Talking Nets with Mike Fratello

Mike Fratello
Mike Fratello

Mike Fratello
Mike Fratello
To help preview the Nets this season, I had a chance to sit down with Mike Fratello, Brooklyn Nets color commentator, former NBA coach who ranks 18th all-time in NBA coaching wins, and most recently coach of the Ukraine national men’s basketball team.

You’ve had a chance to see the Nets a few times now in preseason. What have you seen out of this new-look team?

FRATELLO: The first thing you see is the depth that this team has. It’s a tremendous collection of NBA talent, with experience and championship pedigree. They’ve all been brought together through the efforts of ownership, front office, and the coaching staff. That’s the beginning: you have talent, and you have depth. Their second unit could beat a few teams in the NBA when they play together. That’s how good they can be.

Yeah. When you look at Andrei Kirilenko, who’s this team’s sixth man, he could be the best player on the Sixers. It’s weird.


You’ve coached everywhere. What are your impressions of Jason Kidd as a coach? Do you think this team needs a lot of coaching?

FRATELLO: I’m assuming that part of the reason why they brought Jason is, with the length of time that he played, with the success that he had, he’s a future Hall of Famer. When you put a cast of veterans together the way they have done here, they need somebody who understands what’s going on in these guy’s minds: how hard to push in practice, when it’s time to lighten up. All of those things. Nobody would have a better feel for that then somebody like Jason Kidd, who’s just come off a lengthy, successful career, and looked at the game differently than other people have.

He knew in his head that he wanted to wind up coaching. He listened in time-outs. He listened in meetings. He listened in the preparation sessions. He was filing all that away, very similar to what Doc Rivers did. Now that he’s gotten this opportunity, he’s surrounded himself with people that are very good around him. Lawrence Frank is an excellent basketball man. The rest of the supporting cast that he’s had for player development to help him with his bench work, Joe Prunty has been brought in, who was part of the San Antonio staff, part of the Cleveland staff. Roy Rogers, too. So this is a good group that they have surrounding him to give Jason that support.

It seems to me early on, he’s doing it a little bit along the lines of what Larry Bird did. When Larry took over, people said, “well, Larry Bird doesn’t have any coaching experience.” Well, Larry Bird thought the game, played the game, was a Hall of Famer, and knew that a lot of it is managing people. He was not hesitant at all to bring one guy in, Dick Carter, and put him in charge of defense, bring Rick Carlisle in, let him handle the offense. Then, Larry managed and made decisions in time-outs and end-of-game situations, and it was very successful — they went to the NBA Finals. I think that’s all part of the thinking. That would be my hunch.

What impact can a player like Kevin Garnett have on the Nets defense, which was not great last year?

FRATELLO: Kevin is a catalyst. He is not afraid to be heard as a voice. He’s not afraid to give the communication process, which is what you have to have if you’re going to be a good defensive team. I thought the Nets improved last year, they were a better defensive team last year than they were the year before. Were they a great defensive team? No. But it was the beginning last year. They won 49 games, won the most road games they’d ever won as a franchise.

So it’s not like they didn’t accomplish anything last year, but at the same time, what they were doing is filtering out players, and looking long-term at what they could do as far as changing from last year’s team. “Yeah, we got 49 wins, we made it to the playoffs, a disappointing first-round loss, but let’s also be fair and evaluate our talent here. Let’s see other areas that we want to make some changes in.”

So when they got done doing all that, they set about doing the deals, and changed the roster dramatically. Now you’ve got a much deeper and better roster than you had a year ago. The improvements last year were good, it was a first step, but now you hope that these take them up further than last year’s results.

Continued: Mike Fratello’s playoff picture, his sleeper Eastern Conference team, and what he really thinks of Ian Eagle.