Knicks at risk of losing beloved associate head coach to despised rival

He deserves a shot.
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The New York Knicks could make a head coaching move over the offseason, but it wouldn't be bringing in a new face. Tom Thibodeau has done well since taking over for the Knicks in 2020, and he's due for an extension.

Thibodeau might enter the 2024-25 season without one of his right-hand men. Associate head coach Johnnie Bryant could get his first head coaching job. In 2012, Bryant was hired by the Jazz as a player development assistant. In 2014, he was promoted to assistant head coach. Six years later, Bryant was named the Knicks' associate head coach.

In 2022, Utah requested permission to interview Bryant for its head coaching vacancy. The Jazz hired Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy. At the time, the Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks trade rumors were in full force, so there was a chance the guard would reunite with Bryant in New York. Instead, the Cavaliers swooped in to trade for Mitchell.

Two years later, Bryant has been mentioned as a candidate for a head coach vacancy, and Mitchell could be on the move again.

Knicks' Johnnie Bryant mentioned as candidate for Nets head coach

On Feb. 19, Brooklyn fired Jacque Vaughn. The Nets were No. 11 in the East and were coming off an embarrassing 50-point loss to the Celtics. Kevin Ollie was named the interim head coach. The search for the team's next head coach is on.

Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer reported that the Nets are focused on "finding the right development-minded coaches to enhance a youth movement." Former Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer, former Charlotte coach James Borrego, Phoenix assistant Kevin Young, and Sacramento assistant Jordi Fernandez were mentioned as candidates.

Along with the names mentioned above, Fischer reported that Bryant "has been another name presented as a potential first-time head coaching candidate in Brooklyn."

What makes Bryant's candidacy so interesting is Mitchell's future. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he believes the All-Star will sign an extension with Cleveland this summer. However, Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus reported that unless the Cavs make a run to the NBA Finals, the belief is that Mitchell "will decline an extension and look elsewhere."

If the Nets hire Bryant, that doesn't mean Mitchell will go to Brooklyn. Cleveland won't let Mitchell reach free agency, as the front office would trade him beforehand. He could be traded this summer if he doesn't sign an extension, so the Cavaliers will have the final say.

Knicks fans don't want to see Bryant go, especially to the Nets. However, he does deserve to be a head coach. He'd be the best thing to happen to Brooklyn in a long time, which would make the switch even more tough for New York fans.

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