Knicks hire Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant as associate head coach

Johnnie Bryant, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks have added another member to Tom Thibodeau’s staff, as they agreed to terms with Utah Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant on Tuesday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Bryant, 34, has been with the Jazz since 2012 and is touted as an elite player developer. He has been an integral part of turning players such as Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and yes, Donovan Mitchell into stars.

Here’s what Mitchell had to say about Bryant to The Salt Lake Tribune back in 2018:

He’s [Bryant] really intense, but he’s laid back at the same time — he’s always got something to say. I work as hard as I possibly can to shut him up.

Lillard also credited Bryant for his help turning him into the player he is, referring to Bryant as a “big brother” to him. Both grew up in Oakland, California and Bryant mentored Lillard during his AAU days while Bryant was in college.

Bryant’s hire now marks the second hire from the Jazz organization, as the Knicks brought in long-time front office staple Walt Perrin as an assistant general manager in May. This raises speculation that the Knicks are trying to bolster their appeal to Donovan Mitchell in an attempt to acquire him via trade in the near future.

Trade rumors surrounding Mitchell, who is from New York, have been circulating since he got to the league and started making a name for himself. The rumors have only increased since drama started between he and teammate Rudy Gobert over Gobert’s irresponsible COVID-19 handling, which resulted in Mitchell getting infected with the virus.

While the Knicks reportedly want Mitchell “badly,” a source with knowledge of the Knicks thinking told Adam Zagoria, it seems as though the Knicks hired Bryant mainly from a player development standpoint. Bryant and the rest of the coaching staff will have their hands full with the slew of young talent on this Knicks roster, plus the new players brought in with the multiple draft picks they possess over the next few years.

Thibodeau’s coaching staff is starting to take shape, as he and the front office have been working together to decide who will accompany him on the bench. Bryant now joins University of Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne, whom the Knicks agreed to terms with last week. Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is still expected to be added to the staff as well.

As for Mike Miller, who took over for David Fizdale last season as the interim head coach and led the team to a 17-27 record before the league shut down, he is not expected to return as a Knicks assistant. This isn’t because the Knicks have anything against him, as they reportedly like him a lot and admired the work he was able to do last season. It is more a case of Miller wanting to explore better options where he would be higher than the 4th assistant on the team, which he likely would be now with the Knicks.

There’s still the possibility Miller could return to the Knicks in a different capacity if he doesn’t find a better coaching gig, as he’s under contract for next year, but teams will likely be interested in his services. He may not get consideration for a head coaching job yet, but he’s definitely earned a lead assistant role somewhere.

Even without Miller, Knicks’ new president Leon Rose had mentioned repeatedly how vital player development is, and he seems to be backing up his words now with his recent coaching hires.