Thorn Might Be Gone At Years End, But Should He Be?

Posted on: September 24th, 2009 by Sebastian Pruiti Comments

So what hasn't been said about Mikhail Prokhorov's bid for the Nets?  In the past day we have heard from Mr. Prokhorov himself, the Nets, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, ESPN, FanHouse, Dave D., and most importantly our own Mark G. I mean even David Stern voiced his opinion (from Dave D.):

"We are looking forward to the Nets' move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, with its rich sports heritage,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia."

After reading through all of this stuff, the thing that really peaked my interest was Tom Ziller's piece for FanHouse.  The title?  Nets Management Is Toast.  With my personal response to any move the Nets make being "In Thorn We Trust," you can see why this worries me a bit.  I am actually really thankful for Ziller's article, because through all of this excitement, and yes this is exciting as hell, we need to understand that this is new ownership, and traditionally when referring to sports teams, new ownership likes to clean house.  Ziller writes:

New owners habitually jettison management when taking over a team -- it's an accepted practice going back to the 1970s. And Prokhorov's a special case: he has money, he has nationalistic pride, he has a desire to further the careers of his countrymen and friends, he has an aching need to win (as seen with his CSKA Moscow club) and he has completely carte blanche. If Thorn's contract extended into 2010-11, perhaps you could see Prokhorov holding off on the upheaval. But the new owner has literally no incentive to stay with the status quo.

While this is entirely true, you have some special circumstances at work here.  First, when new ownership usually cleans house, they go on to hire people who have been around the league for some time.  It is becoming apparent that Prokhorov plans on bringing his own people from Russia over.  The problem with this, at least initially, is that the people that Prokhorov is going to bring over won't be too familiar with the inner-workings of the NBA.  For example, go take a look at Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ, and tell me that isn't crazy.  That's just salary cap stuff!   If Prokhorov thinks he can just jump into NBA ownership with his own people running the Nets, he is crazy.

This is why if Rod Thorn is willing to (remember his contract is up at the end of this year, and who knows if he wants to keep doing this, especially during a transition period),  Prokhorov should keep him on in some capacity.  With the summer of 2010 fast approaching, you want Thorn's experience and contacts on your side.  I would feel more comfortable if he was still in his current position, but if Prokhorov really wants his people in key spots, I wouldn't be against seeing some money thrown Thorn's way to keep him in an advisory role, sharing his knowledge with Prokhorov's people and smoothing the transition.

One final thing that Ziller notes:

Maybe there's even an anti-incentive to staying with Thorn beyond April. I mean, the Nets have oodles of cap space this summer, and every superstar alive will be a free agent. July 1, 2010 is the opportunity for the Nets. Prokhorov is going to want his people in place for that.

He is spot-on here, and that is what scares me the most.  Hopefully Prokhorov seriously thinks about keeping Thorn on board, even if it is just for one more year, long enough for Thorn to show Prokhorov's people the ropes.  Something that eases my nerves is that Prokhorov is willing to learn from the NBA.  From ESPN:

Prokhorov's love of the high life is rivaled by his devotion to basketball. He owns a share of the Russian team CSKA Moscow, and he said on his blog he wants to buy the Nets partly to get access to NBA training methods and help Russian coaches get internships in the league.

In the end, we won't know until Thorn's contract is up, but one thing is for sure, things are exciting as hell right now!