With the Nets search for a GM now two weeks old, a few things are becoming evident. And this being the Nets, there's intrigue...
--Despite the Nets win-loss record ... and record of dysfunction, there is no shortage of basketball execs who want the job. There are, after all, only 30 such jobs and they pay better than a million dollars a year. A lot of people would also like to work in New York and for an ownership with a record of spending money, whether its on luxury taxes -- $123 million in Brooklyn -- or a new training center -- $50 million.
--There's no timetable for the Nets to hire a GM and they are only likely to begin a serious coaching search once the GM is hired. While the Nets can approach and interview candidates who don't have NBA jobs, they have to get permission to talk with those who are under contract.
--So far, the only two names that have surfaced as serious candidates are both veteran executives who are out of work: Bryan Colangelo and Danny Ferry. Colangelo, who won executive of the year twice, once each in Phoenix and Toronto, is seen as a leading candidate. He has not been shy in pursuit of the job. Ferry who rebuilt the Hawks would be most controversial choice and is, depending on who you talk to, a leading candidate or not a candidate at all. How much he wants it is also in question.
Colangelo, if the Nets went that way, would be easy choice. He's accomplished with a personality that would fit well in New York, with the media and the fans. He doesn't have much, if any, baggage, although there's some concern that he's a "politician" in the Billy King mold, someone who might go along with ownership without much of a fight.
Ferry, on the other hand, has a lot of baggage. He was bought out last year following a scandal over racially charged comments in 2014. The 49-year-old Ferry read a racially charged scouting report on Luol Deng, specifically saying "He's got some African in him," adding "He has a store front out front that's beautiful and great, but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you." The words were not his, but a scout's. However, he freely read them during a conference call on free agents, angering some in the Hawks then divisive ownership. It was one of two racially charged incidents that led to the franchise's sale. In the other, then owner Bruce Levenson discussed how the Hawks could attract more white fans to Phillips Arena.
Beyond that, say league sources, Ferry's biggest supporter has been the man he would replace -- King, who once described Ferry as "like a brother." King continues to advise the Nets after being "re-assigned" on January 10. He is reportedly pushing Ferry, particularly with Dmitry Razumov, the Nets chairman who he worked with on basketball operations for five years. They remain close. Whether the lobbying is working is in dispute.
Razumov is one of a small group of Nets officials delegated by Mikhail Prokhorov to investigate candidates to fill both the GM and head coach openings. The other three are, according to reports, Brett Yormark, the team's CEO; Irina Pavlova, president of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment Holdings; and Sergey Kushchenko, a member of the Nets board who is former executive of the year in the Euroleague.
Both Adrian Wojnarowski, in a report shortly after the staff changes, and Mike Mazzeo, in a Sunday story on the Nets chances at recruiting Kevin Durant, alluded to King's continuing role inside the Nets. Woj referred to the relationship between King and ownership as "unorthodox" and reported, "Billy King's reassignment is expected to include advising ownership on its search for King's successor." Mazzeo argued the Nets aren't going far with "Dmitry Razumov turning to his bestie until the bitter end, Billy King, and asking the advice of the now demoted GM who turned the roster into a mess in the first place."
In his January 11 press conference announcing King's still undefined "reassignment" and Hollins firing, Prokhorov seemingly dismissed concerns about the former GM's role in choosing his successor. "He can send me any of his ideas as a friend, but for the time being, it's not his job for the time being. And his position for the time being is under discussion."
Still, King has supposedly been talking with Razumov about day-to-day operations. One league source questioned whether if Ferry gets the job, he'd retain King in an advisory position beyond the end of his contract this summer and/or keep Frank Zanin, King's longtime deputy in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Brooklyn, as assistant GM.
Of course, the Nets could also go in the opposite direction, giving the job to one of a number of younger assistant GM's and vice presidents of basketball operations around the league, guys without big-time connections. Among the names various pundits have suggested are: Oklahoma City's Troy Weaver, Washington's Tommy Sheppard, Orlando's Scott Perry, Houston's Gersson Rosas and Toronto's Bobby Webster.
Then, there's the possibility of a coach/GM combination, although Prokhorov basically dismissed that at his press conference. "My perception that there is some kind friendly contradiction between GM and the coach," he said. "I prefer to have like both, the general manager and the head coach. This is my view on this.
John Calipari's name seems to have faded after he dismissed the idea of leaving Kentucky (and his team started winning.) But Ethan Skolnick of the Miami Herald tweeted two days ago that Tom Thibodeau might be interested in both jobs ... although he's never be GM of anything.
Spoke to someone who knows Thibodeau well who suspects he takes dual role there https://t.co/WPEO7g7f4J— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) January 23, 2016
Meanwhile, Fred Kerber reports Sunday that "Tom Thibodeau likely is the favored target (for coach), but he’s in no rush" and will likely have multiple offers. So, no doubt, will some of the GM candidates.