The New York Knicks prioritize player development by hiring Johnnie Bryant
The New York Knicks continue to emphasize player development by hiring Johnnie Bryant as Tom Thibodeau’s Associate Head Coach, per The Athletic. Bryant, only 35 years old and a client of Knicks president Leon Rose’s former employer, CAA, has been an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz since the 2012-13 season.
Bryant developed a reputation for player development during his time in Utah. The Athletic reports that he will remain with the team during their current playoff run. The hiring has not yet been made official.
Johnnie Bryant’s roots sewn from Oakland, California to Salt Lake City, Utah
Bryant is a native of Oakland, California. He transferred from Junior College to play basketball at the University of Utah, where he excelled. Bryant started as a combo guard for the Utes and graduated in 2008. Recently-fired Bulls head coach Jim Boylen coached him during his senior season. He left the University of Utah as the university’s all-time leader in 3-point FG% of 45.5% He later spent one year playing overseas in Germany, but family reasons brought him back to Salt Lake City to eventually start up his own training academy Bryant Sports Academy.
One of his first clients was Utah Jazz point guard Ronnie Price. Eventually, his workouts with Price led to additional workouts with Paul Millsap, Elijah Millsap, and even Tyrell Corbin, the son of then head coach Ty Corbin. He slowly became a renowned private trainer for players in the Salt Lake City area.
By 2012, the Utah Jazz became aware of Johnnie Bryant’s individual workouts with fellow Jazz players. It was at one workout with Millsap when then GM Dennis Lindsey noticed him. Days after the workout, the Jazz offered Bryant a player development coaching position. Soon enough, he became a full-time assistant coach and has remained with the Jazz ever since.
Mentoring Damian Lillard
Growing up in Oakland, Damian Lillard looked up to Johnnie Bryant as a mentor. Bryant would train with the All-Star guard during multiple offseasons when Lillard was only in middle school. They still remain very close as to today.
Johnnie Bryant’s renowned focus on player development
Johnnie Bryant’s developed a profound reputation for player development, especially for guards, during his tenure with the Utah Jazz. He’s worked very closely turning both Gordon Hayward & Donovan Mitchell into All-Stars.
His one-on-one tutelage of Donovan Mitchell is very profound, even as early as Mitchell’s rookie season. His reputation of pushing players to the max only further expedited Mitchell’s development.
Mitchell made the All-Star team for the first time this season. In a beautifully detailed piece by Tony Jones of The Athletic (subscription required), Mitchell recalled some excruciating workouts during the previous offseason with Bryant.
Leon Rose has clearly shown that player development is an integral theme of his regime. He’s focused on hiring coaches tailored towards player development and has invested money into modernizing the team’s analytics infrastructure.
The Bryant hire should not come to anyone’s surprise due to his relationship with Walt Perrin, Knicks VP of Player Personnel. Additionally, Tom Thibodeau witnessed Bryant first-hand at a Jazz practice during the 2015-16 season when he was out of coaching:
Additionally, Ian Begley of SNY hinted towards the Knicks potentially interviewing Bryant as a head coach back in June. Begley’s premonitions did come true, albeit not as a head coach.