Lichtenstein: King Gets Second Chance To Get The Right Coach For Nets
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By Steve Lichtenstein
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We’re all used to professional sports authority figures lying through their teeth when speaking publicly. They have their own agendas to advance.
Nets general manager Billy King’s pants must have been ablaze last week when he smiled through the unveiling of plans for a new state-of-the-art practice facility in Brooklyn.
For all was not so hunky-dory for the franchise at that time. King said during Tuesday’s press conference that he was well aware of then-head coach Jason Kidd’s failed attempt at a palace coup since last Wednesday.
Of all the mini-bites that King served to the media on Tuesday, however, there was one item that I hope was not mere lip service.
And that was King’s stated plan to go with an experienced head coach this time.
Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins appears to be the frontrunner, as King said the two were to meet for a second time later on Tuesday.
For those who don’t recall or don’t feel like combing through the archives, I pegged Hollins as the right man for the job last summer.
Hollins was previously at the helm of a team that steadily improved over his five-year tenure and topped it off with a trip to the 2013 Western Conference finals.
Hollins and his staff knew how to develop players — young and old. Hollins weaponized Mike Conley, turned Marc Gasol, an afterthought when originally traded for his more highly-regarded brother Pau, into one of the best all-around centers in the NBA, and must have performed a lobotomy on one-time knucklehead Zach Randolph.
More impressively, he emphasized defense and turned the Grizzlies into one of the toughest teams in the league to score on.
With center Brook Lopez on target to return next season from his fourth surgery on his right foot, defensive acumen has to be a priority for the next Brooklyn coach, as anyone who’s watched Lopez’s failures in pick-and-roll coverage over the years can attest.
Unfortunately, Hollins’ divorce from Memphis was very messy. The Nets were prohibited from even contacting Hollins for their vacant coach position before Kidd jumped the line.
Now the Nets have a second chance to get it right.
These ugly parting situations are becoming quite common in the NBA, and Kidd may have left the biggest stench of them all when he bolted for Milwaukee over the weekend while he (and Bucks coach Larry Drew) were still under contract.
Kidd’s exit typified the disaster that was the whole no-experience-necessary experiment.
I never understood why King tabbed Kidd, just 10 days removed from his retirement as a player, to pilot an aging team that had a short window — like one or two years short.
At the time, King raved about Kidd’s attributes as a player and how his leadership would translate to the sideline. Even though Hall of Fame-worthy basketball skills were never before a requirement to coach in the NBA.
Some suggest King was lying then, and that Kidd was forced on him by Nets’ ownership. King dismissed that on Tuesday, saying Kidd was everyone’s choice.
I’ve gone over Kidd’s shortcomings as coach ad nauseum over the last 12 months, so I’ll follow King’s lead and stick to looking toward the future.
No one can fault King for doing extra due diligence this time around, but the timing of this mess puts Brooklyn in a bit of a squeeze. King mentioned that he had other candidates on his list, but anyone serious should have been contacted by now.
Get Hollins on board as soon as possible so all the free agents the Nets want to retain (Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson, but NOT Andray Blatche, King said) have an idea as to Brooklyn’s new direction.
As for Kidd, though I’m sure King — like all Nets fans — wouldn’t mind seeing the Bucks go 0-82, he went out of his way to say, “I hope for Jason that he’s happy at the end of the day.”
Yeah, that might be the biggest whopper of them all.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1
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