Mikhail Prokhorov talks lessons learned in open letter to fans


The Brooklyn Nets flamed out spectacularly in their quest to win a championship under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, winning just one playoff series in three years, paying record-setting luxury tax bills, and falling to 14-40 this season without control of a draft pick until 2019.

After firing coach Lionel Hollins and re-assigning general manager Billy King to an undetermined role within the organization, Prokhorov spoke of lessons he’d learned in his near-six years running the franchise in a press conference. A little over a month later, Prokhorov expounded on those lessons, citing eight things he’d learned in his tenure as Nets owner in an open letter on The Vertical Wednesday morning.

Prokhorov’s eight lessons:

  • 1) Some Things Money Can’t Buy;
  • 2) Strategy Beats Opportunity;
  • 3) Culture Trumps Talent;
  • 4) Brooklyn Means Business;
  • 5) Losing And Winning Go Hand In Hand;
  • 6) The Best Things In Life Are Free;
  • 7) Howdy, Stranger (about being a foreigner in the United States);
  • 8) To Err Is Human.

Right from the get-go, the Nets owner was more direct about the obvious vision the team had taken since they moved to Brooklyn: “… we wanted to make that move as splashy and fun as possible. So we went with the idea that no money was to be spared. Get high-value star players, whatever it takes.” This isn’t a new revelation, but it’s a recognition of the mistakes that were made, in that the team didn’t do proper due diligence.

Prokhorov took a few moments to trumpet Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment’s off-court successes — the team’s new training facility, the New York Islanders, and Barclays Center. But the larger message embedded in these eight lessons is about building a culture and maintaining a consistent strategy from basketball management, one that presumably differs from the consistent star-gazing strategy that led to the team’s current situation.

It’s worth noting here that the issue with the Nets wasn’t consistency from management — perhaps no team was more consistent in their vision from 2011 to 2014. It’s that it was a consistent strategy of mortgaging the future for whatever short-term gains were available at the cost of tomorrow.

In the letter, Prokhorov lays the groundwork for various strategies, without saying which direction he specifically would prefer. That’s likely up to the new general manager, a position that he’s reportedly offered to Spurs assistant general manager Sean Marks.

There’s a few Prokhorov one-liners in there, as you’d expect. The owner called back to his first video message to Nets fans in 2010: “America, I said six years ago I come in peace, and I’m still here in peace!”

The owner also joked about the team’s financial losses, which were reportedly $144 million on the basketball side in the 2013-14 season: “as the person who signed the checks, lemme tell you, it cost a boatload.” Perhaps no one knows the cost of a boatload better than a billionaire.

He also took the moment for a subtextual jab. Lesson four — “Brooklyn Means Business” — is a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Deron Williams, and perhaps Paul Pierce, who called his time in Brooklyn “horrible”.

Not everyone is made to play in Brooklyn. One of the very important things we’ve learned. The fans are rightfully de-manding, the market is high pressure and the media is do-ing their job and paying attention. We need coaches and players who reflect this, who are tough, and have a win-ning attitude with total commitment. This means we look for a team of people with a real passion to be here, and we don’t pull teeth trying to convince them. It’s an honor to play for Brooklyn. Period.

(Emphasis ours.)

You can read Prokhorov’s full open letter at The Vertical. The Nets owner is expected to be on hand for the team’s practice facility unveiling Wednesday afternoon.

Mikhail Prokhorov on The Vertical — NBA U: Lessons learned from the owner of the Brooklyn Nets