The Nets have lost four straight and are now 7-19 overall. They've won ONE game on the road. They have lost their best defender, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to a broken ankle. Their best players all seem to play the same position. And in general, the franchise seems to be in state of flux (We are being kind.)
It's become a lost season.
So, let's assume there is hell to pay either during the season or when it mercifully ends. Who might replace Billy King and Lionel Hollins? We offer some suggestions, some speculation actually ... while waiting for Comcast and YES to provide us with some basketball. Let's start off with one (obvious?) solution: giving someone complete control, name one person both coach and GM. And that person might be...
Cal held both positions when he joined the Nets for a rock-and-roll three-year set back in the 1990's. It was love-hate. He demanded the Nets act like an NBA franchise. No more showering with truck drivers at a seamy practice facility shared with a trucking company. But, even as he admitted, he did a lot wrong. He still has his supporters, starting with CEO Brett Yormark. Would he do it? There is no itch Coach Cal wants to scratch more than the NBA itch. He even wrote a book about how long it took him to recover from the Nets experience.
He won a national championship at Kentucky, has gotten three different programs into the Final Four ... and he's a great recruiter. He is controversial. His victories can get vacated. (No worry about that in the NBA.) Still, he would demand attention. With interest in the team dropping like a stone, the Nets might be tempted to give him the keys again.
And if you want to know how much of a supporter Yormark is, read this, Mike Mazzeo's dual interview in which they mutually praise one another ... and Cal says of his buddy, Brett...
"Look, it’s not easy right now, what they’re doing and how they’re trying to do it, and reading about it, that’s not easy. But I’ll bet you (Brett is) thinking of ideas on how to improve it and make it as good as it can be, to work through the issues and not be down about it. He’s certainly disappointed if they lose, just knowing how he is."
There are a lot of candidates if Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov decide not to renew Billy King. Here's some suggestions:
--R.C. Buford. The gold standard in GMs, the man who runs the Spurs. Don't laugh. He is a friend of Sergey Kushchenko, Prokhorov's long term sports advisor and member of the Nets board. Buford also was reportedly Kushchenko's guest in the ONEXIM suite recently. (We'd like a list of guests for the suite from now on, please.) Would he do it? Doubtful, if anyone can throw money at a candidate, it's Prokhorov. Buford also has some younger acolytes, like 30-something Brian Pauga, the Spurs director of scouting and GM of the Austin Toros.
--Bryan Colangelo. If the guys down the Turnpike can hire Jerry Colangelo, what about the Nets signing his son, Bryan. Bryan hasn't worked in the NBA in three years since Masai Ujiri replaced him in Toronto ... and his time there was up and down. He did draft Andrea Bargnani but also won Executive of the Year in Toronto as he did in Phoenix, assembling that seven seconds or less gang.
--Arturas Karnisovas, the assistant GM in Denver and former director of scouting in Houston. A native of Lithuania who starred at Seton Hall during the 1990's and still reportedly maintains a home in New Jersey. Highly respected internationally after a great career in Europe, Karnisovas was rumored as a GM possibility before the Nets signed Billy King. As an added benefit, he speaks Russian.
--Mike Zarren, Danny Ainge's No. 2 in Boston. It was Zarren who was did much of the negotiating in the talks that led up to the 2013 Paul Pierce - Kevin Garnett trade. So it would be only appropriate that he get the chance to rectify the mess the Nets find themselves in as a result. He turned down the 76ers job before Sam Hinkie took it. So he's a smart, smart man. A graduate of Harvard Law School (where he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology) and of the University of Chicago. Yikes.
Some of those guys might to work with Calipari. Some would not. Some would take the job, some wouldn't. And while some fans might support Bobby Marks or Danny Ferry, we don't see them being hired by ownership under virtually any circumstances.
Luke Walton. Oh why not? Pay the man! Come July, teams are going to be lining up with bags of cash, rare gems, deeds to summer houses and whatever else might lure the most successful assistant coach in NBA history. We don't know how he would do with a lesser collection of players, but lets face it, he is a lot better coach now than he was in November.
Scott Brooks. What did Scott Brooks do when he was coach of the Thunder? He molded young players into a cohesive unit that won a lot of games. Yes, like Walton, he had superstars to work with but he did well ... and a number of those players got better as they played under him. In the end, it seemed everyone got tired of one another. Give him a second chance. He's sitting out the season.
Tom Thibodeau. His reputation has fallen off since he was let go in Chicago. He built a defensive monolith, first in Boston, then Chicago, but he had a reputation of running his players into the ground and his offense was not exactly a basketball symphony. Still, he is a name and that could help On the other hand, he did not get along with ownership or management. And that will hurt his chances.
Sean Sweeney. Go young. Sweeney is a Jason Kidd assistant in Milwaukee, leaving the Nets two years ago with him. He is seen as one of the finest young coaching talents in the NBA and will get a head coaching job soon. Why not with the Nets, where he would come cheaper than any of the names mentioned above. But know this: he won't come without a wholesale change in management. He might not be the only one.
Of course, there are others, like Ettore Messina, the Spurs assistant and the CSKA Moscow head coach when Prokhorov owned that club., and Kenny Atkinson, the former Knicks assistant now with the Hawks.
No, we are not endorsing anyone. We are not endorsing change. Nope. Not us. That's up to the owners. Do we think change is in the wind? Don't know. Do we think there are discussions about the future? Yes, we do. There had better be.