When it comes to immediacy, the assistant coaching search is now at the top of Bulls fans’ must-watch list.
On Monday morning, NBC Sports Chicago was the first to report that new head coach Billy Donovan would move on from the majority of the Bulls coaching staff, leaving only Chris Fleming untouched.
Considering that new head coaches, especially those of Donovan’s caliber, typically like to put together their own bench, this isn’t really all that surprising. Not to mention, considering how much the organization has invested in Donovan (reportedly $24 million over five seasons), it’s probably wise to ensure that he isn’t forced to keep anyone who doesn’t hold his full confidence. And even Fleming, who will stay on board, is not necessarily a lock to keep his title as “lead assistant.” Donovan will most likely determine the staff’s structure as the new hires come in.
(With that said, Fleming is considered to be a well-respected, up-and-coming mind in NBA coaching circles (he also led the team in group workouts during the in-market bubble), so I wouldn’t be too surprised if he did maintain his spot at the top of the assistant depth chart).
REPORT: Billy Donovan is “Starting Fresh” with the Coaching Staffhttps://t.co/HlRSfz7jV1
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) October 12, 2020
In total, we know Donovan has officially moved on from four Bulls assistants (Roy Rogers, Dean Cooper, Nate Loesner, and Karen Stack Umlauf,) which means he has plenty of slots to fill. The question now is what kind of names should we expect to see involved in Donovan’s search?
Fortunately, I think we can assume Donovan not only has solid relationships around the league but also plenty of respect after his several years of success in Oklahoma City. After all, let’s not forget that his peers in the NBA Coaches Association named him the 2020 Co-Coach of the Year.
We should also keep in mind that the organization has surprised us with their recent willingness to spend big. Arturas Karnisovas has seemed to convince Jerry Reinsdorf to open up his wallet, and I have to imagine this will spill over into the assistant coaching department. Donovan shouldn’t have many restrictions as he looks for the right names, and if he wants to go out of his way to grab a “big” name, I expect the Bulls to do just that.
Speaking of which, as we’ve discussed, former player and head coach Maurice Cheeks will be an important name to keep an eye on, as he’s been on Donovan’s staff the past five seasons in Oklahoma City. Thunder assistant Brian Keefe is another OKC assistant I’ve seen praised, and I’m sure many would consider him a quality target.
Remember, the Thunder will go through a coaching change of their own, so that means their assistants could be (1) more eager to leave or (2) also released. The same goes for the numerous other organizations that will experience coaching changes around the league. With the Rockets, Pacers, Pelicans, and Clippers still searching for a head coach, there could be plenty of qualified assistants available over the next several weeks. For that reason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this assistant coaching search stretch out a bit. Donovan surely already has some people in mind, but with plenty of change coming to the coaching market, it’d be wise to practices some patience.