Knicks Coach Rick Brunson Says His Son Jalen 'Is The Better Player' of the 2. Jalen Hilariously Agrees (Exclusive)

The father and son NBA duo catch up with PEOPLE for Father’s Day

<p>Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images</p> Rick Brunson with son Jalen Brunson

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Rick Brunson with son Jalen Brunson

Like father, like son — an apt phrase that rings even more true in the Brunson family, where there’s not only two generations of pro basketball players, but more specifically, members of the New York Knicks.

“It was a dream of mine. I played here,” says Rick Brunson, former Knicks point guard, current assistant coach and father of the one and only Jalen Brunson. “It was always a dream of mine to have my son play in New York and be a good player and to play for [Knicks president] Leon Rose and coach Tom [Thibodeau], who I grew up with. Leon was my agent. Leon's son is Jalen's agent now. It was just a full circle of family, so that was really big for us.”

In 2022, Jalen signed with the Knicks, where he’s been the point guard (and under his dad’s direction) ever since. The 2024 All-Star, 27, doesn’t hesitate when he says the dynamic with his father is actually quite simple to navigate.

“When we're on the court, it's coach and player, but as soon as the game's over, as soon as practice is over, it's father and son," he says. "We got to that point, I think, relatively early. And once I understood that, it made life a lot easier."

<p>Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty</p> Assistant Coach Rick Brunson and Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks talk during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on March 29, 2024 at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas during

Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty

Assistant Coach Rick Brunson and Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks talk during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on March 29, 2024 at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas during

Jalen, who fractured his hand in a season-ending Game 7 loss against the Indiana Pacers in May, also tells PEOPLE that he’s “doing good” and “making progress” in his healing, though with summertime’s arrival, “it sucks, wanting to do so much, but you can’t.”

The athlete adds he actually loves to golf, but he can’t do that, either, until his hand is healthy.

Instead, he'll spend his off season with friends and family, "being social with them, just making my way around and seeing people that mean a lot to me," he says.

Jalen and his wife, Ali Marks, will also celebrate their first wedding anniversary in July.

"She's been by my side every single day and it's been a blessing to have her as a wife and as a best friend for 10 years," Jalen says of his high school sweetheart.

Related: New York Knicks' Jalen Brunson Marries High School Sweetheart Ali Marks at Chicago's Ritz Carlton! (Exclusive)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty</p> Ali Marks and Jalen Brunson

Theo Wargo/Getty

Ali Marks and Jalen Brunson

As for what he and his father in common, Jalen is quick to say (as is Rick) that their strong work ethic bonds them. The NBA assistant coach adds that they have similar "focus" and “competitive fire."

And where the father and son differ? Rick says he admires his son’s unique self-assuredness.

“For me, I always had nervousness. Jalen is very, very confident in his abilities. And physically, I mean from a basketball standpoint, he's just a better player. Simple as that,” he says.

Upon learning of his father’s answer, Jalen can’t help his initial bemusement. Still, he remains as grounded as ever, despite his massive success in the sport.

“Well, thank you. And also, I agree, I'm the better player,” he quips. “I am the better player! But, I think without learning how to work hard, I wouldn't be. He taught me how to work hard and he taught me how to push myself. And he's still telling me and teaching me how to push myself. So, I think without the groundwork that he had for me, talent alone? I wouldn't be better than him.”

<p>Rob Carr/Getty</p> Jalen Brunson

Rob Carr/Getty

Jalen Brunson

Off the court, the pair is starring in a campaign for Brooks Brothers, which Rick says has been a surreal experience.

Related: Knicks Star Mitchell Robinson Invites His Former High School Coach to Live with Him After Coach’s Wife Dies

“There are buses all over, stores in the mall. It’s pretty cool, I'm not going to lie to you. [But] this is all Jalen. I'm just on his coat tails,” he says. “[Brooks Brothers] make great clothes. Actually, for his wedding, they did my tuxedo. So I was really impressed with them."

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For all his years in the Big Apple, Rick may never be over this singular experience: "But, to see yourself on a bus is in New York City? It’s like Father's Day every day for me,” says the self-proclaimed "simple man" with a laugh.

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