Philadelphia 76ers assistant Sam Cassell has emerged as a top head-coaching candidate this offseason. The 52-year-old has already interviewed with the Utah Jazz, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, as they look to replace Quin Snyder who stepped down on June 8.
Cassell has been praised for the way he develops young point guards – for example: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Tyrese Maxey – after a 15-year playing career where he served as a stabilizing floor general for three world championship teams. He has served as a top lieutenant under Doc Rivers since 2014 and helped the Boston Celtics win a title as a player in 2008. Finally, Cassell is getting some long overdue head-coaching recognition.
The Jazz surely won’t be the only franchise checking in on Cassell’s availability. However, there might be concerns over his coaching style and personality. An Eastern Conference executive told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that Cassell carried a reputation as a “class clown” during his playing days and rubbed some people the wrong way. It’s something that has limited job opportunities for him in previous years.
“The thing about Sam is he has a reputation for being the class clown, that is how he was as a player,” the Eastern Conference executive told Deveney. “He was brash, he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and he could keep a team loose but at the same time, he could get on other people’s nerves. It’s the reason he has not gotten a head-coaching job yet. But that was 20, 25 years ago.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Cassell Deserves Head-Coaching Shot, Jazz Make Sense
Cassell retired after the 2008 championship season in Boston. He has matured a lot since hanging up his high tops and certainly has the credentials to sit in the lead chair on the bench. And a reputation as a great developer of young talent. If Utah did hire him, it would be a “pretty big sign” that they were looking to rebuild.
“He is a different guy now. He should get a shot at running a team,” the exec told Deveney. “He has been a great developmental guy, especially with young point guards [like] John Wall, Brad Beal, now Tyrese Maxey. If he got the Utah job it would be a pretty big sign that they’re going to look to rebuild.”
Remember, Rivers endorsed Cassell when his name was being tossed around for the Celtics job in 2021 prior to Boston hiring Ime Udoka. His ability to connect with players was seen as his strongest asset.
“I think Sam’s been amazing,” said Rivers, via Deveney. “He’s done it everywhere he’s gone. He has a great ability to communicate. He’s extremely direct, and I think he’s one of those guys, there’s guys around the league that have a way of telling you the truth, and not offending you. I think Sam does a great job of that.”
Assistant Coach Paying His Dues After 13 Years
Cassell first broke into coaching back in 2009 when Flip Saunders hired him as an assistant on his Washington Wizards’ staff. The veteran point guard had played for Saunders on the Minnesota Timberwolves where they advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
“I always regarded Sam as a coach on the floor during his playing days,” Saunders said, via Real GM, “and he brings instant credibility as a three-time NBA champion and a proven winner.”
From there, Cassell went out to Los Angeles to reunite with Rivers – his former coach in Boston – and took a seat on the Clippers’ bench. The two have remained attached at the hip ever since as evidenced by Cassell’s decision to follow Rivers to Philadelphia in 2020.