Rick Brunson joins the Knicks as his son, Jalen, hits free agency. He is an ex-client of Leon Rose and has coached under Tom Thibodeau before.
The New York Knicks are set to hire Rick Brunson as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s staff, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.
Brunson, 49, played as an NBA point guard for nine seasons and eight teams, including 69 games for the Knicks at the end of the 1990s. Brunson later served as an assistant coach for Thibodeau during stints with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. He was also one of Leon Rose’s first clients—long before the former CAA chieftain became the Knicks’ executive.
Most recently, Brunson coached high school basketball in New Jersey after his resignation from the Timberwolves organization following two scandals involving inappropriate behavior. One was a criminal charge in a Chicago suburb. Brunson was acquitted of sexual assault and battery.
Notably, Rick Brunson’s son is Jalen Brunson, a rising star on the Dallas Mavericks. The younger Brunson had a breakout season and playoffs with the Mavs, who lost to the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors. The 6-foot-1 former Villanova standout averaged a career-best 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game with Dallas in 2021–22. He also averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 points in 18 postseason games, shooting 46.6% from the floor.
Jalen Brunson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Though the Mavericks front office has made subtle indications it may not be able to re-sign the improving point guard, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated after Dallas was eliminated that he believes Brunson wants to stay. With Rick Brunson re-joining Thibodeau on the sidelines, however, President of Basketball Operations Leon Rose may be communicating an interest in signing Brunson the player.
"We can pay him more than anybody…I think he wants to stay and that's most important."@mcuban talks to @TheSteinLine about the Mavericks chances of re-signing @jalenbrunson1 this offseason. pic.twitter.com/FnOV9LTagO
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) May 27, 2022
“We can pay him more than anybody,” said Cuban to reporters. “I think he wants to stay, and that’s most important. I think [Jason Kidd] has a big part to play in that. I think JB blossomed as a player as much as anybody on this squad.”
Signing Jalen Brunson would certainly fill a Knicks need, but his father does too. New York’s bench has taken several hits recently. First, former head coach Mike Woodson—who joined Thibs’ coaching staff—left late last season to coach alma mater Indiana Hoosiers. This past season Kenny Payne—Thibs’ assistant and a longtime Kentucky men’s basketball assistant—left to coach the Louisville Cardinals.
The Brunson hire has been the only coaching news to come out of Madison Square Garden. With a down season, there was speculation that Tom Thibodeau was on the hot seat, but Rose and Knicks brass have kept the one-time Knicks assistant turned head coach, who is now a year removed from a playoff appearance. Additionally, Tim Hardaway Sr. joined New York as a scout last month and will evaluate draft talent, per the New York Post. Hardaway Sr. is the father of former Knicks swingman Tim Jr. and himself played for the rival Miami Heat.
The potential signing of free agent Brunson, who may command over $20 million annual average value, could answer many of the Knicks’ point guard questions. At the same time, New York saw the growth of rising third-year guard Immanuel Quickley last season. Additionally, New York is expecting former MVP point guard Derrick Rose to return next season after missing nearly all of 2021–22 with an ankle injury.
New York also possesses the 11th and 42nd overall picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, set for June 23rd. Maneuvering on draft night is not a foreign concept for Leon Rose, and it could forecast how the team president approaches free agency, with or without the Brunsons.