The Knicks are adding Utah Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant to Tom Thibodeau’s staff as associate head coach, SNY’s Ian Begley confirmed Tuesday.
Bryant is highly respected in player development, which is an obvious area of need for the Knicks and their young roster. But is this also a game for a certain established All-Star in the future?
Donovan Mitchell quickly became the Jazz franchise player, and Bryant played a major role in the development of his game after being drafted 13th overall by Utah in 2017. And that relationship is seen in Mitchell’s Instagram post regarding the news of Bryant’s departure for New York.
“What you understand does not need to be explained! Love always! Now, before you go, we have some things to handle first!”, He wrote in the caption.
Just last year, The Athletic’s Tony Jones revealed what Bryant specifically worked with Mitchell on to improve his game after a tough playoff defeat in 2019. Bryant noted that Mitchell was out of shape after he ran out of gas for survive the postseason. They worked on cardio exercises all summer and on Monday in Mitchell’s first playoff game – a defeat to the Nuggets in overtime – he lost 57 points.
Mitchell will be a limited free agent in 2021, and the Knicks now have his “close friend / big brother” on Thibodeau’s staff.
“I love him to death, man,” Mitchell said.
“In three years, he pushed me beyond my limits. He doesn’t tell me what I want to hear. He tells me what I need to hear. I can’t say enough about him and how much he has helped me.”
But Mitchell isn’t the only player Bryant has worked with. Paul Millsap, Damian Lillard, and former jazz star Gordon Hayward all worked with him.
“Johnnie is the perfect mix of an old school coach with young people to connect with the players,” jazz executive Dennis Lindsey told The Athletic.
This is exactly what the Knicks need around Thibodeau, who also brought associate head coach Kenny Payne to Kentucky. He developed some of the best players in the NBA today with the Wildcats.
Thibodeau hasn’t finished putting together his Knicks coaching staff, but he’s already got off to a good start, with Bryant being the latest addition.