We’re looking back at the series of major decisions that led to the current state of the Nets, and asking you: if you could go back, would you do it again?
These will come in (mostly) reverse chronological order. Today, we cover the coaching carousel, looking at who’s had a shot with the Nets.
The Story: Coaches are hired to be fired, as the old saying goes, and no team’s had a turnstile quite like the Brooklyn Nets in the last few years. After just 28 games at the helm in Brooklyn, Mikhail Prokhorov stepped in and fired coach Avery Johnson, letting P.J. Carlesimo coach the rest of the year. The Nets elected not to bring back Carlesimo, hiring first-year coach and recent retiree Jason Kidd, before Kidd left after one season and joined the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, the Nets have Lionel Hollins, on the first year of a three-year contract that could become four.
The Case For Avery Johnson: 28 games. That’s all Johnson had to make an impact, much of it without Brook Lopez, and he earned one Coach of the Month Award in that time. Less than a month later, poof. Johnson spent two years quietly dealing with the fact that he had a terrible team, then got the boot less than two months into his real job. After Johnson left, Carlesimo openly admitted that he pretty much stayed the course with Johnson’s schemes & styles, and their early issues were easily explainable given Lopez’s injury that December. The team probably would have turned it around anyway, and now we’ll never know.
The Case For P.J. Carlesimo: .648. That was P.J. Carlesimo’s winning percentage with the Nets, a team record among all coaches. Sure, he was just an interim and only coached 54 games, but he also found a way to be successful with Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, two of the worst scorers in the NBA, in his starting lineup. Carlesimo isn’t a forward-thinking innovator on par with Tom Thibodeau, but he kept the team motivated in a way Avery Johnson never did. He never had a shot barring an unforeseen tear through the playoffs, but you have to imagine he’d have the Nets doing as well as Lionel Hollins is now.
The case for Jason Kidd: The Nets are struggling right now, thanks to a series of unfortunate moves and bad injuries. Last year, Kidd turned his own mess into a weirdly successful team, inverting normal offense and running out a rangy five-man unit that put up one of the NBA’s best records after January 1st. He’s also turned the Milwaukee Bucks around into a legitimate playoff contender after a 15-67 season just last year.
However, keeping him on would also mean giving him the power he desired in basketball operations. So if you vote for Kidd, you also vote to give him that job. Who knows how that works out? Coaching & running a team require two very different perspectives on what needs to be done, and Kidd has precisely zero executive experience. Giving him exactly what he wanted may not be a prudent organizational strategy.
The case for signing Hollins last year: Now look where they are. Hollins was reportedly on the Nets’ radar last season, before they decided to hire Kidd and go in a new direction. But one year later, Hollins ended up running the show anyway. In retrospect, maybe the Nets should’ve let him take the reins one year earlier, so he’d have a stronger rapport with the players on the court now.