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In what’s become an annual routine, the Brooklyn Nets have parted ways with their head coach.
This time, the Nets double-dipped, parting ways with both Lionel Hollins and General Manager Billy King at the same time. But at 10-27 and with the NBA trade deadline looming, there is no time to relax.
Who’s next? The Nets, who have preached consistency, community, and continuity since moving to Brooklyn in 2012, will now be on their eighth coach in eight years. That’s Lawrence Frank, Tom Barrise, Kiki Vandeweghe, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and now Tony Brown.
Between losing Paul Pierce, buying out Deron Williams, and trading every draft pick they owned on this great, green Earth, there ultimately wasn’t much Hollins could do with a lackluster roster whose major off-season addition was a dice-roll on Andrea Bargnani. However, it appears as if these firings represent, finally, a full-on culture change in Brooklyn. They are no longer pretending they can make the playoffs as currently assembled, no more shortcuts, no more bridge year — this is a complete rebuild for a franchise in chaotic disarray.
So, then, who will it be? Here’s 7 candidates that we’d either like to see or assume we’ll hear about in the coming months.
It’s no secret that the Nets have desired to bring the NCAA’s recruitment king back to the franchise, but John Calipari has rejected them at every turn thus far — and why wouldn’t he? At the University of Kentucky, Calipari has everything he could ever need: money, players, and success. With his near-pick of the five-star athlete litter every year, there’s no fear that Calipari will ever need to undergo a bridge year. However, Calipari and Nets CEO Brett Yormark are close friends and a Godfather offer could sway his insistent dismissals. In a Q&A with Tim Bontemps, a former Nets writer with The New York Post, he suggestedthat the Nets might throw everything under the sun at Calipari.
If Calipari had full control of the roster, drafting, and trades as the Head Coach and General Manager, ala Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, could he resist much longer? Calipari, who was the Nets coach from 1996 to 1999, lasted just into his third season and finished with a 72-112 record.
Thibodeau is one of the few totally new names on this list, given his shocking firing last year by the Chicago Bulls, but would the Nets be smart to hire him? After flirting with the idea of taking over in New Orleans, Thibodeau opted to not take a job at all. In his five years with the Bulls, Thibodeau racked up 255 wins and just 139 losses, good for a .647 winning percentage, consistency the Nets have only dreamed about since Byron Scott left way back in 2002.
Although he won Coach of the Year in 2011, he was notorious for driving his players into the ground in terms of fatigue. Thibodeau is known for his prowess as a defensive coach (he was the Celtics’ defensive assistant when they won in 2008) and the Nets haven’t had a spectacular defense in who knows how long.
Hammon, the first paid female assistant coach in NBA history, wouldn’t just be a splashy hire. Hammon’s learned under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest coaches of all time, and Popovich has lauded Hammon’s “basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills.” If the Nets want a first-time coach who can get them on the right track, Hammon’s as good as it gets.
Not just a Brooklyn Nets legend and legendary crooner. Stack currently works as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, and it’s no secret that Stackhouse is setting himself up for a head coaching gig down the road. Stackhouse has the pedigree and the respect of players, and he’s got more coaching experience than Jason Kidd did when the Nets hired him.
One stipulation: he’s gotta do the national anthem before every game.
Hello, darkness, my old friend.
Mark Jackson, who was unceremoniously fired after building the cornerstone of this historically incredible Golden State Warriors team, has been a long-running candidate for the Nets position. Above all else, Jackson, preaches, quite literally, a strategy based upon effort and three-point shooting — which, if we’re being honest, have been two of the Nets’ biggest issues since the exodus of Kevin Garnett at last season’s deadline. If the Nets are committed to their theme of community, Jackson, born and bred in Brooklyn, would be a fantastic fit. His record over that three-year span with the Warriors isn’t spectacular at 121-109, but after seeing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson blow up, his ability to develop Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough, two of the Nets’ only young assets, could be key.
In 2014, after the firing, Jackson signed a multi-year deal to return to ESPN and an analyst, so who knows if he’d be willing to leave that post for a situation as dire as Brooklyn’s.
Jeff Van Gundy
As long as this Earth keeps spinning, we will have Jeff Van Gundy to the Nets rumors. In fact, it’s not even just Brooklyn, it’s nearly every franchise that has a head coaching vacancy will ultimately receive the Van Gundy-treatment — and why wouldn’t he? To the NBA community, Van Gundy is one of the league’s brightest minds and that shines through during his color commentary with ESPN, ironically, alongside Mark Jackson. Van Gundy coached for four seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2003 to 2007, securing 45 or more wins in three of them.
And, as we’ve written time and time again, Van Gundy could bring some defensive-minded thinking to a team that has severely lacked it. While we don’t know if Brook Lopez will survive this franchise-wide purge (although the signs point towards yes), but Van Gundy has worked with greats like Patrick Ewing and Yao Ming in the past, making him a natural fit for the Nets.
Hey, you say you haven’t heard about enough about pipedreams and absurd promises? Well, good news for you because I have a fantastic and totally plausible suggestion for the Nets coaching position: Kevin Durant. And yet, why stop at Head Coach? Let’s give him the whole shebang — Head Coach, General Manager, and Supreme President Overlord! I haven’t heard one reason yet why not either! Look, let’s be honest, there is just simply no way that Durant will opt for Brooklyn instead of re-upping with the Oklahoma City Thunder or going home to Washington, but, with this, maybe he doesn’t outright reject that phone call immediately.
The Internet tells me that the last player-coach was Dave Cowens back in 1979. What a better way to trail blaze your way to the Hall of Fame, Kevin, think about it: become the savior for New York basketball, become the most successful player-coach since the Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell, all while trading and building whatever team he wants.