The NBA coaching carousel is circling at full speed, and the Clippers reportedly have had several coaches hopping aboard and stepping off in the days following Tyronn Lue’s official promotion to head coach Oct. 20.
In his introductory virtual news conference, Lue said his aim was to round out his coaching staff with well-rounded colleagues, fellow coaches who aren’t limited to their areas of expertise — and, if things work out as he hopes, who’ll eventually leave to coach against him.
What that looks like so far: A bench comprised of colleagues who’ve either been head coaches or who’ve been considered recently for such a role. Former Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, former Cleveland coach Larry Drew and top Miami assistant Dan Craig all reportedly are expected to join Lue’s Clippers staff.
Also, first-time coach Chauncey Billups, a former All-Star point guard with highly regarded basketball acumen, is expected to join Lue on the sideline.
That’s who’s in, so far. Heading off: Sam Cassell, the 11-year NBA assistant who spent the past six seasons coaching alongside Doc Rivers, will reunite with the former Clippers coach in Philadelphia, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. Former Agua Caliente Clippers coach Brian Adams also will join Rivers’ staff in Philadelphia, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday.
In L.A., the Clippers will enter next season — the length and start of which still are being negotiated by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association — with a focus on in-house player development, they said.
“A lot of times when people talk about player development, they focus on younger players, which is critical but also the best teachers and best coaches get the best out of your best players,” said Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, during Lue’s introductory news conference.
“We’ve talked a lot and we’ve looked internally in terms of how we can get better, and we think we can make great gains organizationally in the player-development phase … player development is kind of like a catch-all phrase. There’s skill development by the coaches. There’s development by the performance of medical staff. There’s developmental performance, nutrition.
“… We’re very, very hopeful of our young guys getting better, but also at the same time is making sure we have a plan for every single player and making sure we’re giving them enough feedback throughout the process to see the gains they are making.”
Having traded away all but their second-round pick in each of the next two years, and with only a taxpayer mid-level exception (expected to be approximately $6 million annually) or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (anticipated to be between $9 to $10 million annually) available to them, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer acknowledged that there’s work to do in the margins of the roster. And he echoed Frank’s assessment on the importance of in-house development.
“We are just going to have to do better and better with all aspects of player development,” Ballmer said on that Zoom call.
With that in mind, the Clippers will incorporate Atkinson — a 53-year-old native of Huntington, New York — who in 2018-19 led a young Nets team to its first playoff appearance since 2015.
He worked as an assistant coach for seven years before being hired in 2016 as the Nets’ head coach, where in three-plus seasons he was 118-190, as his teams made significant improvement after the Nets went 20-62 in his first season at the helm. Last season, an injury-plagued Brooklyn squad was 28-34 when he was excused in March.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported his “strong” candidacy for a position on Lue’s bench.
Drew is a good friend of Lue’s who played in the NBA for 10 years, including two seasons with the Clippers, after which he began his coaching career as a Lakers assistant in 1992.
The 62-year-old from Kansas City, Kansas, has twice been a head coach, going 128-102 in three seasons in Atlanta and 19-57 in most of a season in Cleveland, where he took over for Lue after he was fired six games in the 2018-19 slate. Drew also led the Cavs to an 8-1 record as an interim coach between March 19-April 3 2018, when Lue took a medical absence. The Athletic’s Shams Charania originally reported Drew was headed to the Clippers.
Miami assistant Dan Craig — who reportedly interviewed for head coaching vacancies with Chicago and Indiana — will find a home on Lue’s staff, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson.
A 38-year-old from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Craig began his Heat career in 2003 as a video intern, moving steadily up until he joined Spoelstra’s bench as an assistant in 2012.
And Billups, 44, played 17 NBA seasons and was a member of the Detroit Pistons’ 2004 championship team. Last season, he worked as an analyst for Clippers games on Fox Sports West broadcasts. Charania reported that he would join the Clippers’ staff when the news broke that Lue was taking the job.
Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has emerged as a strong contender to join new head coach Ty Lue’s staff with the Clippers, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 23, 2020
Can confirm that Heat assistant coach Dan Craig has left to take a job as an assistant coach with the LA Clippers, per source. Clippers offered more money and he hopes this becomes pathway to becoming head coach somewhere eventually, per source.
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) October 26, 2020
New Clippers head coach Ty Lue’s coaching staff will include: NBA champion, ’04 Finals MVP and five-time All-Star Chauncey Billups and former Hawks/Bucks/Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew, per source. https://t.co/MajdAsqsOC
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 15, 2020
Brian Adams got his first shot at head coaching in Ontario in 2018-19, since when those G League Clips went 48-46 — and his history with Doc includes some fun KG anecdotes (and Pat Bev comparisons), of course: https://t.co/76nPUdiwAf https://t.co/3SQ6xvR5XU
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) October 30, 2020