Billy King on ESPN: “I have not made any calls” and “it’s not about marquee”

Phil Jackson
The Nets haven’t reached out to Phil Jackson… yet. (AP)
The Nets haven’t reached out to Phil Jackson… yet. (AP)

One day after firing Brooklyn Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, General Manager Billy King went on Ryan Ruocco and Stephen A. Smith’s radio show on ESPN 98.7 FM to discuss the disappointing Game 7 loss to Chicago, the Nets vacant coaching position and off-season roster moves.

When it came to replacing Carlesimo, King said, “There’s a lot of candidates out there at this time and that’s why we reacted quickly.”  King, who told reporters he would reach out to Phil Jackson, was asked if he thought the 11-time NBA Championship winning coach had any interest in the Nets job. “I have no idea,” King responded, “I have not made any calls… so it’s hard to speculate.”

King went on to say that it was more about him, and having a coach that is in line with his views on basketball and coaching.

When asked how far into the playoffs Carlesimo needed to go to keep his job, King said that he and ownership “looked at the whole picture” rather than examining P.J. on a game-by-game basis.  Carlesimo did a “hell of a job” this season but wasn’t the right man going forward, according to King.

“Long-term we just need to get a good fit for us.”

Smith delved into the issue further, asking why P.J.’s 35-19 record didn’t indicate he could be the coach long-term. King responded, “Ultimately, you have to win in this league, but it’s also about development of players for the long haul. It’s about philosophies of how you want to play and different things like that.”

King spent a significant portion of the interview talking about finding a coach that saw eye-to-eye with him on basketball philosophy.  King  formulated many of his basketball views from his former college coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and Larry Brown, who coached the Sixers for five years in Billy King’s nine-year tenure as Philadelphia’s GM from 1998-2007.

“It’s a simple game, where if somebody’s open you throw it to them and you have ball movement, and the object is that you play team defense. So that’s really where I’m going to start, those two simple principles.”

Smith, who “didn’t hear a lot of great things about Brook Lopez and his relationship with P.J. Carlesimo,” asked if Billy was concerned about the star center’s development under Carlesimo. “It’s never about one player. It wasn’t about one player when we made the decision with Avery, it’s not about one player now.”

After briefly discussing Ruocco’s pre-game Central Park date with his mom, King offered his take on what went wrong in Game 7:

“I just think the intensity level of the Bulls, we didn’t match in the first half. We dug ourselves a hole and came out in the second half and gave the intensity. But as Larry Brown used to always say, ‘When you get behind that many, you gotta play perfect and the other teams gotta make some mistakes.’ They didn’t and we played as good as we could the second half, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”

King called it “shocking” that the Nets weren’t ready for Game 7 when they had clawed back from 3-1 down in the series to force the final game. The Nets GM said that previous teams he has been with, after being down 3-1, gave up and resigned to heading to the off-season.

The second-ear GM also addressed the rumors of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wanting a big name.  “It’s not about marquee, we want the guy that we think can do the job the best. And going forward for the long-term.”

For those hoping for a Brian Shaw candidacy, King mentioned Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Warriors coach Mark Jackson as examples of successful coaches that had no head coaching experience before taking over their respective teams. No other specific names were discussed.

In terms of ways to improve the roster with little cap flexibility, Billy said, “When you’re limited, if you’re in good market you can attract players that can come in and help you.” King cited the “team across the river” (Knicks) and the Miami Heat as teams that landed impact players on veteran minimum contracts.

King intimated that the biggest roster move might be keeping this team together. “The one thing that teams that are playing now (in the playoffs) that we didn’t have, they’ve been together.”  King referenced the Pacers, Heat, Thunder and Spurs, saying “sometimes the continuity is the best thing going for you.” Of note to Nets fans licking their wounds after Saturday, King talked about the progress of the Memphis Grizzlies “…the pain of losing, they don’t want to go through that collectively again.”

Hopefully after two coaching firings in less than five months, Nets fans won’t have to collectively sift through coaching rumors again for a long time after this process is over.