Who Can Coach the Nets?

Who Can Coach the Nets?

While Sebastian breaks down some potential members of the Nets core after this summer’s draft, the next thing that must be considered when discussing the rebuilding of this organization is who’s going to be the person to coach this team back to respectability. With some of the rumors that have been flying around the past week, it’s clear that Mikhail Prokhorov is going to look to make a big splash with his head coach. But while some of the names that are being tossed around are splashy, are they really the answer? I’m going to go through some of the early, big name candidates, and give you my initial impressions:

Mike Krzyzewski – Coach “K” is a college coaching legend with 28 seasons at Duke University, which include three National Championships, 10 Final Fours and scores of ACC conference championships and NCAA tournament victories. Adding to his cachet was his role as head coach go the 2008 U.S. National team, aka the “Redeem Team” which won gold in Beijing Olympics. Given that some of the top players on the Olympic Team (cough, LeBron, cough) will be free agents this summer, Coach K could help lure these guys to the swamp. The problem is, Krzyzewski has played this game with NBA teams before. He’s been previously offered coaching jobs in Boston and Los Angeles, and rejected both. You also have to remember his leave of absence in the 1990s due to health reasons. Would Coach K put his health at risk with the high-stress schedule of the NBA, and if so, why would he make the leap to the Nets after turning down offers from much more ballyhooed organizations?

Rick Pitino – Great college coach, sure, but his stint in the late 90s with the Boston Celtics makes me question his abilities to coach again in the NBA. His now famous “Larry Bird is not walking through that door” speech has come to symbolize his inability to handle the Boston media during his stint there. How would he handle the New York City media, as the Nets make their transition to Brooklyn, attempt to lure top free agents, and bring along one of the top picks in the draft?

John Calipari – On a personal level, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle Coach Cal again, but there are legit reasons to look elsewhere beyond my own personal feelings for the guy. Calipari was unmitigated disaster in New Jersey in the 1990s. As demonstrated by his college coaching career, he’s constantly seeking greener pastures, jumping to better college programs when he has the chance, which would bring instability to the position if the Nets brought him back to the NBA. While some guys have loved playing for Calipari, they’ve been notably labeled as “his” guys, while players like Jayson Williams and Kendall Gill, talented players in their own regard, have been thrown under the bus by Calipari because he didn’t like how they didn’t buy into his schtick. Some analysts are throwing the John Wall card out there because Calipari currently coaches the assumed No. 1 pick at Kentucky. But if the Nets don’t win the lottery, that point is moot, and besides, if Wall is such a special talent, I’m sure he can play for a coach other than Calipari if he does end up with the Nets. Please, please, please don’t consider this guy.

Jeff Van Gundy – Unlike some of the other big names being tossed around, JVG is the only one whose positive coaching achievements have been built up over the long-term in the NBA. It’s true that with the Knicks and the Houston Rockets, he never won the big one, and you can even argue that his Rockets teams underachieved, but his team’s have always been known for their toughness and defense, two things this current Nets bunch sorely lacks. His resignation from the Knicks in 2001 was sudden, and that always creates doubts about the franchise’s stability with a guy like that at the top, but if JVG is indeed interested in getting back to coaching in the NBA, I really hope the Nets consider this guy.