Shortly after the Utah Jazz blew a 3-1 series lead in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Johnnie Bryant is headed to the New York Knicks for a fresh start.
Bryant, now a former assistant coach of the Jazz, has officially signed with the Knicks as their new associate head coach under Tom Thibodeau.
Marc Spears of The Undefeated first reported the news.
Bryant was grateful to the Jazz organization for having him since 2012.
“To the city and the state that embraced me when I first step foot on the campus of the University of Utah, I say thank you. To the Miller family, Steve Starks, Dennis Lindsey, and Ty Corbin, who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to coach in the NBA, I say thank you. To Quin Snyder who encouraged me daily to be the best coach that I can be, I say thank you. To all the players, co-workers, those at the arena, the friends, and simply everyone, I say thank you,” Bryant said in a statement.
Prior to joining the Jazz in 2012, Bryant was running his own training gym (Bryant Sports Academy). Corbin, the former Jazz coach, was so impressed with the player development work he’s done with Ronnie Price and Paul Millsap and his son Tyrell Corbin that he invited him to join his staff.
Bryant stayed with the Jazz when Snyder replaced Corbin in 2014.
Bryant has since been credited for Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell’s development while in Utah. He has also forged a strong bond with the Jazz current star Mitchell.
It was Bryant, who consoled Mitchell right after his emotional post-game interview in the aftermath of their Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Mitchell collapsed into Bryant’s arms and began weeping uncontrollably.
The poignant scene could also have been good friends saying goodbye to each other as they chart new chapters in their respective careers.
Mitchell is said to be closing in on a max deal extension to stay with the Jazz.
Bryant, meanwhile, is excited for the tough task of helping Thibodeau turn the Knicks fortunes around.
“As I embark on new journey, I am very appreciative for this opportunity to coach for the Knicks and I’m excited for my next coaching chapter in New York,” Bryant said.
The hiring is viewed beyond the developmental coaching standpoint. While Bryant is expected to help develop the Knicks young core particularly RJ Barrett, he will also help Thibodeau in managing game situations and in-game plan preparation.
Snyder vouched for Bryant that he’s more than just a developmental coach.
“Tactically, he’s learned [a lot] in the game and on the bench. He’s great on the court with players and you see him develop guys. It’s something we take pride in with our program. Johnnie’s been a big part of that,” Snyder told reporters during the Jazz-Nuggets series.
Bryant’s length of contract was not made available but it is believed to be the same with Thibodeau, who was signed to a five-year deal.
Bryant will join the Knicks when they conduct voluntary workouts as approved by the league for the eight teams that didn’t make the Bubble starting from September 14 until Oct. 6.