After spending the 1977-78 season donning orange and blue alongside (now President) Phil Jackson, the two developed quite a relationship, one that turned long-lasting with Cleamons serving as an assistant on Jackson's staffs both with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
As a familiar Jackson confidant, Cleamons' name (along with the likes of Kurt Rambis, Bill Cartwright, Ron Harper, Rick Fox, etc.) had been tied to Fisher's forthcoming staff for quite some time now. Despite such speculation, aside from Rambis, the rookie head coach ultimately chose to fill out his staff with some of his own respective Laker and Thunder confidants.
After serving as an assistant under Larry Drew with the Bucks last season, Cleamons was initially expected to remain in Milwaukee. However, the team's surprising coaching change (bringing in Jason Kidd, while letting go of Drew) subsequently made Cleamons available to return to the Big Apple.