The Brooklyn Nets have been a model of consistency when it comes to inconsistency, particularly pertaining to its leadership roles.
Besides the bloated contracts on this roster, and the lack of future first-round picks, this current level of ineptness can be traced back to the lack of stability at the top, as the Nets (12-34) are now on their third head coach in the last two-and-a-half years after the firing of Lionel Hollins, and the promotion of assistant coach Tony Brown to interim head coach.
Impatient owner Mikhail Prokhorov will likely be in the hunt for star-power at the position – unless he pulls off the upset and names Brown as his long-term guy. That scenario is highly unlikely, which means Brooklyn will be looking to make waves and bring in a more established and successful lead man.
Chief Executive Officer of the Nets and Barclays Center, Brett Yormark, has strong ties with University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. But following a report that the former New Jersey Nets head coach was seeking a deal worth 10 years for $120 million – of which Calipari publicly and vehemently denied – it looks like the Nets will need to look elsewhere. Yormark, of course, could still be trying behind the scenes to pry Calipari from Kentucky, as the two worked together during Calipari’s stint in New Jersey. But for all intents and purposes, Calipari should be taken at his word.
If that is the case, Brooklyn will need to cast a wider net, although the team is not expected to move on head coaching candidates until after a new general manager is chosen.
Metro takes a look at some probable prospects to be the fourth head coach in three seasons.
1. David Blatt – His resume was barely updated before his name was bandied about for this opening, but he has ties with Prokhorov, who was a big financial supporter of Team Russia. Blatt, who was fired as the Cleveland Cavaliers coach last week, is a U.S.-born coach who played at Princeton, but had a successful career in Europe, both in the Euroleague and FIBA as coach of Team Russia. He won the FIBA Europe championship in 2007 and the Olympic bronze medal in 2012, with former NBA players Sergei Karasev and Andrei Kirilenko on the team. Prior to being hired as the Cavs head coach, last summer, Blatt was already a hot name within the coaching ranks. Russian News Agency TASS, a major news outlet that is owned by their government, reported that Blatt is “one of the main candidates” for the Nets’ gig. TASS should be considered very credible, considering they first reported Hollins’s dismissal weeks before it happening.
2. Mark Jackson – It may be difficult to pry him from that cushy television gig, but Jackson would likely pick up the phone if Prokhorov calls. Jackson, who like Blatt was also blindsided with his dismissal, has been all class since the Golden State Warriors fired him following a successful 51-win campaign in the 2013-14 season – only to watch that same squad win the NBA Finals the following year under first-time coach Steve Kerr. Jackson, a former high school star at Brooklyn’s famed Bishop Loughlin, a star at St. John’s, and then a former Rookie of the Year and star point guard for the Knicks, would also make sense. He is New York basketball, so he’d know the importance of bringing home a title to this area. Plus, he has a respectable record as a head coach (230-121 in his three seasons with the Warriors), has a keen basketball mind, and would garner instant credibility within the Nets’ locker room. Jackson inherited a terrible Warriors squad and each season nurtured them up the standings (23, 47, and 51 wins), which shows he knows how to rebuild from the bottom – and that’s essentially where the Nets are today, as only the Philadelphia 76ers (7-39) are worse in the Eastern Conference.
3. Jeff Van Gundy – He’s Jackson’s running mate on ESPN’s NBA telecasts, and is the longest shot on this list, as it’s been almost a decade since he stalked the sidelines. But Van Gundy’s name is annually run through the rumor mill any time a plush job becomes vacant. Brooklyn is a league dreg right now, but there’s an air of panache to being a head coach in the largest borough of the largest market in the world. Van Gundy has the flair, passion, and knowledge to be head coach in Brooklyn. He’s a throwback who deems the center position as the most important, and with Brook Lopez manning the pivot, Van Gundy would have a great building block. He’s been successful wherever he’s coached, as in the 10 full seasons that he served as an NBA head coach, his teams reached the postseason nine times — including, of course, the NBA Finals in 1999 with the Knicks. The Knicks factor would also be a real bargaining chip for Prokhorov, as Van Gundy, 55, would definitely warm to the idea of trying to build a winner faster than his former employer – a former boss in James Dolan, who until a couple years ago, was persona non grata in the Van Gundy camp.
Tom Thibodeau – He reached the playoffs in all five of his seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, but was fired last season after feuding with the front office. Thibodeau also has New York ties, as he served on Van Gundy’s Knicks’ staff. Perhaps the way things ended in Chicago is a cause for pause for Prokhorov, but Thibodeau, 57, is a preeminent defensive-minded coach who can handle the pressure of trying to win in a major market. He may reportedly be tough to work with, but when you sport a career 255-139 mark, warts can be overlooked.