxury tax could figure into the decision, Young adds.

Lillard is under contract for the next three seasons and Portland has no plans to trade him, but he could change the situation by requesting a deal. He is coming off the best playoff series of his career, averaging 34.5 PPG in the six-game loss to the Nuggets. It marked the fourth time in five years that Portland was eliminated in the first round, and Lillard could be pondering a move to a more legitimate title contender.

The Blazers began what could be an offseason of change Friday night when they announced that coach Terry Stotts won’t return next season. Lillard quickly made a statement about his coaching preferences, with Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups topping the list.

Another factor will be what Portland’s management decides to do with the roster, and especially Lillard’s backcourt partner, CJ McCollum. Young notes that the Cavaliers have been mentioned as a possible destination for McCollum and the Spurs have considered him as well, although they aren’t currently considering an offer.

Young cites a Western Conference executive who believes the Clippers may try to move Paul George if they don’t make a long playoff run, adding that a deal involving McCollum and George is conceivable. The Heat could also be a destination, though they might prefer to target Lillard.

There’s more from Portland:

  • The Blazers will replace their coach, but general manager Neil Olshey’s job appears to be safe, Young adds. Ownership sees him as a “solid executive” who has done as much as possible within budget limitations to build a competitive team around Lillard.
  • Several teams around the league, including many in “top markets,” are keeping an eye on Portland to see if Lillard might become available, sources tell Shams Charania and Jason Quick of The Athletic.
  • Stotts wrote a farewell letter thanking the organization, players and fans for his experiences during the past nine years as head coach.

Steve Clifford Will Not Return As Magic Coach

12:10pm: The team has confirmed the decision via a press release. The statement suggests Clifford may pursue other head coaching opportunities.

“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” Weltman said. “We appreciate the many sacrifices he has made as our head coach and understand the timeline of our new path does not align with his goals as a head coach in our league.”


11:45am: The Magic and coach Steve Clifford have mutually agreed to part ways, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Clifford has met with management multiple times over recent weeks and the two sides ultimately agreed to move on. Clifford guided the Magic into the playoffs in his first two seasons with a core group that included Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.

Those players were shipped away at the trade deadline as the organization went into full rebuild mode. A season-ending injury to point guard Markelle Fultz began the chain of events that convinced the front office to hit the reset button.

Clifford compiled a 96-131 regular-season record with the club. Management will obviously be seeking a head coach who can develop young talent and stay patient through the process.

Clifford, 59, coached Charlotte for five seasons before he was hired by the Magic. He had one year left on his contract.

Orlando joins Portland and Boston as teams seeking new head coaches. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link), the Magic are interested in Terry Stotts, who parted ways with the Trail Blazers on Friday.

The recent talks between Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and Clifford centered on the veteran coach’s long-term future with the franchise.

Orlando’s management was pleased with Clifford and his coaching staff and discussed the possibility of a contract extension, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. But with the Magic in the early stages of a rebuild, Clifford wasn’t ready to commit to a longer deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lillard Favors Kidd For Blazers’ Job, Also Likes Billups

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has already gone on the record regarding Terry Stotts’ potential replacement, and he favors two other former All-Star point guards.

Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he’d like to see Lakers assistant Jason Kidd get the job. Portland parted ways with Stotts, its nine-year head coach, on Friday night after the Blazers’ latest early playoff exit.

“Jason Kidd is the guy I want,” Lillard said.

Haynes reported shortly after the news broke of Stotts’ departure that Lillard would have significant input in the hiring process. Stotts has been his only head coach since he entered the league.

According to Haynes, Lillard and Kidd “have a great relationship” and Lillard has great respect for Kidd’s basketball acumen and knowledge, believing he could get the team to the next level.

In a story written by The Athletic’s Jason Quick and Shams Charania, Lillard added another name to the mix — Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups.

“I like J. Kidd and Chauncey,” Lillard said.

The Athletic story added that Dame prefers Kidd, mainly due to his head coaching experience, but that Portland’s front office is intrigued by Billups. It’s believed that the job will go to one or the other.

Kidd’s record as a head coach — one season with the Nets and three-plus seasons with the Bucks — is 183-190. He was fired by Milwaukee midway through the 2017/18 campaign. He’s been one of the Lakers’ top assistants under Frank Vogel the last two seasons.

Billups, the 2004 Finals MVP, joined Ty Lue’s staff after a stint with ESPN.

Billups, ABC broadcaster and former Rockets/Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, former head coach and current Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and University of Michigan head coach and former Heat assistant Juwan Howard were named as potential candidates by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Blazers didn’t want to make a hasty decision on Stotts’ status but the 63-year-old coach and his agent wanted a quick resolution so that they could explore other opportunities, according to The Athletic. Stotts is believed to be a candidate for the Pacers job if they move on from Nate Bjorkgren.

Lillard heaped praise on Stotts and wished things had turned out differently.

“I feel down about it, because I’m not much a fan of change,” Lillard said. “And every memory of mine in this uniform includes him.”

However, there were increasing concerns about Stotts’ ability to connect with his players and make in-game adjustments.

Terry Stotts Won’t Return As Trail Blazers Coach

10:01pm: The team has confirmed in a press release that Stotts will not return.

“I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons,” president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction. Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best.”


9:40pm: The Trail Blazers and longtime head coach Terry Stotts have mutually agreed to part ways, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Stotts, 63, has been the team’s head coach since the 2012/13 season. Portland has qualified for the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons but only made the conference finals in 2018/19, when they were swept by the Warriors. The Blazers have been eliminated in the first round in two consecutive years, and four of the last five.

Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ABC broadcaster and former Rockets/Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, former head coach and current Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and University of Michigan head coach and former Heat assistant Juwan Howard are expected to receive consideration for the job, Wojnarowski reports in a separate tweet.

The Blazers’ quick exit in this year’s playoffs was unexpected. They were facing a depleted Nuggets team, missing starting guards Jamal Murray and Will Barton, while all of their own starters were healthy. Despite some stellar performances from Damian Lillard, Portland was eliminated in six games.

Lillard has played under Stotts throughout his career. The All-Star point guard will have a major say on Stotts’ replacement, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

In his nine seasons with Portland, Stotts accumulated a regular-season record of 402-318 (.558). However, the Blazers went 22-40 (.355) in those postseason appearances. Stotts had one more guaranteed year on his contract, with a team option for 2022/23.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Rumors: Dame, Stotts, Nurkic, Powell, Jones

In the wake of Thursday’s loss to Denver, which eliminated the Trail Blazers from the postseason, Portland players appeared to sense that major changes could be coming this offseason, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team would have to go “back to the drawing board” following its first-round exit.

“We didn’t win a championship, so obviously where we are now isn’t good enough,” Lillard said, noting that the Blazers couldn’t beat a Nuggets team that was missing starters Jamal Murray and Will Barton. “I don’t know what a shakeup looks like, or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as it is wasn’t good enough.”

As Quick writes, the future of head coach Terry Stotts will be one of the first issues the organization has to address. Stotts has one more guaranteed year on his contract, with a team option for 2022/23. However, multiple reports have indicated that Stotts is on the hot seat, and Portland’s showing in the playoffs likely didn’t help his cause.

According to Quick, the Blazers will go through exit interviews with players on Friday before making a call on Stotts, and may wait until next week to make their final decision. For his part, the Blazers’ head coach, who has led the team to eight straight playoff appearances, sounded prepared for any outcome.

“My job security? I’m under contract … I’m sure just like at the end of every year, we are all evaluated,” Stotts said. “The players, coaches, management, we are all evaluated. We will see what happens. At the end of the season, when you lose, everyone is evaluated. When we lost to New Orleans (in 2018), got swept by New Orleans, we were all evaluated. So we will see what happens.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • While he has long been committed to Portland, Lillard figures to draw plenty of leaguewide interest from teams curious to see if he’s becoming any more open to a change of scenery, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. So far, there’s no indication that Lillard’s commitment to the franchise is wavering.
  • Jusuf Nurkic didn’t sound certain about his future in Portland after Thursday’s loss. The veteran center’s $12MM salary for 2021/22 is only partially guaranteed for $4MM, but a source tells Quick the Blazers plan to guarantee the remainder. Still, Nurkic said he would’ve liked to play a bigger role, and was cryptic when asked if he wanted to return. “In the right situation, yes,” Nurkic replied, per ESPN’s Royce Young. Asked what the right situation was, Nurkic said, “We’ll see. I don’t know yet. Because this is not it.”
  • The Blazers face a tricky decision on Norman Powell, who could command up to $20MM per year in free agency, Quick writes for The Athletic. Portland has interest in re-signing Powell, but it may not be practical to invest heavily in another guard if Lillard and CJ McCollum are still on the roster, since the star duo will earn $70MM+ in 2021/22 (and even more than that in future seasons).
  • Powell’s future and that of Derrick Jones will likely be tied – at least in part – to whether or not Stotts returns, since his usage of both players was questionable, Quick says. Jones may not be able to match his $9.7MM player option salary on the open market, but it’s unlikely that he’d want to return to play for a coach that didn’t seem to value him, Quick observes.