The Nets now have two big jobs to fill, head coach and general manager. Tony Brown will be interim coach till the end of the season and it appears that Frank Zanin, King assistant, will be defacto GM as well.
First of all, there are candidates who despite what others are writing seem unlikely: Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing. Doubt either gets in the door.
And of course, the job is daunting. The team's present and future are ugly. The ownership has a record of short term thinking. Brook Lopez, the most senior Net, has played for eight head coaches in the past seven years, five in the last five years. It is going to take a LOT of money to convince prospects that this is the right job. For ownership, this is the most critical move they will make. If they blow it, they might have to pack up.
Finally, as we and others have tweeted, the Nets have been looking at potential replacements only for a short while. The process will take time.
So who are candidates? First if there's a combined job...
--John Calipari. As numerous writers have hinted and numerous sources have suggested, if Brett Yormark has his way, John Calipari will return to the Nets as both GM/president of basketball operations and head coach. Calipari-to- the-Nets is real, very real. It is not speculation. It far beyond that. You can suggest that his contract with Kentucky is long term and he can say he is happy in the Bluegrass State, but dismiss him at your peril. If Mikhail Prokhorov wants to turn over his team to one man, that helps Calipari's case. Also, remember this: Calipari has failed only once, in New Jersey with the NBA, and now at age 56, he realizes he has limited chances to rectify that. Last summer, he was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. His legacy is secure.
--Tom Thibodeau. Out of work with a reputation that diminished as his tenure in Chicago lengthened. He overworked his core players, he could get along with his GM, not even on speaking terms, and ownership. But he won and his teams are gritty, defensively minded and he has a record of player development. He would no doubt want control if the Nets came calling. Would they give it to him? Don't know. Would he take head coach, knowing he will be in rebuilding hell for a few years?
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.
Jeff Van Gundy. He's been out of the NBA coaching ranks for years now, doing a great job as TV commentator, but he is a name, knows New York (which Lionel Hollins never could figure out) and did take a team to the NBA finals, even if in a shortened season. Would he be interested? How much money would he want? He has a cushy job, a good lifestyle.
Ettore Messina. He has two things, at least going for him. He's an assistant at San Antonio where he's learning from Pop and he once worked for Prokhorov, taking CSKA Moscow to the Euroleague title twice. He knows the "players" and has proved he can handle them. His GM at CSKA was Sergey Kushchenko, who's Prokhorov's chief sports adviser and likely to have some kind of vetting role.
Kenny Atkinson. The well regarded lead assistant in Atlanta, Atkinson has good basketball history, as a player in both the NBA and overseas as well as on the bench and in the front office, as assistant coach, with the Knicks for four years and as the Director of Player Development for the Houston Rockets in 2007–08. He is young enough to be willing to suffer the rebuilding, experienced enough to get he job done.
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.
--R.C. Buford. The gold standard in GMs, the man who runs the Spurs. Don't laugh. He is a very good and long-time friend of Sergey Kushchenko. 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.
-- Brian Pauga, the Spurs director of scouting and GM of the Austin Toros. He's 31 years old and very, very good at his job. Would anyone want to dismiss a guy who's been part of the Spurs scouting machine? Not with that record. Untested, not a name, but again, someone young enough to see it through long term.
--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. You could do worse.
--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.
--Danny Ferry. We added this name after reading that Billy King is "advising" ownership. Ferry has a great record as GM with one blemish ... and it is significant. As Hawks GM, Ferry read aloud a scouting report on Luol Deng containing racially charged remarks. He is long-term friend of Kings and in fact, the two were line for the Nets job in 2010, but Ferry dropped out when he realized his friend had a shot at the job.
There no doubt are others we haven't thought of. But three of the candidates we've mentioned --Messina, Bufford and Pauga-- are in New York.
- Brooklyn Nets have eyes on Calipari after firing coach, GM - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Seven candidates for Brooklyn Nets' new coaching vacancy -Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Sources: Billy King expected to advise Nets ownership in search for new GM - Adrian Wojnarowski -Yahoo Sports
- Nets could be looking at some big names to replace Hollins - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- After Prokhorov's shakeup, where do the Brooklyn Nets go from here? - Matt Moore - CBS Sports