With a plan to partner him with new coach John Beilein, the Cleveland Cavaliers have hired J.B. Bickerstaff as associate head coach.
The Cavaliers will make Bickerstaff one of the NBA’s top-paid assistant coaches, league sources said.
“J.B. has spent his entire life in and around the game, and his knowledge of the league and basketball will bring a full spectrum of value to the team,” Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said in a news release. “His approach to coaching and everything on the court and off is exactly the kind of perspective, commitment and integrity we want for the culture and growth we will drive here.”
Cleveland is working with Beilein — a highly successfully coach with 40 years’ experience in the college ranks — to ease his transition to the pro game and targeted Bickerstaff as a key to that education.
“This was a very easy decision to add J.B. as our associate head coach,” Beilein said in the release. “He is a respected and accomplished coach who I’m very excited and fortunate to have next to me. When I spoke with J.B., I quickly realized that we share many of the same core values, principles and views about coaching basketball and team culture.”
Bickerstaff, the Memphis Grizzlies head coach for the past year-plus, had discussed top assistant roles with the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, but he met with Beilein and general manager Koby Altman at the NBA’s draft combine in Chicago and began to gravitate toward the Cavaliers recruitment, sources said.
Bickerstaff had interviewed for the Cavaliers head-coaching job with Altman before the hiring of Beilein. Bickerstaff’s father, Bernie, a longtime NBA coach and executive, works as a consultant for the Cavaliers.
Bickerstaff, 40, had been interim coach with the Houston Rockets (2015-16), leading them to the playoffs, and landed the Grizzlies job after spending most of 2017-18 as the interim after David Fizdale’s firing. His career record is 85-131.
Cleveland hired Beilein, 66, on Friday after he coached for 12 seasons at the University of Michigan.