Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts knew something was up when he entered the meeting room at the team hotel Sunday morning and didn't see Lawrence Frank standing in front wearing his usual Nets T-shirt and Nets track pants.
Douglas-Roberts and his teammates knew Frank was no longer their head coach when he walked into the room wearing a brown sweater, slacks and brown shoes.
"That was the only time I've ever seen him without Nets gear on," said Douglas-Roberts. "I knew then he was gone. I knew right away."
"He kind of had a sense of it and so did the players," said Courtney Lee. "We just didn't know how long it would take and when it would happen."
--Arash Markazi, Sports Illustrated
Another source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday: "The team hasn't lost interest in each other, which is a good sign, but I don't know how much more interest they have in [Frank's message]."
--Marc Stein, ESPN
Barrise is among several candidates to become the "permanent" interim coach, a list that includes assistant coach John Loyer and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, whose incursions into the locker room last season prompted Frank to tell Rod Thorn that he'd rather be fired than have Vandeweghe continue to meddle outside his designated sphere of operations, a source told ESPN.com.
--Chris Sheridan, ESPN
"Sometimes, the same thing being said by the same person losses its effect," Rod Thorn said. "A different person can say the same thing and players hear it because it's a different voice."
Thorn said a replacement has not been chosen but, in a surprise, indicated he would consider candidates outside the organization. One name that surfaced from an opposing team source is Del Harris, who retired last June after serving as an assistant with the Bulls. Harris was a head coach with the Bucks, Rockets and Lakers. His career record is 556-457. General manager Kiki Vandeweghe has been a strongly rumored name, but one team source insisted he is not being considered.
A spokesman for Mikhail Prokhorov said: "He has no comment. Bruce Ratner is still the Nets owner."
--Fred Kerber, New York Post
"In the times I've been here, I've been so (angry) because of a lack of effort," Frank said last week. "But these guys are giving virtually everything they've got."
But they didn't give him the effort lately and he had to go. Now, the next coach will have to coax more team play out of Devin Harris, who had problems with Frank's controlling style and has gained the reputation of being a solo act.
"Last year we had Vince Carter and he was a positive influence on the young guys," said one team official. "But he's not here, and it hurts because the coach and point guard are not on the same page."
--Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News
Vandeweghe has been on the team’s Western trip, studying the team’s personnel. Vandeweghe has wanted to dismiss Frank as far back as last season, sources say, but Thorn has resisted until now.
Sources said Nets management had come to believe that Frank had lost much of the team, a fact that has played out in losses to Denver and Sacramento in the past week. Once the Nets played so poorly against the Kings – believed to be the most winnable game on the trip – management decided it could no longer go on with Frank as coach.
Frank was in the final year of his contract, earning $4 million for the season.
Despite the return of point guard Devin Harris and shooting guard Courtney Lee, the Nets have played long stretches of uninspired basketball.
"Most of the guys have tuned him out," one source with direct knowledge of the locker room environment said. "This isn’t all Lawrence’s fault, but everyone knows that this can’t go on anymore."
--Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports
According to a source, Thorn also has interviewed at least one person outside the organization. But with the team mired in an epic crisis, and with the proposed sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to be decided by the end of the calendar year, it is clear to all candidates that this is an interim situation only. The Nets' brass will hunker down in day-long organizational meetings Monday, and a source said Frank's replacement will be installed in time for the team's next practice on Tuesday.
It became clear on a recent stretch culminating in a 99-85 loss at Milwaukee that Frank had lost his command of the locker room. Still, Thorn had wanted to give Frank a chance to save his job once several key injured players returned.
Vandeweghe, who has reportedly been less supportive of Frank than the ultra-loyal Thorn, was analyzing the team's personnel and formulating his potential coaching strategy during the Nets' West Coast trip. Before the team left on the trip, Vandeweghe lingered in the locker room long after a 98-91 loss to the Knicks on Nov. 21, speaking privately with Harris and other key players.
But nothing permanent can be decided until the sale to Prokhorov goes through -- presumably by the end of 2009 -- and that includes a decision on Thorn's future. He did everything right -- building a two-time NBA finalist out of nothing by trading for Jason Kidd, then dumping Kidd before he got too old for a point guard 10 years his junior, Devin Harris, in a deal that was universally applauded. But clearing the books for a move to Brooklyn -- and selling the team to someone who could actually take it there -- was more important to owner Bruce Ratner than keeping Vince Carter, who didn't want to talk about the whole thing Sunday night. Asked for his comment on Frank's firing, Carter said simply, "None. I don't want to talk about it, if you don't mind."
--Ken Berger, CBS Sports
Thorn does not have a contract beyond this season. For the few remaining fans of this team, that’s a scarier prospect than an 0-17 record with Jason Kidd coming to town this week.
"I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’ve enjoyed it," Thorn said Sunday afternoon. "It’s been part of my life for 45 years now, and as long as you’re healthy and enjoy what you’re doing, you want to finish what you’ve started. I’m no different than anyone else.
"But that’s a decision that the new owners will have to make, and that’s for another day."
But no one knows, and Thorn can only wait and wonder. He said Sunday night that he has not had much contact with Prokhorov since he emerged as the prospective owner. He does not know if the oligarch will want him to run the team — or, for that matter, if he’ll want to run it.
"You never know in professional sports," Thorn said. "It’s such a ‘what have you done lately’ business, and ultimately, you are what your record is. It’s out there for everybody to see and pass judgment."
Frank was just an easy fall guy, and if anybody thinks his dismissal will change this team, they haven’t been watching. "That’s probably as little talent as I’ve seen anybody put on the floor in the long time," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters Sunday night.
--Steve Politi, Star-Ledger
In fact, Rod Thorn says he has a fairly long list of candidates to replace Lawrence Frank, whom he fired Sunday morning because, as the Nets president put it, "sometimes the same message from a different voice can change things."
Yes, The Boss says he is including General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe ("Yeah, I will consider him. Possibly. Yeah.") in this discussion, and every member of the coaching staff, including Barrise. Thorn added that he took two calls Sunday from two unemployed men he is considering. When asked whether one is currently a team broadcaster, he replied, "No."
But he added that he has no problem bringing in an outsider.
Doubt it. There are some good men out there (Avery Johnson, Dwane Casey, Sam Mitchell, Reggie Theus, P.J. Carlesimo, Eric Musselman, Terry Porter, et al.) who want another crack at it. Most are getting paid for their last jobs, so they aren’t likely to jump back in just yet. And even the ones not getting paid would be wise to stay away.
That’s coaching protocol. The outsider who lobbies Thorn would be viewed as a shameless opportunist — willing to elbow more qualified guys aside just for a five-month payday, run someone else’s system without the benefit of a camp, work without the loyalty of a staff that knows it’s getting fired in June anyway, and be management’s toady since he would have no other choice but to bluff his way through the next 64 games. He’d get to say this a lot: "Just working from Kiki’s suggestions right now."
"I hear what you’re saying," Thorn said, "but for some guys, this is an opportunity. They don’t look at it as shameless. They can be familiar with the team — they could easily watch every game."
--Dave D’Alessandro, Star-Ledger
Don't rule out John Loyer being named interim head coach just because he seems anonymous to most of us. According to one league source, Loyer is one of the most well-respected assistants in the league.
One thing going against him: He only joined the Nets this past summer, signing a one-year deal after Brian Hill left to become an assistant in Detroit. Barrise has been in New Jersey for 13 years and Thorn may want to reward his loyalty (though it's more likely that Thorn will do whatever is best for the team).
And whoever is named interim coach will have a definite chance to keep the job, Thorn said.
"Lawrence was an interim when he started," said Thorn, "and it worked out pretty well for him."
--Julian Garcia, New York Daily News
Vince Carter, for the most part, appeared to get along with Lawrence Frank during their time together with the Nets. Yet Sunday, asked twice after scoring 23 points in the Magic’s 114-102 victory over the Knicks about Frank’s firing earlier Sunday, he offered no reaction.
"None," he said when first asked for his thoughts. "I don’t want to talk about it."
When a foreign reporter tried later, Carter simply shook his head and said, "Uh-uh."
--Steve Adamek, The Record