Who is T.J. Zanin?

Jonathan Macri

If there has been a consistent theme throughout all of the Knicks hires from the day Leon Rose was announced as President, it has been one of the importance of building relationships.

Starting with Rose himself, who was an agent to many of the league's best players over the last 20 years, to Walt Perrin and his connections within the college world, to Alex Kline and the young stars he met through the Mark Kline Classic, to the most well-connected man of all, World Wide Wes, the Knicks are now all about building bridges.

Add T.J. Zanin to the list.

T.J., who is the brother of Frank Zanin, the Knicks' recently hired assistant general manager in charge of pro scouting, and along with Frank, a close friend of the late Kobe Bryant from their high school playing days, has been quite the world traveler since he got into the scouting business nearly two decades ago. The evidence suggests he's built up a lot of relationships during that time.

Although his resume reads that he's had stints with the Memphis Grizzles as a video coordinator and then with the Sixers, Clippers, Nets and Hornets as a scout, T.J. Zanin's heaviest involvement might be in the world of international basketball. 

According to the 2015 Charlotte Hornets media guide, T.J. was a scout for the Chinese national team from 2006 to 2008, after which he became an advance scout for Team USA from 2009 to 2015, helping support three gold medal winners in the process.

In addition to getting to know some of the best players in the NBA over that time, his tenure with Team USA overlapped with several prominent figures, including Tom Thibodeau (an assistant from 2013 to 2016), Knicks head coaching candidate Pat Delaney (a former Team USA advance scout), and perhaps most interestingly, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who overlapped Zanin's entire tenure with Team USA.

Why is Boeheim interesting? Zanin was involved in college scouting with the Nets, and their one first round pick during his tenure in Brooklyn was spent on Syracuse big man Chris McCullough. One year later, when he was director of college scouting for Charlotte, the Hornets spent their first round selection on another Orangeman, Malachi Richardson. Coincidence? Perhaps...or evidence that it's not what you know, but who you know that really matters.

Zanin's final draft pick in Charlotte was spent on Kentucky's Malik Monk, who the Hornets took over Donovan Mitchell, apparently against the wishes of then coach Steve Clifford.

In fairness, most everyone had Monk mocked higher than Mitchell at the time. Still, there's a fun rabbit hole to go down here as well.

Monk was coached by John Calipari, noted close personal friend of New York's new Executive VP William Wesley. It's likely that Worldwide Wes and Zanin crossed paths during Zanin's time in Philly, when he and his brother's stints with the Sixers overlapped that of Allen Iverson, one of Wesley's first high profile NBA associates and former client of Leon Rose

In short, Zanin has met a lot of people in his time in the league, and while it's possible to use those relationships to poke holes in his draft record, it seems that he'll be joining a stellar team of personnel with the Knicks, and one that he's all too familiar with at that.

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