Lionel Hollins was all smiles at his introductory press conference Monday at the Barclays Center. Credit: Getty Images
This summer for the Nets was supposed to be about getting Brook Lopez and Deron Williams back to full health, re-signing Paul Pierce, seeing if Kevin Garnett wants to return and tweaking a 44-win roster.
But on Monday it was about introducing Lionel Hollins as the Nets’ new head coach and the franchise’s fourth since moving from New Jersey following the 2011-2012 season.
Having a press conference to introduce a new head coach was not expected, at least not two weeks ago.
Then Jason Kidd tried to grab more power, ownership denied him and allowed him to leave for Milwaukee for the price of two second-round picks. That was followed by stories of rampant dysfunction which described Kidd trying to undermine King, who reportedly wanted to make a coaching change when the team was 10-21 early last season.
“I think the only stabilizing way I can be is just that I’m here and if [the players are] out watching they know that I’m going to be straight with them,” Hollins said. “I’m going to be consistent with them and we’re going to have fun. We’re going to work hard and we’re going to win.”
The search was brief, with the Nets announcing Hollins’ hiring Wednesday after King had a pair of meetings with Hollins early last week.
“We had on the board drawing and diagramming,” King said. “Tuesday was more of a basketball day. Just watching him on the board and talking about I can run this for Brook Lopez, he could do this for Deron or how would you play pick-and-roll or I like to do it this way.
“When you throw questions at him, he had answers for you and it wasn’t like just get up on the board with Xs and Os. It reminded me of when I came into the league spending time with Larry Brown, Bill Blair and some of the older guys and you sit around, just listen and tell stories and talk basketball. So just his stories and wealth of knowledge was impressive.”
Hollins is the 19th coach in the team’s NBA history He comes to Brooklyn with a solid track record of success after compiling a 214-201 record coaching the Grizzlies and as a guard on the 1977 championship Trail Blazers.
Like Kidd, the perception was Hollins clashed with management in Memphis.
He was not retained after guiding the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals in 2013 and reports surfaced he was not willing to work with a management team focused on analytics. At the time, Hollins denied any philosophical differences and Monday he took that stance again.
“It was difficult because it wasn’t about coaching at all and it wasn’t about analytics,” Hollins said. “It wasn’t about any of that stuff. The guy in charge wanted to bring somebody else in and it’s easier to sell to a group of fans that are upset because you’re firing a coach who’s done what we’ve done than it is to just fire him. So they had to do what they had to do there to try and take the sting off and people that know me, know that not a word of what they tried to say about me was true.”
Besides addressing what happened in Memphis, Hollins also emphasized he’s not here to have more responsibilities besides coaching.
“You see a few coaches have gotten more power where they’ve gotten president and coach,” Hollins said. “That’s not my goal. My goal is to come in and coach and try to win and have a partnership with whomever — [owner] Mr. [Mikhail] Prokhorov, Billy, Billy’s assistant and try to put the best product that we can on the court and he trusts that I’m going to be in the trenches moving toward that aim and that’s important.”
It was the bottom line of wins and losses that ultimately decided who would be introduced as the Nets’ next head coach following a messy divorce.
“It reminds me a little bit of [Bulls head coach Tom] Thibodeau,” King said. “No matter who they were playing, they played a certain way. We knew that whenever we played Memphis it was going to be a dogfight. That’s a real testament. He had them ready to play.”
Now the Nets are hoping they will be ready to play under Hollins, especially coming off two winning seasons that began slowly.
The Nets still have plenty of question marks on their roster, but at least they now have a head coach in place.
“It’s nice to be able to finish this part,” King said.