New Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan recently cleaned house on the coaching staff, letting go of Roy Rogers, Nate Loenser and Karen Stack Umlauf. Chris Fleming survived the purge, and now Donovan is building out his new staff.
The first news on Monday morning came in the form of Bucks assistant Josh Longstaff coming aboard:
The Bulls are hiring Bucks assistant Josh Longstaff for Billy Donovan’s coaching staff, sources tell ESPN. For Longstaff, it is an opportunity to elevate to a front-of-the-bench assistant.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 2, 2020
Shortly after this report came the bigger news of Maurice “Mo” Cheeks coming over to the Bulls from the Thunder:
Oklahoma City assistant Maurice Cheeks is joining Billy Donovan’s staff as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 2, 2020
There had been plenty of speculation about Cheeks following Donovan to Chicago. Cheeks was on Donovan’s staff for all five seasons in OKC, and he’s a Chicago guy who was a star at DuSable High School.
Cheeks spent 15 seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Sixers (won a title in 1983), and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player. Upon retirement in 1993, he immediately joined the coaching ranks. He spent a year in the CBA before joining the Sixers as an assistant in 1994. He was there until 2001, when the Sixers’ run to the NBA Finals helped him get the Blazers’ head coaching job.
Cheeks spent three-plus seasons in Portland before getting fired in the 2004-05 season. He returned to Philly in 2005 but this time as the head coach, also spending three-plus seasons there before his dismissal in 2009. He then went to OKC for an initial assistant stint under Scott Brooks, then coached the Pistons for 50 games in the 2013-14 season, then ultimately returned to the Thunder with Donovan in 2015.
The 64-year-old has a head coaching record of 305-315 in the regular season and 5-11 in the playoffs. While he hasn’t had much success as a head coach, his rapport with Donovan and wealth of experience should be a plus on the bench for this Bulls team.
As for Longstaff, he has a good amount of experience for being just 38 years old, and he has a player development background. He coached in high school coming out of Bryant University before joining the Thunder in 2010, so his time overlapped with Cheeks on Brooks’ staff. Longstaff held roles as a player personnel coordinator, video coordinator, player development coach and video analyst in OKC.
Longstaff was then hired by the Knicks for a player development coaching role in 2014, and he became close with Kristaps Porzingis:
Longstaff is a former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks' G-League affiliate. He worked in player development with the Knicks and Thunder, and while in New York he earned the title of Kristaps Porzingis' confidant and favorite coach. https://t.co/L0b1KxOuVy— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 2, 2020
As Mayberry notes, Longstaff also has experience as a G League head coach with the Hawks’ Erie BayHawks, spending one season there in 2017-18 after he officially became a Knicks assistant coach in 2015-16. The BayHawks went to the conference finals under his direction. Longstaff followed Mike Budenholzer to the Bucks in 2018.
Given Longstaff’s work with Porzingis, it’s only natural to assume the Bulls will have him work closely with Lauri Markkanen, assuming he’s still on the roster next season. The Bulls need a lot of player development work in general, so Longstaff will be playing a key role on this staff. Also, he’s totally recruiting Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Bulls.
In addition to Cheeks and Longstaff, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that Sixers assistant John Bryant is joining Donovan’s staff. NBC Sports Chicago says “his duties aren’t yet defined.”