The Spurs season of transition will begin next week, with equal portions of change visible in both the player roster and the basketball operations staff.
The club announced six additions to general manager R.C. Buford’s basketball operations staff and six promotions for members of that staff and Gregg Popovich’s coaching operations.
Former Spurs player Monty Williams, who served as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans for five years, returns to the Spurs organization as vice-president of basketball operations, where he will work closely with Buford and newly hired assistant general manager Brian Wright, who joins the Spurs after serving in a similar capacity with the Detroit Pistons.
In addition, Phil Cullen becomes the team’s director of basketball strategy; Nick Repole will be the team’s director of basketball information; Pat Sund was named pro personnel scout and assistant general manager of the Austin Spurs, the NBA Development League team owned and operated by Spurs Sports and Entertainment; and former NBA player Landry Fields has been named a college scout.
Will Hardy, a six-year member of the Spurs organization who served as video coordinator for the past three seasons, has been elevated to assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff.
Hardy was one of six members of the basketball operations staff promoted by the Spurs. Dutch Gaitley, who was Hardy’s assistant in the video coordination department, takes over as video coordinator. Andy Birdsong, who had served as director of basketball operations, was named director of pro player personnel and general manager of the Austin Spurs. Dave Telep goes from being the team’s draft scouting coordinator to director of scouting. After two seasons as an applied sports scientist, Xavi Schelling becomes the team’s director of sports science and athletic performance. Niraj Mulji becomes basketball operations manager after serving as basketball ops quality assurance assistant. Brandon James, formerly in-house counsel for basketball operations, has been elevated to assistant general counsel/director of basketball administration.
Longtime Spurs fans likely recall Williams’ two-plus seasons playing for the club. He came to the team in the second half of the 1995-96 season in a trade with the New York Knicks. He was a part-time starter in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, averaging 9.0 points per game and 3.2 rebounds in 1996-97. He played for five teams in nine NBA seasons.
After Williams’ playing career ended after the 2002-03 season, he got his start in basketball management as a coaching intern with the Spurs in the 2004-05 season, which produced the team’s third NBA championship. He then spent five seasons as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers before being hired as head coach in New Orleans in 2010, when the team still was known as the Hornets.
In his five seasons with New Orleans – the team became the Pelicans in 2013 – he twice led the club to the playoffs. He was dismissed after the Pelicans fell to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 2015 playoffs.
Williams joined the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching staff after Billy Donovan was hired as head coach. On Feb. 8 last season his wife, Ingrid, was killed in an auto accident in Oklahoma City, leaving Williams the single parent of five children, aged 5 to 17. He took a leave of absence to care for his children after the tragedy. He returned to coaching in mid-summer, serving as an assistant to United States Olympic team head coach Mike Krzyzewski as it prepared for the 2016 Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro, where the team won the gold medal.
Long an advocate of Williams’ ability as both a coach and an evaluator of talent, Popovich offered him a position in the Spurs organization with an understanding he could join either his coaching staff or Buford’s basketball operations staff.
Hardy earned his stripes as a full-time assistant coach after serving the past two summers as head coach of the Spurs’ summer team in the Utah Summer League tournament, as well as assisting Becky Hammon with the Spurs entry in the Las Vegas Summer League. The Williams College graduate began his career in San Antonio as a basketball operations intern in 2010 before being promoted to assistant video coordinator in 2011. He became video coordinator in 2013.
Wright fills an assistant general manager vacancy created when Scott Layden left the Spurs to become general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wright spent two seasons as assistant general manager in Detroit after eight years in the Orlando Magic basketball operations department.
Birdsong is in his second stint in the Spurs front office, most recently serving as the team’s director of basketball operations. He began his NBA career as a basketball operations intern with the Silver and Black during the 2011-12 season. Prior to rejoining the Spurs, Birdsong spent three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks in the basketball operations department.
James enters his fifth season in the Spurs front office as in-house counsel for basketball operations responsible for CBA, salary cap, legal and administrative matters. Before joining the Spurs he spent four years with IMG Sports, Entertainment and Media serving several positions in talent marketing and ultimately the coaches division representing professional and collegiate coaches.
Telep joined the Spurs in 2013 as the team’s draft scouting coordinator after serving as ESPN.com’s senior national recruiting analyst. He also served on the USA Developmental National Committee for the USA National Team.
Schelling has spent the past two seasons with the Silver and Black as an applied sports scientist. Prior to joining the Spurs he served as the director of athletic performance from 2006-14 for Bàsquet Manresa, a Spanish team in the 1st Division of the ACB Spanish League. He also has worked as the strength and conditioning coach for the Spanish National Basketball Team at the 2014 U20 European Championship.
Gaitley is in his fourth season with the Spurs, spending the last two as the team’s assistant video coordinator. He started with the Silver and Black as a video intern during the 2013-14 season.
Cullen joins the Spurs after spending the past four seasons at the University of Utah where he served as the team’s director of basketball operations during the 2015-16 season. He played at University of Utah from 1998-2002 and also played baseball for the Utes. A right-handed pitcher, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2000, appearing in a total of 46 games for two Seattle minor-league affiliates in three seasons.
Sund has signed on with the Spurs after having spent the past seven seasons with the Golden State Warriors organization, including the last two as associate general manager of the Santa Cruz Warriors and manager of scouting for Golden State.
Repole comes to San Antonio from the Charlotte Hornets, where he served as the basketball operations systems developer and quantitative analyst for the past two seasons.
Fields joins the Spurs after a five-year NBA playing career. An All-Rookie First Team Selection in 2011, Fields averaged 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.6 minutes in 255 career games with the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors.
Mulji joined the Spurs in 2014 and has spent the past two seasons as a basketball operations quality assurance assistant.
Top image: Monty Williams of the USA Men’s National Team smiles and coaches during practice on July 19, 2016 at Mendenhall Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images.
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