Sam Mitchell, the NBA's coach of the year in 2007, will join the New Jersey Nets as coach Avery Johnson's top assistant, according to league sources.
Mitchell, who coached the Toronto Raptors from 2004-08, is returning to the league for the first time since his firing 17 games into the 2008-09 season. His hiring puts two of the last five Coaches of the Year on the Nets' bench, as Johnson won the award while coaching in Dallas in 2006.
The addition of Mitchell could also be a benefit in free agency, as Mitchell has a strong reputation among players. Mitchell coached Chris Bosh, one of this summer's most coveted free agents, in Toronto for more than four seasons, and Bosh has credited him for much of his development. Early in Kevin Garnett's career, Mitchell served as a mentor to Garnett while the two were teammates in Minnesota.
John Loyer, longtime Nets assistant Tom Barrise and former player Popeye Jones will also be on Johnson's staff. Johnson will hire one more yet-to-be-determined assistant as well.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine