The New York Giants aren’t the only professional sports team in the Tri-State area in search of a new head coach, as the Brooklyn Nets fired their lead man, Lionel Hollins, over the weekend.
The Nets (10-27) also modeled themselves after Big Blue in that their general manager, Billy King, "stepped down from his duties," just as Tom Coughlin "stepped aside." King, who essentially ripped apart the Nets’ roster – and any hope for the immediate future with quizzical trades and signings over the years -- was reassigned within the organization.
After surrendering seven first round picks, including five of their own, and 11 second rounders to chase instant success – while failing to live up to team owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s unreal expectations -- it was time for the floundering Nets to make a change.
King’s reallocation wasn’t as big a surprise as Hollins being relieved of his duties, especially since the venerable coach got that rag-tag unit into the playoffs last season. But with Brooklyn only ahead of the putrid Philadelphia 76ers (4-36) in the Eastern Conference, Prokhorov apparently had seen enough from a squad that’s greatly regressed this season.
The future remains bleak in Brooklyn – a somewhat crazy thought from just a couple of seasons ago when the franchise had a ton of buzz. It had a bold and charismatic owner who guaranteed championship glory within a five-year window, celebrities abound on floor seats at Barclays Center, and a star-studded, yet aging roster that was trying to make one great push to back up Prokhorov’s vision.
Fast forward to current times, though, and the Nets are in trouble. Those same aging and desperate stars are now gone – and even when they were here, they accomplished very little. The franchise is bereft of significant building blocks, save for franchise center Brook Lopez. They’re in the process of gutting their personnel department. They don’t have any significant trading chips, except for Lopez, to even do a fast rebuild and replenish the roster. And, most importantly, they don’t have the necessary tools to rebuild the foundation of their roster, due to a lack of draft picks.
Interim head coach Tony Brown, a former draft pick of the then-New Jersey Nets, just inherited a crumbling situation, especially when it’s considered that he left a pretty stable environment in Dallas where he served as a bench coach for the Mavericks for three seasons.
There’s likely no Rod Thorn-type on the horizon, and not even the actual Rod Thorn to come in and save the day. Thorn, who was once an Executive of the Year while with the New Jersey Nets and a man instrumental in the Chicago Bulls drafting Michael Jordan, had played a huge part in hiring King upon his departure from the Nets in 2010. Thorn won’t be making any power moves for Brooklyn anymore, which leaves the task up to King’s former right-hand man, assistant general manager Frank Zanin. Any trade talks or roster maneuvering is now left to Zanin, who cut his teeth in the business as an advanced scout. He’ll need that keen eye, as the Nets begin their long, hard road back to respectability.
Knowing Prokhorov, though, he won’t have the patience for a slow rebuild and would seek to cheat the process and buy his way to the top. Brett Yormark, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nets and Barclays Center, is expected to have major influence in the team’s general manager search. Yormark will also dabble in the coaching search, as he remains an ally of University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. That's a name that immediately rises to the top. Yormark and Calipari have history together, dating back to the former’s head coaching tenure in New Jersey from 1996-1999.
Yormark has remained a proponent of making a large offer to bring Calipari back to the Nets in a dual role as president and head coach. That offer will need to be astronomical, as there are multiple reports that Calipari will seek an unreasonable deal – in the neighborhood of 10 years and $120 million and full control -- to leave the Wildcats.
It’s an insane reported request, but one that Russia’s third-richest person can afford. It’s a gamble that Prokhorov might have to make to get back into the headlines and hopefully back to winning basketball.
After all, with the Knicks regaining the title of New York’s best team, and the Nets fading back into obscurity, Prokhorov may have to do something over the top to get his franchise back to relevancy.
- The Nets may have the shinier digs at Barclays Center and the cache of calling Brooklyn home, but they’re still considered second citizens in the area – and that won’t change until they at least find a way to fully immerse themselves in the New York culture. That’s been hard to do because the franchise continues to call the PNY Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey home for its practice facilities. The PNY Center is 17 miles away from Brooklyn, and roughly an hour drive from their actual arena. Thankfully for them, that stay won’t last too much longer, as their new facility, the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center, will serve as the new practice home. It’s a 70,000 square foot facility in the heart of Industry City and includes panoramic views of New York Harbor. This may be a nice selling point for potential free agents, as the PNY Center wasn’t a great selling point for potential suitors.
- Here’s the Nets’ first-round draft woes in a nutshell: the 2016 pick goes to the Boston Celtics; in 2017, Boston can swap picks; and in 2018, Brooklyn’s pick goes to Boston as well.
- Knicks head coach Derek Fisher was sad but not shocked to hear about Hollins’s firing, adding no coach should ever feel secure about their standing in this turbulent league: “There is no such thing as feeling comfortable in this business. You shouldn’t be comfortable, honestly. My dad told me a long time ago if you’re feeling comfortable, someone else is passing you by. I’ve always held on to that. Working hard at what I do will never get the reason why something doesn’t work out. When things change, they change. Otherwise I’m here. I’m committed.’’