Or is it 3/4 of a season too early? I said it right after the Nets last game against the Knicks, but I think Lawrence Frank’s tenure as the head coach of the New Jersey Nets is coming to an end. The beat-writers are starting to pick up on this now, and hell, Lawrence Frank is even joking about it. You might have remembered my little rant against Lawrence Frank after the Nets’ loss to the Bobcats, I did everything but call for Frank’s head in that post, and that is because I think that firing a coach mid-way through his final season is a silly no-win move. Especially when coach Frank has got his guys playing so hard. I don’t think there is no real divide among the locker room despite the reports of CDR not handling losses well. If Lawrence Frank gets fired, I am afraid of a large let-down from the players who have been playing so hard for coach Frank. There is currently not enough talent on this team to suffer a let-down like that. Another reason why I hate this decision is because I think the idea of an interim head coach in any sport is a silly one. There is a reason why the coach is currently an assistant and not a head coach. Sitting down and thinking about it, there hasn’t really been an interim head coach who has kept his job after the end of the season. Out of the numerous interim head coaches we see on a yearly basis, I can only think of two who stuck, Alvin Gentry and our own Lawrence Frank (interesting isn’t it). Alvin Gentry was successful because he brought the Suns back to that fun loving up and down game. Lawrence Frank worked because the team gave up on Byron Scott, and they were excited to play for anyone other than Byron Scott. None of those situations are at play for the Nets this year.
It’s not like I think Lawrence Frank is the answer, far from it, but if Lawrence Frank was going to be fired, it should have been done during the offseason, where the Nets could look for a a suitable replacement (For example former Nets’ assistant Eddie Jordan and his Princeton style offense would be a terrific fit for this team). However, after a long thinking it out process, Ratner and company decided to keep Frank going into the final year of his contract basically acknowledging that unless this team made the playoffs, he wasn’t returning.
I am sorry, but this just reeks of a cheap money-saving move to me. Before I continue, I do want to say, I am not a guy to rip ownership. I understand that owning a sports team is a money making venture for most of these guys (Mark Cuban being an exception – and hopefully Mikhail Prokhorov is one too), so when Ratner does stuff like the “jersey promotion” and sells advertising on practice jerseys, I tend to not go as crazy as most because I understand that the guys are in it to make money. I don’t like blaming ownership for things unless they directly effect what happens on the court, and this is why the decision to fire Lawrence Frank really bothers me. To me (again, no inside information, just opinion here), the delay in the decision to keep Lawrence Frank was because Rod Thorn was pushing to fire him while Bruce Ratner was pushing to keep him. Why was this considered a cheap move? Well if Lawrence Frank got fired before last season and they went out and got a coach like Eddie Jordan, Bruce Ratner would be stuck paying to head coach salaries for one coach. This is because Lawrence Frank had a buy-out clause in his contract that allows him to receive payment for his final year no matter when he is fired. So knowing that Frank’s contract is a sunk cost, Ratner decided to go into the season with Frank as the coach, knowing if that he started slow, he would be fired and an assistant would replace him. Now, I am not positive about how interim head coaches are paid, but I am sure it is a lot less money than a head coach would normally get. I hate quoting myself, but here is something I wrote on April 29th:
Who knows. Maybe Lawrence Frank will coach his ass off next year. Maybe we get the #1 pick, make the playoffs, and everyone forgets about this whole offseason “situation.” I am going to say it one more time though, if Lawrence Frank gets fired midseason and we are stuck with an interim head coach (instead of being able to hire our own this offseason), I will be pissed.
It looks like that is where we are headed.