Few people knew who Lawrence Frank was when he took over as interim coach for the Nets after the organization fired Byron Scott in January 2004, but after a 13-0 start to his coaching career, and a history with the club that crossed over seven seasons, he certainly made his mark in New Jersey.
While Sebastian and I have definitely disagreed with some of Frank’s coaching decisions over the years, it’s never fun when a coach loses his job, especially a legitimate nice guy like Frank.
So, as we move into the next era of the New Jersey Nets, NAS is going to look back at Lawrence Frank’s five biggest wins, and his five worst losses.
Top 5 Wins:
5. “W” Number One (1/27/04 – Nets 94, Philadelphia 76ers 76)
You always remember your first, right? In Lawrence Frank’s case, in came on Jan. 27, 2004, in a 94-76 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers. Richard Jefferson scored 30 points, and Jason Kidd chipped in with 13 points and 10 assists. Meanwhile, the Sixers were held to 35 percent shooting. ”This was the first step to playing Nets basketball again,” Frank told the New York Times. “We are going to be relentless, we’re going to contest every shot and we’re going to rebound.”
4. Who’s the Fugazi? (4/17/04 – Nets 107, New York Knicks 83)
The Nets squared off against their cross-river rival New York Knickerbockers in the first round of the playoffs in 2004 and blew them away 107-83 in game one. The game was filled with trash-talk, and was actually a close contest at halftime, but the Nets took over in the second half, and established themselves as the area’s true tough and nasty team. At one point, Jason Collins fouled Tim Thomas so hard, the Knicks’ back was injured and he was taken out of the game. The Nets went on to sweep the Knicks, who haven’t made the playoffs since.
3. The Nets Are Playoff Bound (4/20/05 – Nets 102, Boston Celtics 93)
An injury to Jason Kidd that sidelined him for the first month of the 2004-05 season, and the off-season trade of Kenyon Martin, left the Nets shorthanded and without any real talent, until Vince Carter was acquired in December. Still, the Nets were on the outside looking in on the 8th seed in the playoff race until they strung together an 8-2 April, culminating with a 102-93 victory to clinch the last spot on the season’s last day. “We said a long time ago, when we were being counted out by most, ‘It’s an 82-game season,’ ” Frank told the Times on the eve of the game. “Well, it’s going to come down to Game 82.”
2. Rapping the Raptors (5/4/07 – Nets 98, Toronto Raptors 97)
The Nets entered the 2007 playoffs as a first-round underdog who had played below expectations all season. They were matched up against a young, Toronto Raptors team that had exceeded expectations that season. So, after the Nets stole game one in Toronto, they looked like a savvy veteran team that was able to turn it on at the right time. In the series’ clincher, the Nets beat the Raptors in game six 98-97, with Jason Kidd putting up an awesome 18 points, 15 assists and 8 rebounds. Frank said to the Times afterwards, ”You never get too high or too low. I think it’s very significant, one, to qualify for he playoffs; two, to win a round. Yet at the same time, you don’t exhale.”
1. Three Overtimes and It’s Over (5/14/04 – Nets 127, Detroit Pistons, 120)
It was certainly the greatest Nets playoff game I ever witnessed. A back and forth affair between the Nets and the Pistons that saw Brian Scalabrine of all people, emerge as the hero, scoring 17 points on 4-4 three-point shooting, when the Nets frontcourt got into major foul trouble. The game put the Nets up in the series 3-2, and the team appeared destined to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. As it stands, the Pistons came back and took the series in seven games. Still, the game was one of the greatest of all-time and it showcase Frank at his best, having to maneuver with a short-handed bench during the three OTs. Frank on the win, as reported by the Times, ”I don’t know what to say about that one. We’ve seen a lot of games, character games, grit games — that was unbelievable. Just the effort, both teams gave great effort. Just the will our guys showed.”
Five Worst Losses
5. Game One Heartbreaker (10/28/09 – Minnesota Timberwolves 95, Nets 93)
The Nets were cruising in this game, up double-digits in the second half, and then fell apart in the fourth quarter. The game ended with Damien Wilkins putting back a shot at close range off an offensive rebound, sinking the Nets by two. A crushing defeat in of itself, this was the game that got the Nets off to their awful start to the season, which would ultimately lead to Frank’s demise. Frank after the game as reported by the Star-Ledger, “We put ourselves in that predicament,” Frank said. “It was a combination of turnovers, shot selection, and lack of poise. These are hard lessons. The lesson is, you have to maintain your poise.”
4. Kidd Has a Migraine (12/5/07 – New York Knicks 100, Nets 93)
This game could very easily be declared the beginning of the end of the Jason Kidd era, and the point where Lawrence Frank lost what little control he had left over his superstar point guard. The loss dropped the Nets below .500 and inspired a number of Kidd trade rumors, distracting the team. After the loss, the Record’s Al Iannazzone wrote: “It’s the players. They’re not quitting on Frank and quitting is such a strong word. They’re just a very “fragile” team – a word many people in and out of the organization have used to describe them later. Eventually, though, Frank will have to take some heat.”
3. Nets Blown Out, Devin Benched (1/17/09 – Boston Celtics 105, Nets 85)
The game that may have signaled the beginning of the end with Frank’s relationship with his star player, Devin Harris. After a poor first half, Frank benched Harris and Vince Carter for lack of effort. Harris was reportedly very upset with the benching, and seemingly turned on Frank as a result. Frank on the benching, as reported by the Star-Ledger: “You make the decisions you make, and they’re well thought out,” the coach said. “That’s part of directing and leading a team. You’re not there to have a consensus opinion. You’re there to do what’s in the best interests of the team.”
2. Nets Can’t Clinch (5/16/04 – Detroit Piston 81, Nets 75)
With the Nets needing a win on their home floor to clinch a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, they couldn’t capitalize on their epic win in Detroit the game before, and lost an ugly game in New Jersey. It would mark the closest the Nets ever got to the conference finals during the Lawrence Frank era. The coach remained optimistic about his team’s chances to win a game seven on the road but it wasn’t to be: ”We won on the road before,” Frank told the Times. ”Obviously, it’s going to take a tremendous effort, but we are capable of getting the job done.”
1. The Final Loss (11/27/09 – Sacramento Kings 109, Nets 96)
With their last real chance to avoid matching an infamous 0-17 start to the season, the Nets, at 0-15, went into Sacramento and laid an egg in the first-half of the game, creating a hole they couldn’t dig out of and leading to Brook Lopez and Devin Harris to later call out the team’s lack of urgency for the game. Frank, as reported by the New York Post, said: “We cheated the game in the first half. Defensively, you think about what they got: run outs, dribble penetration, post ups. Eight of their first 10 points were in the paint and they made a living of it.”