In addition to the previously known Jim Cleamons, the Knicks announced the hiring of three assistant coaches:
- Rasheed Hazzard
- Brian Keefe
- Joshua Longstaff
Those names might not ring a bell, but Keefe – if the Knicks are taking a page out of the Wizards’ playbook – could be extremely valuable in 2016, when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent.
Keefe – who, like Longstaff, previously worked for the Thunder – became extremely close with Durant in Oklahoma City.
David Aldridge of NBA.com shares a story of Durant being frustrated with the Thunder’s play last season:
Durant was mad at his teammates, mad at the coaches, mad at everybody.
Brian Keefe told him to get over himself.
"That was probably one of the most realest conversations I’ve had with a coach, ever," Durant recalled last week. "He let me know how bad I was — my body language, my attitude. I just decided to look at myself and self-evaluate. And he was right. I had to change how I was thinking, how I was acting toward my teammates. Everything."
Keefe, the assistant coach whose previous coaching experience came at South Florida and Division II Bryant University, can get in Kevin Durant’s face and say "not good enough."
And Durant listens.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, via Aldridge:
"We both knew, early on, being around KD, he’s coachable," Brooks said Sunday. "We were able to help mold him. He was 19 years old and the canvas was wide open. He wanted to be better every day. Coach [Keefe] and KD, they grew together, and the growth started with what they started together. Kevin didn’t really know what the NBA was about but he saw the success he started having when he worked with him."
Keefe’s first two years with the Thunder were as a workout guy — Durant’s workout guy. But he became more.
"He spends every day with him and he lives and dies by every workout with him," Brooks said. "That’s what successful organizations do. They find self-motivated players that have high character and are great talents, like Kevin is, and they have organizations that help develop them."
So, it’s settled. Durant will leave the Thunder in 2016 to sign in New York. That’s the only reason the Knicks hired Keefe.
It has nothing to do with Knicks coach Derek Fisher playing for the Thunder the last few years and developing his own relationship with Keefe.