Posted on: June 5, 2010 5:23 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Bulls, a person with close ties to the Celtics assistant confirmed to CBSSports.com Saturday.
The news, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, comes as Thibodeau is preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Boston trailing the Lakers 1-0.
Thibodeau, 50, architect of the Celtics defense that contained Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard during Boston's unexpected return to the Finals for the second time in three years, is not permitted to speak with the media due to team policy that muzzles assistant coaches. But the person with knowledge of the agreement called his decision to leave the Celtics for the opportunity to be the head coach in Chicago -- a marquee franchise with a solid roster and cap space to add a max free agent -- "a no-brainer."
No official announcement will come from either team during the Finals.
Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:26 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2010 2:18 pm
LOS ANGELES -- The New Orleans Hornets have offered their head coaching position to Portland assistant Monty Williams, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.
The offer came Friday afternoon after talks broke down with Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau, whose indecision as he helps coach the Celtics in the NBA Finals bumped Williams from No. 2 on the Hornets' list to No. 1. Thibodeau also interviewed with Bulls officials in Los Angeles before the Finals began, signaling his desire to pursue jobs other than the one vacated in New Orleans when interim coach Jeff Bower returned to his full-time GM duties after the season.
Bower and Williams' agent, Steve Kauffman, are said to be in the preliminary stages of negotiations, with financial terms and certain key contractual details yet to be broached. But close friends of Williams, 38, who played for five teams during a nine-year NBA playing career and became Nate McMillan's most trusted assistant in Portland, say he is excited about the opportunity. No serious hangups are expected in the negotiations.
Thibodeau, who has a full plate with the Celtics down 1-0 in the Finals with Game 2 on Sunday, has now emerged as the leading candidate for the Bulls' job. After Thibodeau allowed a Thursday deadline to accept the Hornets' offer lapse -- a deadline that Bower has told friends he did not impose -- the Hornets conducted a lenghty second interview by phone on Thursday with Williams. The Blazers assistant performed well in the interview process, impressing Hornets officials with his preparation and enthusiasm for the job.
Posted on: May 27, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 1:07 pm
LOS ANGELES – While Tom Thibodeau remains the front-runner for the Hornets’ head coaching position, the extension of the Celtics-Magic series has complicated efforts by both parties to close the deal.
Thibodeau, architect of the Boston defense that ousted LeBron James from the playoffs, is entrenched in a suddenly difficult Eastern Conference finals with Orlando as the Celtics’ 3-0 lead has dwindled to 3-2 heading into Game 6 Friday night in Boston. In preparation for a contract negotiation with New Orleans, Thibodeau hired leading sports representation firm Creative Artists Agency on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. CAA has an expanding coaching business in addition to its dealings with top free agents James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Celtics’ difficulty in closing out the Magic also has affected the progress of other coaching searches, most notably Atlanta’s. The Hawks, who have twice interviewed Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, the leading candidate for the job, have been unable to schedule an interview with Mark Jackson due to his broadcasting and travel obligations in the Eastern Conference finals. That interview is expected to take place in the next couple of days, according to a person familiar with that situation.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have officially embarked on their search for a candidate to replace Mike Brown, who was fired after back-to-back 60-win seasons. At or near the top of the list is Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. But the Cavs have quietly begun conducting background checks on several other candidates and have been privately saying in those conversations that James, a soon-to-be-free agent, will not be making the decision, according to a person familiar with the Cavs’ search. James certainly will have input, but the person said James doesn’t want his fingerprints on the Cavs’ hire – in part because the organization doesn’t yet know if he will be staying or leaving as a free agent.
A person with close ties to James told CBSSports.com that he remains undecided, citing the complicated series of decisions league-wide on coaching hires and the movement of other top free agents. Wade told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Thursday that he plans to sit down with fellow CAA clients James and Bosh to jointly discuss their options.
The Bulls and Nets also are interested in Thibodeau, though in Chicago’s case, his hiring of an agent could complicate matters since the Bulls are one of the only teams in the NBA that do not negotiate with coaching agents. Portland assistant Monty Williams also remains on the radar for the Nets, Hornets and Clippers, who also are interested in Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin. A person familiar with the situation said Williams is believed to be the No. 2 choice in New Orleans if Thibodeau says no. Williams performed extremely well in the interview process and impressed incoming Hornets owner Gary Chouest and team president Hugh Weber.
The Clippers, according to sources, remain hopeful of persuading Larry Brown to leave Charlotte for L.A., but pressure is expected to mount on Brown to tell the Bobcats’ brass definitively if he’s saying or leaving so the team doesn’t get shut out in the search for qualified replacements.
Posted on: May 25, 2010 9:14 pm
PHOENIX – Phil Jackson said Tuesday he “just can’t imagine” coaching any other team next season. But the Lakers' coach refused to close the door on leaving for other opportunities, while a person with ties to him told CBSSports.com that he would not return to L.A. next season with a significant pay cut.
On reports in the past 24 hours that the Bulls and Nets have reached out to Jackson or his representatives through “backchannels,” Jackson said, “Those channels have not reached me. I have no awareness of that at all.”
But given the chance to shut down the rumors and commit to the Lakers or retirement next season, Jackson said, “I’ve always had problems committing. … I’ll leave it open and just say that, as of now, I have not made up my mind about coaching or not coaching next year. That’s all I can say, really, truthfully.”
On reports indicating the Bulls’ interest in orchestrating a reunion with Jackson in Chicago, Jackson said, “I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago to coach the Bulls.” As for the Nets, whose bid for Jackson would be fueled by deep-pocketed Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jackson said, “I’d like to have a vodka with him. He seems like a very interesting young man.”
“I have not entertained any conversations about [coaching elsewhere] right now, so I just can’t imagine it,” Jackson said. “That’s not to say it’s beyond the wildest dreams or never would happen, but it’s not part of my conscious thought.”
Jackson does not have a contract for next season, and has acknowledged that he has been asked to take a pay cut from his $12 million salary. Asked if he knew what “backchannels” may have been operating on his behalf – or on behalf of the teams – Jackson said, “No I really don’t. I’m not aware of how you would go about doing that, unless you’re talking about Mark Twain stuff or Huckleberry Finn – those kind of channels rather than the river.”
Jackson, 64, got a lot of laughs for that line, but this is no laughing matter for the Lakers. While Jackson reiterated his hunch Tuesday that there’s a 90 percent chance he’ll either be coaching the Lakers next season or retiring, a person with close ties to Jackson told CBSSports.com that it’s too early to set odds. If Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss insists on a massive pay cut, the person said, Jackson would not return. Published reports have indicated that Buss is seeking to pay Jackson $5 million next season, a pay cut of $7 million.
The source close to Jackson indicated that the question of how much Jackson’s pay would be reduced is, to some degree, semantics. Given that he is close to retirement age, a significant portion of Jackson’s salary could be deferred in the form of retirement benefits that he would see without penalty in two years.
Another person with knowledge of Jackson’s situation said it would be difficult to imagine him leaving the Lakers with Kobe Bryant in the prime of his career and having just signed a three-year extension. The person equated it to overtures that frequently came Jackson’s way when he coached Michael Jordan in Chicago, saying Jackson never would’ve left Jordan in his prime, either.
But one of those sources said circumstances could change with the possibility of Jackson becoming bait to lure LeBron James to the Bulls, who have maximum salary-cap space to sign him and a quality roster that Jackson views favorably. The person said the Jackson/LeBron situation was plausible, considering Jackson would have the chance to complete a potentially irresistible trifecta – coaching Jordan and Bryant, and then capping his career with James.
All of this continued to unfold about an hour before the Lakers took the floor to play the Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
“They’re no distraction,” Jackson said of the reports. “Not to me, and not to the players, either. It’s a distraction, I think, to other teams and I think a disservice to coaches that are really seeking jobs and have opportunities to go to those towns.”
Posted on: May 21, 2010 11:38 pm
With speculation growing over where LeBron James and other marquee free agents will wind up July 1, the player who could represent the best consolation prize is about to move one step closer to coming off the market.
Representatives for three-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets have scheduled a face-to-face negotiating session with the hopes of agreeing on a three-year extension that would keep the coveted scorer from hitting the free-agent market in 2011, sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com. Since Anthony, who turns 26 later this month, isn’t a free agent this summer, he is free to discuss an extension with his team prior to the opening of the negotiating period July 1.
The Nuggets, fully aware that Anthony would be in high demand in 2011 among teams that strike out in their pursuit of James, Dwyane Wade and other marquee free agents this summer, are hopeful that this will be the first step toward “making Melo a Nugget for a long time,” one of the people familiar with the team’s strategy said.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, declined comment recently when approached after a playoff game and asked about Anthony’s future. Rose, of course, has a full plate now that James’ season has ended and his long anticipated foray into unrestricted free agency is in full froth. With six weeks to go before James can terminate his contract and hit the market, speculation about where he will go has reached a fever pitch. But hardly anyone is paying attention to Anthony, who would be the ideal consolation prize for teams like the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat, Clippers and Wizards if they fail to lure the free agents of their choice this summer.
Anthony signed his current agreement in 2006, the same summer when James, Wade and Chris Bosh all chose three-year extensions with an early termination option in the fourth year that would maximize their ability to hit the free-agent market in the prime of their careers. Anthony opted for a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, thus choosing the additional money and security over flexibility. The Nuggets are hopeful that Anthony will follow the same strategy again, especially with the very real threat of a lockout in 2011 and ultimately a salary structure that is expected to be far less favorable to the players, sources say. Some circumstances have changed. Anthony’s current deal was negotiated by agent Bill Duffy, whereas his current agent, Rose, negotiated the shorter extensions for James, Wade and Bosh. Ultimately, though, it comes down to what the player wants.
Anthony will have to weigh those financial realities against the possibility that the Nuggets’ roster built around him and an aging Chauncey Billups has gone as far as it will go with the current core group. Also, sources say Anthony perpetually feels slighted among the league’s top talent and may want to seek a bigger stage to pursue his rightful place in the league’s pecking order.
For example, if James turns down the Knicks’ overtures this summer and stays in Cleveland or signs with the Bulls, imagine what a star Anthony would be in New York if he returned to his birthplace next summer with a chip on his shoulder. Not only would he have an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong about his own talent, but he also would be the perfect candidate to tap into Knicks fans’ anger over being jilted by James. During the Knicks’ most recent run of success in the 1990s, they were immensely popular in New York not only because they were successful, but because they never had the league’s best player. The underdog/villain role would suit Anthony’s personality perhaps better than any of the league’s current superstars.
While Anthony was born in New York, he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Wizards’ just became a far more attractive destination for free agents with the draft lottery triumph that will land them No. 1 pick John Wall. The point is, Anthony will have options galore if he decides to forgo an extension this summer and hit the market in 2011. And that’s something both sides in his imminent contract negotiation understand quite well.
Posted on: May 20, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 8:49 pm
Former Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey has the inside track for the Atlanta Hawks' job, three sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.
Casey, an assistant for Rick Carlisle on the Dallas bench who's attracted interest from several teams in the market for a coach, has a strong relationship with Hawks GM Rick Sund from their days in Seattle together. Plus, considering the likelihood that Casey would fit under the Hawks' $2 million annual budget for a head coach, it looks like "his job to lose," one of the sources said. Casey and the Hawks' brass were planning to discuss the opening in Chicago during the pre-draft camp this week.
A second source familiar with the situation, however, noted that Sund is in the process of formulating a list of 4-5 candidates to interview for the position vacated when Mike Woodson's contract was not renewed after an embarrassing second-round sweep at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Mark Jackson, the broadcaster and former player, is one of those expected to be interviewed, the source said. Sund also is interested in speaking with Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos, among others. Casey, one of the sources said, will have to earn the job.
While the Hawks are expected to target Casey and the Sixers have agreed to terms with Doug Collins, several other teams are in holding patterns in their coaching searches. The Bulls, Clippers and Nets are in no rush to hire a coach, particularly with all that is riding on their pursuit of LeBron James and other free agents when the negotiating period opens July 1. No team in the running for those elite players wants to give up the negotiating power of allowing the player to have input on the coaching hire. The Clippers, sources say, also are holding out hope that Larry Brown could be persuaded to take over a young, talented roster with cap space for a max free agent. And with Phil Jackson's future with the Lakers in limbo, there's a pie-in-the-sky theory that perhaps Jackson could be persuaded to move across the hall at Staples Center and take on a reclamation project -- especially if he can't come to terms with Dr. Jerry Buss on how much of a pay cut he's expected to take.
The other shoe to drop -- and it's a big one-- is Mike Brown in Cleveland. Brown and most of his staff are expected to be fired "sooner than later," according to a person familiar with the Cavs' organizational dynamics. According to that person, letting Brown go will come with a softer-than-expected financial blow because of an unusual circumstance in which Brown's salary for next season is only half guaranteed.
If and when Brown is let go, he immediately would become a candidate for any team with an opening that isn't a realistic destination for James. No team hoping to lure James would hire a coach who was just fired at his behest.
Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:43 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2010 9:18 pm
Vinny Del Negro finally has been fired as coach of the Bulls, putting a merciful end to his rocky two-year tenure, a source with knowledge of the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The decision came Monday after a series of organizational meetings that culminated in a sitdown with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and the final meeting Monday with GM Gar Forman. As print and broadcast reports trickled out Monday, Del Negro and his staff were hearing the news through the media before officially learning of the decision, which was delivered later in the evening, the person familiar with the situation said.
The Bulls have scheduled an 11 a.m. CT news conference Tuesday to announce Del Negro's firing.
Del Negro, who had one year and about $2 million left on his contract, leaves with two playoff appearances on his resume -- both first-round exits at the hands of East powers Boston and Cleveland. Although he reportedly made the case to Reinsdorf that he and his staff had played a prominent role in the development of young players such as blossoming All-Star Derrick Rose and 2009 first-round pick Taj Gibson, Del Negro could not overcome what some in the organization perceived as neglectful defensive coaching and personal clashes with team executive John Paxson.
Del Negro became embroiled in a physical confrontation with Paxson late in the season after the coach allegedly ignored an agreement among management and the medical staff to limit Joakim Noah's minutes. Noah, one of the Bulls' core players, was recovering from plantar fasciitis. After a game in which Del Negro exceeded Noah's minute limit, Noah missed the next 10 games -- all losses.
Sources said the confrontation with Paxson did not play a role in Del Negro's firing, partly because his dismissal may have been a foregone conclusion anyway. Also, according to a source familiar with the conflict, team management was concerned with the actions of both Del Negro and Paxson, with Reinsdorf apparently pleased with the way Del Negro handled himself in the crucible of pressure that followed.
Del Negro wasn't the first person to draw the ire of Paxson, known for his raw emotions and temper. But once people close to the situation began hearing the word "insubordination" used to describe Del Negro's actions, the end game was clear.
The Bulls will now engage in a crucial search for Del Negro's replacement, given their stated intentions to be a major player in this summer's free agent market. The stakes were raised Monday when Heat president Pat Riley stated that he wouldn't rule out returning to coach the team if a prospective free agent asked him to. It is 2005 all over again in Miami, when Riley came down from the front office to replace then-coach Stan Van Gundy. With enough room to re-sign Dwyane Wade and add another max player and an $8-10 million player, Miami represents the Bulls chief competition in the chase for 2010 free agents.
After pushing the defending champion Celtics to a seven-game series in the 2009 first round, the Bulls fell in five games this year to Cleveland -- the team with the league's best player and best record. Del Negro's coaching methods and tactical decisions were often unpopular, but it is fair to note that he was left with only one player -- Rose -- who could create his own shot after the team lost Ben Gordon to the Pistons as a free agent last summer and traded John Salmons to the Bucks in February. The Salmons deal cleared enough cap space to add a max player to a core that includes Rose, Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich -- but of course, that will do Del Negro no good.
The Bulls reportedly are eager to secure a replacement with previous head coaching experience and are expected to focus their search on Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, former Nets coaches Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank, former Mavs coach Avery Johnson and former Bulls coach Doug Collins, who already has interviewed for the Sixers' opening. Broadcaster and former player Mark Jackson, who has drawn interest from the Clippers, Sixers, Hornets and Nets, would seem to be a long shot for the Chicago job given how Del Negro -- a former player with no head coaching experience -- didn't work out.
Posted on: May 3, 2010 1:56 am
The coaching carousel has been spinning at an unusually slow pace for teams whose offseasons already have begun. That is expected to change in the coming days, with the Hornets and Sixers closing in on plans to begin interviewing candidates.
The Hornets plan to interview a mixture of current assistants and former head coaches, with sources telling CBSSports.com that at least eight names are on New Orleans’ list so far. Assistants Tom Thibodeau (Celtics), Dwane Casey (Mavericks), Monty Williams (Trail Blazers), Tyrone Corbin (Jazz), and Steve Clifford (Magic) are expected to interview for the Hornets job, along with former head coaches Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank and broadcaster Mark Jackson. Johnson, Jackson and Thibodeau also are expected to interview with the Sixers.
The Nets’ search is in limbo until the transfer of ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is completed. All signs point to team president Rod Thorn remaining with the team, with Kiki Vandeweghe back to his GM position. Though the Nets have scheduled no formal interviews, they are believed to be interested in Thibodeau, Boston’s associate head coach in charge of the defense, and Jackson, whose name recognition and New York roots would be appealing for a team on its way to Brooklyn.
Vinny Del Negro’s status in Chicago is expected to be resolved this week as organizational meetings conclude with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Several front office situations also are in flux, including Portland, where GM Kevin Pritchard is waiting to learn if he will meet the same fate as close friend and former top assistant Tom Penn, who was fired in March. In Denver, GM Mark Warkentien’s contract is set to expire after he did not receive an extension to accompany coach George Karl’s. Sources familiar with the Denver situation said Warkentien’s status is expected to be resolved within a week after the Nuggets’ playoff elimination. Team executive Rex Chapman is expected to be let go, sources said.
The Clippers have not made any official inroads in their coaching search, leading rival executives to wonder if further changes are afoot in the front office after Mike Dunleavy was removed as coach and then fired as GM. Dunleavy’s replacement, Neil Olshey, has been told his status is not interim in nature, sources said. Dunleavy has filed an arbitration case after the Clippers stopped paying his salary, of which nearly $7 million is owed through the end of next season.
In Philly, all decisions hinge on whether Larry Brown decides to leave the Bobcats for the Sixers’ team presidency. Brown, 69, has said publicly he won’t coach anywhere but Charlotte, but has returned home to Philadelphia to speak to his wife and children about his next career move. The Bobcats are pushing for Brown to resolve his future “sooner than later” so the organization can move forward with preparations for the draft and free agency with a clear understanding of who will be coaching the team.