Now that Lawrence Frank has officially been fired from the New Jersey Nets, a search for his replacement is underway. According to several sources (CBS Sportsline, New York Post, New York Daily News, among others), Nets general manager Rod Thorn will decide on Frank’s interim replacement for the rest of the season on Monday.
The Nets will hold day-long organizational meetings Monday in New Jersey to decide whether Sunday night’s coach, Tom Barrise, will carry this team to the finish line. In addition to [general manager Kiki] Vandeweghe, Thorn also is considering assistant coach John Loyer and has interviewed at least one candidate outside the organization. (Who? Rollie Massimino?)
Barrise has been a Nets assistant for four years, while Loyer, who Julian Garcia of the New York Daily News says we shouldn’t “rule out,” was just hired this year. My money is still on Vandeweghe, because he’ll likely come cheapest and won’t stick around past this season, but the New York Post quotes a team source that said Vandeweghe is not being considered.
Of course, as is custom when an NBA coaching vacancy opens, Patrick Ewing has thrown his own hat into the ring. But I helped the best center in the game! Without me, he’d be nothing! Please hire me! Something tells me the Nets will look in another direction.
The larger issue is whether anyone would really want this job for the long term. Ownership has clearly indicated that cutting costs and preserving cap space is the goal, not winning. That’s shown with the lack of talent the Nets possess and the lack of support the franchise receives from its fans and the local market. It was bad enough that, according to Berger, former Net Vince Carter, who was just traded to Orlando in a salary dump this summer, refused to comment when asked about the Nets’ issues.
So, if you’re a Nets fan hoping that the franchise will hire a proven coach, think again. As Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger writes, whoever takes over in the interim will have a nearly impossible job that most known coaches tend to avoid.
The outsider who lobbies Thorn would be viewed as a shameless opportunist — willing to elbow more qualified guys aside just for a five-month payday, run someone else’s system without the benefit of a camp, work without the loyalty of a staff that knows it’s getting fired in June anyway, and be management’s toady since he would have no other choice but to bluff his way through the next 64 games. He’d get to say this a lot: "Just working from Kiki’s suggestions right now."
"I hear what you’re saying," [Rod] Thorn said, "but for some guys, this is an opportunity. They don’t look at it as shameless. They can be familiar with the team — they could easily watch every game." (Pause here for raucous laughter).
Thorn knows the game better than anyone, and he wouldn’t dream of stepping into an environment as an outsider in midstream. Yes, Hubie Brown (Memphis) and George Karl (Denver) did it brilliantly. But they knew ownership was behind them, with a multiyear reward pending. This team can’t even pronounce the next owner’s name.