Five College Coaches on NBA Radar
As the field of competitors for the 2014 National Championship has shrunk down to 16, the college basketball coaching carousel is moving at a dizzying pace. With over 300 Division I men’s basketball programs throughout the country, there’s always a ton of movement throughout the coaching ranks year in and year out.
Everyone longs to be in a position like Duke’s Mike Kryzyewski. Throughout his tenure he’s had numerous of other job offers, but he built the Blue Devils program into one of the premier positions in the country. No one, not even the Los Angeles Lakers, could make him a good enough offer to leave what he has.
Typically, though, when NBA teams come calling, they get their guy. We saw it last season with Butler and Brad Stevens. Stevens was working his way toward sainthood at Butler, but the Boston Celtics were able to pry him away to be their head coach.
We’re at the time of year where successful college coaches’ stocks are rising while struggling NBA head coaches’ seats are heating up. With that in mind, we take a look at the five college basketball coaches who appear to be gaining the most attention from the big league:
Tom Izzo – Michigan State
According to ESPN’s Jalen Rose, Izzo is a candidate to become the full-time replacement for Maurice Cheeks as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. John Loyer is currently occupying the position in the interim, but the likelihood of him having the tag removed before were small and they have not increased much, if at all, since.
Izzo has long maintained that he’s a Spartan for life. He turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2010 when they came to him with a reported five-year, $30 million offer. Just prior to that, Oregon was rumored to have offered him a deal that would have exceeded what John Calipari gets at Kentucky.
Izzo currently has a seven-year “rolling” contract that is automatically renewed at the end of every season. To put it simply, after he serves a year, an additional year is tacked on to his deal. After snubbing Oregon and the Cavaliers, Izzo received a $500,000 annual raise that pushed his yearly salary to $3.49 million. By winning a national championship, he could earn an additional $350,000 in bonuses. His deal also includes 25 hours of free private jet rental for personal use. He’s on record describing his buyout as “a couple of million.”
That contract is even favorable to the one Brad Stevens received from the Boston Celtics. That deal was worth $22 million over six years, which is slightly more annually, but an argument could be made that the auto-renewal language in Izzo’s agreement is worth more than the extra $176,666 Stevens is bringing in yearly. In years like this where Izzo’s team is contending for a title, he stands the chance to make even more than Stevens. This is while coaching less than half the games and being able to hand pick who he coaches, as well. That’s the luxury Stevens gave up with going from the NCAA to NBA. There are people above him who choose who he coaches. At Michigan State, the only voice that matters in all things involving basketball is Izzo’s.
If the in-state Pistons can’t lure Izzo away with a monster offer that could potentially also include a say in basketball operations with Joe Dumars expected to move on, it’s time for other employers to stop pursuing all together. He won’t be leaving. He came out today and denied interest in any jobs outside of his own, but that’s to be expected with his team in the midst of a battle for the national championship and no official offer on the table. With the right offer, the Pistons could at least earn some consideration, if he’s who they want to hire.
Fred Hoiberg – Iowa State
Since taking over his alma mater in 2010, Hoiberg has become one of the hottest names in basketball coaching. He’s turned the program into a national contender and this offseason he received a 10-year contract extension worth $20 million. His buyout to coach another NCAA program is $2 million, while it only costs him $500,000 to go to the NBA.
That annual salary puts Hoiberg well below the likes of Izzo, Coach K and Stevens. If an NBA team comes in and offers him $3 million, a 50 percent increase, he’d have to give it strong consideration, despite how comfortable and secure he feels at Iowa State – where he’s referred to as the “Mayor.”
It’s going to be very interesting to see if the Minnesota Timberwolves come after him this offseason in the event that they part ways with Rick Adelman. Adelman’s deal only has one year left on it and at 67 years old, he’s at the age where retirement is always a possibility. The team has underachieved this year. However, if he leaves it will likely be due to family issues more than a true desire to step away from the game or the Timberwolves losing faith in his abilities.
Hoiberg’s ties with the Timberwolves date back to his days there as a player in 2003-2005.
Afterward, he held roles on the coaching staff and in the front office. He left there in high regard and that has only increased as he’s taken Iowa State back to prominence as head coach. With the reputation of a player’s coach, Hoiberg could go a long way in helping keep Kevin Love in Minnesota long-term.
Former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr recently said that as soon as Hoiberg makes it known he’s open to NBA offers, he’ll start receiving them.
Kevin Ollie – UConn
When Ollie first took over for longtime Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun, he was earning $625,000 on a one-year contract. That deal was in place for about three months before UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel locked him up long-term with a five-year contract worth $7 million that runs through 2017-18.
His value has continued to skyrocket since the agreement, with his team now playing in the Sweet 16 after enduring a year-long postseason ban his first season due to poor APR scores. As a longtime point guard in the NBA, Ollie has plenty of admirers at the next level.
His contract has a descending buyout that was a massive $3 million last season, but is now down to $2 million. In 2015, it goes down to $1 million and it’s just $800,000 in 2016.
Among the fits at the NBA level that would be the most intriguing for Ollie are the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz. Mark Jackson seems to be wearing out his welcome with the Warriors and only has only one year left on his deal. The way his tenure is going could discourage them from hiring another former player, but Ollie brings more experience than Jackson originally did and jumps out as a particularly good fit with their personnel. Meanwhile, Corbin is in the final year of his contract with the Jazz and no contract extension talks have been initiated as of yet. That’s typically not a good sign and with a young roster Ollie could be the perfect guy to mold this team into a respectable contender again.
John Calipari – Kentucky
For years there have been rumors about Calipari making a return to the NBA. He went 72-112 during a three-year stint with the Brooklyn Nets that ended early in the third season after a 3-17 start. Afterward, he served as an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers, but then took over at Memphis and built the program into the dominant force of Conference USA. Kentucky stole him away in 2009 with an eight-year, $31.65 million contract. Two years later they were awarded with a national championship.
Calipari has turned Kentucky into a hotbed for one-and-done talents. He gets the best of the best in recruiting because he not only heavily focuses on preparing his kids for the next level, but embraces them leaving when their stock justifies doing so.
In 2011, Calipari was awarded a two-year contract extension to make his total deal worth $36.5 million and run through 2019. He can net up to an extra $700,000 any year by winning a national championship. The contract also calls for free country club membership, two “late model, quality automobiles” with complimentary gas, and tickets to basketball and football home games.
The buyout language is unique in the sense that there is no defined buyout beyond this season in which it is $1 million. Afterward, though, Calipari would have to give up his retention bonus of $1 million in order to get out of his deal. So, it serves the same purpose and is the same amount.
With one of the top jobs in the country and a bad taste in his mouth from his first NBA experience, it’s going to take a high-profile job with a long-term commitment in order to land Calipari. Coincidentally, both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be looking for a new head coach this summer. Calipari’s chances at either seem slim, though, based on the leadership in place. If the relationship between Chicago Bulls management and head coach Tom Thibodeau ever hits a breaking point, though, reuniting with Derrick Rose in the Windy City may be enough to draw Calipari’s interest.
Larry Brown – SMU
As recently as this offseason there were a couple of teams, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, contemplating making Brown an offer. Although his SMU Mustangs came up short of making the NCAA Tournament, they did have their best year under Brown, winning 25 games. They’re poised to really make some noise next year with a strong recruiting class coming in, led by one nation’s top incoming freshmen in Emmanuel Mudiay.
Brown’s exact contract details have not been widely publicized, but he does have a multi-year deal in place worth around $2 million annually. Buyout terms are not known, but Brown has a reputation for moving around – so it’s highly unlikely he agreed to anything that he wouldn’t give him a reasonable way out.
With decades of coaching experience but some bad and unexpected break ups, Brown’s options in the NBA are somewhat limited. He had close ties to the Nets with Billy King there and a successful history with the 76ers. With those two options off of the table for at least the next couple of years, there’s a chance we may not see Brown in the league again. He’s said that he would prefer to return as a general manager, if anything. If the Los Angeles Lakers came calling this offseason about replacing Mike D’Antoni, though, the opportunity to coach one of the league’s biggest franchise could be too good for Brown to pass on. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will have one of the more prominent voices in the Lakers’ coaching search. Not only is Brown a fellow Tar Heel like Kupchak, but he’s a veteran head coach who stands as good of a chance as anyone to have a strong working relationship with Kobe Bryant. Bryant wants to get back to competing next year and the hiring of Brown would signal to him that they’re in “win-now” mode.
With the struggles of Calipari, Pitino and other former college head coaches in the NBA, there is somewhat of a negative stigma that comes with hiring them. However, the group above have credentials that put their value above the stereotype. Odds are, though, we see more coaches make the move down from the NBA to college rather than vice versa. There are reports that Mike Woodson will be immediately offered a college head coaching job if he’s fired by the New York Knicks, while top Houston Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson is a candidate to take over at the University of Houston.
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.