Over the past month, the Nets have lost two top assistant coaches, Ime Udoka to the Boston Celtics where he’s now the head man, and Mike D’Antoni to his family and some time off from the grind.
Now, after agreeing to hire Brian Keefe, the former Thunder assistant, to replace D’Antoni, the Nets have filled both slots with veteran assistants. David Vanterpool, who had been associate head coach in Minnesota, was named an assistant to Steve Nash last month. With the two hirings, the Nets staff would go back up to eight assistants, either the most or close to the most in the NBA.
After Mike Scotto of Hoopshype described Keefe as a “name to monitor” two days ago, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN says the deal is done.
The Nets are hiring Brian Keefe as an assistant coach, sources tell ESPN. Keefe has been an assistant in several stops, including the Lakers, Knicks and Thunder. He was a finalist for the OKC head coaching job a year ago.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 31, 2021
Keefe’s forte is development and has relationships with two of the “Big Three” who he worked with in OKC as well as with Sean Marks.
Keefe started his NBA career in San Antonio where he served as video coordinator under head coach Gregg Popovich, and won a ring as part of the Spur’s 2007 championship in his second season. Marks was a member of that team.
In August 2007, Keefe became one of the first members of the Thunder staff while the team was still playing in Seattle. selected by former Spurs assistant GM Sam Presti and former Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo to develop young players which at that time included KD and Harden as well as Russell Westbrook. While there, he also overlapped with two current Nets assistants: Royal Ivey, first as a player, then as a rookie assistant coach, and. Adam Harrington, who was a shooting coach in OKC.
Two years ago, Keefe reminisced about his role in KD’s development.
“We were very young and you’re totally engrossed in your environment,” Keefe said of the hours he spent working with Durant. “That’s what made it kind of special — you were really trying to establish something.
“There was all this energy, all these young people trying to push the organization, and we were putting in that time. As you get older, you’re hopefully smarter with your time and you can’t just run through a wall, but you’re always there to support.”
In 2015, Keefe left Oklahoma City to join first the Nets, then the Lakers before returning in 2019.. He was interviewed for the head coaching vacancy after Billy Donovan was dumped. He lost that opportunity and took last season off.
Keefe, unlike D’Antoni, is seen as a defensive specialist. It’s uncertain who, other than Nash, will handle the Nets offense.
In addition to Keefe and Vanterpool, the Nets have hired Adam Caporn, an assistant with the Australian national team, to be head coach of the Long Island Nets. He too has a reputation as a development expert.