Sixers Assistant, Ben Simmons’ Confidant Interviews With Wizards: Report


Getty Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell talks with Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets before a game in January.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and embattled point guard Ben Simmons could lose one of their closest partners this off-season to an Eastern Conference foe.

Sixers assistant coach Sam Cassell recently interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the Washington Wizards, according to multiple reports. The news was first reported by Fred Katz, who serves as the Wizards beat writer for The Athletic.

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The team has also conducted interviews with numerous other candidates.

Washington is one of three NBA teams looking for a new head coach this summer, while a few posts – such as the Boston Celtics position – has already been filled. While on one hand, Cassell has stuck by Rivers’ side for much of his 12-year coaching career – plus spent his final season as a player with Rivers’ Celtics -, Cassell is also quite familiar with the Wizards organization.

Cassell’s First Coaching Gig Was With Wizards for 5 Years


GettyFormer Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell talks with Glen Rice Jr. during an October 2013 game against the Chicago Bulls.

After his 15-year playing career, but before joining forces with Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers as an assistant in 2014, “Sam I Am” had a five-season run with the Wizards. The first half of that span was spent working with the late Flip Saunders, while the last two-plus seasons were with head coach Randy Wittman.

In his final year under Wittman, the Wizards finished 44-38, which was good enough to snap a five-season playoff drought. During Cassell’s tenure in the nation’s capital, he was on a staff that coached one of the most exciting young backcourts in the game at the time in John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Since the turn of the millennium, the Wizards have had seven head coaches, with the recently-departed Scott Brooks having lasted for five seasons. Brooks’ stay was just barely shorter the longest-tenured Washington coach since the 2000-2001 season, as Eddie Jordan went five full seasons, plus 11 games into the 2008-2009 campaign.

Despite the frequent turnover in head coaches lately, the Wizards job may have particular appeal to Cassell. On top of the familiarity with the organization, Cassell is a Baltimore native.

While his current job in Philadelphia isn’t too far from his hometown – about 110 miles – a move to Washington D.C. would shave about 70 miles off of that distance.

Cassell and Simmons Worked on Lefty’s Free Throw Shooting, Overall Game


GettyPhiladelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons attempts a free throw before a 2019 game against the San Antonio Spurs.

If Cassell were to leave the Sixers for Washington, or either of the other clubs currently looking for a lead man or woman, it would certainly be a big blow to Rivers, Simmons and the entire organization. Although he’s only been with Philly for one season, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick, he and Simmons have grown close.

“I think overall, we just work together,” Simmons said in February. “I can relate to him. We talk every day and we have a great relationship. It’s only growing. He’s helping me a lot with my game and running this team.”

Cassell – a career 86% free throw shooter – also worked with the Australian on his touch from the line, which didn’t appear to be quite as big of an issue in the regular season. Simmons shot 61.3% from the line, slightly better than his career 59.7% mark, but in the playoffs, the issues came out front and center, when Simmons shot an abysmal 34% from the charity stripe.

The Sixers have all but put to rest the possibility of letting go of Rivers after one season, but it will be interesting to see what transpires with both Cassell and Simmons.

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