When the Nets filled out their coaching roster last week, the names were all familiar ... but one.
John Welch had worked with George Karl for nine years and had sat with Jason Kidd during the summer league. Joe Prunty has been an NBA assistant for 18 years, winning three rings with the Spurs under Gregg Popovich and now coaches the British national team. Doug Overton's new job in Springfield was a bit of a surprise but he had focused on player development since arriving five years ago. Jim Sann had two coaching stints with the Nets working closely with Jason Kidd. He's the new advance scout.
Then there was Charles Klask. "Who?" asked even veteran sports writers. Klask, on one level, is evidence of just how much influence Lawrence Frank has on this staff. Klask was a Frank assistant at Detroit the last two years and is one of four assistant coach-level personnel who Frank worked with either in New Jersey or Detroit along with Roy Rogers, Overton and Sann.
But on another level, Klask indicates a subtle shift within the organization. Along with the promotion of Scott Sereday from consultant to full-time "statistical analyst" back in July, Klask's hiring suggests the Nets are ever so slightly joining the analytics movement. Klask was Frank's in-game stats guy in Detroit for two years and for nine years before that in Orlando, he had the same responsibilities with Stan Van Gundy, who relied heavily on his work. His official job title now is "game preparation," but here's how Frank described what he does in a staff profile from last year.
"He knows, exactly, statistically the best shots on the floor for our guys to shoot from," Frank said. "He also knows the worst. He knows the best and worst for our opponents. He can pull out why, statistically, it’s the right thing to do to go two-for-one, why it’s the right thing to do to foul up three. He’ll pull out nuggets statistically. Player combinations, he’ll have the best two-man lineup, three-man lineup, four-man lineup, five-man lineup, so you see different combinations."
In an interview with the Pistons official website last December, Klask discussed just what he does. "I try to back up all my thoughts and ideas with numbers ... I always enjoy charting things. You might have a belief because you see one or two possessions, but you say, you know what, I can't always go on my hunch. 'Let me really research this, let me chart this over two or three games. Let me get a 60 possession sample'."
He also described the kind of work the assignment Frank gave him in Detroit. "Coach Frank is big on pick-and-roll combinations, in terms of which players are most effective together in pick-and-rolls. We did a project midway through the season to see who the best pick-and-roll players were. At the time, it was Rodney [Stuckey] and Jason Maxiell." Frank has always been more analytics-driven that his predecessors or successors with the Nets. He hired Ken Cantanella as the Nets stats guy. Cantanella would up with the league offices, then went to Detroit with Frank, where he stayed.
Klask admits "it can only be taken to a certain, and if you base all your decision just on the numbers without watching the game, learning the game, knowing systems, knowing certain situations, I think you're going to be somewhat disappointed with your decision-making." Klask didn't just start this week. He was seen working with Kidd in the Orlando Summer League. (That's him on the far left)
Don't expect Dallas, Houston or Memphis level analytics worship in Brooklyn, but with Klask and Sereday (and Milton Lee), the Nets are going more in that direction, certainly more than they did with Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo.