More than two decades since helping the San Antonio Spurs torment the New York Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals, Jaren Jackson Sr. will soon find himself helping rebuild the team they vanquished.
Jaren Sr. is expected to sign with the Knicks to become part of their G League team coaching staff.
Keeping it in the family
Aside from Jaren Sr., the Knicks are also planning to sign former Kentucky stars Skal Labissiere and James Young to join the Westchester Knicks. Labissiere is expected to sign an Exhibit 10 contract, and the Knicks have to waive someone from their 20-man training camp roster to bring him in.
Marc Stein of the New York Times first reported the planned signings.
The latest additions to the Knicks continue the trend of signing players and staff with CAA and Kentucky connections.
Jaren Sr. has CAA ties with his son, rising Memphis Grizzlies star Jaren Jr. being a former client of Knicks team president Leon Rose and his associate Austin Brown. Jaren Jr. has remained with CAA under Brown, who also represents Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin.
Labissiere and Young, meanwhile, are two top high school prospects who haven’t panned out yet in the NBA. Labissiere was a former project of Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne while he was in Kentucky.
They will join five more former Kentucky players — Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and rookie Immanuel Quickley — in the organization.
In 33 games last season, the 6-foot-10 Labissiere averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Portland Trail Blazers.
On the other hand, the 6-foot-6 Young averaged 2.3 points in a forgettable three-year stint with the Boston Celtics and one year with the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s hoping to revive his NBA career after emerging as the Israeli league’s top scorer last season (20.5 points per game) for Maccabi Haifa.
The Knicks are investing heavily in player development. The Westchester Knicks will be one of the few teams who will compete in the planned Atlanta bubble for the G League season.
From journeyman to champion
Jaren Sr. was the valedictorian of his high school class in New Orleans before moving to Georgetown for his college. He became a valuable contributor for the Hoyas in the post-Reggie Williams era, playing with Alonzo Mourning under Hall of Fame coach John Thompson.
After going undrafted in 1989, Jaren Sr. was still able to carve out a 12-year NBA career sprinkled with stints with the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association (where he won 2 championships) and World Basketball League and overseas leagues along the way. He played for nine NBA teams but settled with the San Antonio Spurs from 1997-2001 as part of the David Robinson-Tim Duncan supporting cast.
During the Spurs’ 1999 championship run, Jaren Sr. hit 17 points in the series opener against the Knicks. In the title-clinching Game 5, Latrell Sprewell posterized him with a vicious fastbreak dunk, but Jaren Sr. had the last laugh as he hit 11 points to help the Spurs win their NBA championship. He averaged 8.2 points in his first and only NBA Finals appearance.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had a front-row seat of Jaren Sr.’s NBA Finals exploits with the Spurs as Jeff Van Gundy’s assistant.
Jaren Sr. wound up his career with the Orlando Magic before retiring in 2002.
After playing under top caliber coaches such as Thompson, Doc Rivers, Larry Brown, Rudy Tomjanovich, Flip Saunders, Rick Adelman, Don Nelson, Bill Fitch, Bernie Bickerstaff, and Gregg Popovich, Jaren Sr. was naturally gravitated to coaching.
He started his coaching career going back to Georgetown as Thompson’s assistant coach. Then he became a head coach for three different CBA teams in as many years before making his way to NBA D League.
He had head coaching and assistant coaching stints with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Indiana Pacers’ G League affiliate, and later became their color analyst.
After D League, he jumped to coach in the NBL Canada with the Saint John Mill Rats, which he led to the semifinals in the 2011-12 season, and Ottawa Skyhawks, where he compiled a 17-16 win-loss record in the 2013-14 season.
Jaren Sr. is also an assistant coach at La Lumiere, a top high school basketball program where his son Jaren Jr. and Detroit Pistons first-round pick and New York native Isaiah Stewart played. His impending stint with Knicks makes sense for him not only from a career standpoint as he would join his wife Terri, the current WNBPA executive director, in New York for work.
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