When Sean Marks leads his Nets into the AT&T Center Saturday night, he will be introducing an organization —team and basketball operations staff— that looks nothing like it did the last time the Nets were in San Antonio a year ago October.
There will be 10 new players and 30 new staffers, both extraordinary numbers in terms of turnover. Moreover, about a quarter of those new Nets staffers used to call the AT&T Center home, either coming immediately from San Antonio to Brooklyn or after a slight detour. There are assistant coaches, scouts, public relations and analytics staffers all with a Spurs heritage, fruit of the “Spurs tree.” It’s a lot easier to replicate a culture, as Marks has been trying to do, when you have people intimately familiar with the model.
There are other characteristics of Marks hiring beyond relying on his time with the Spurs ... as a player, assistant coach and executive. There’s more of a reliance on educational achievement than in the past. Four of the new hires have doctorates in physical therapy, two have J.D.’s, what you get when you graduate from law school and multiple master's degrees. Jeremy Lin isn’t only Harvard alum on the Nets.
Also, Marks likes international connections, particularly on the performance team. There are staffers from Australia, Italy, Ireland —not to mention New Zealand, Marks’ home country as well as Americans who have worked with the national teams of Germany, the Dominican Republic and Australia.
Seven played in the NBA: Marks, Langdon, Vaughn, Williams, Harrington, Batiste and Gomes. Nine staffers have played a combined 60 seasons overseas.
As Ronald Nored, the 26-year-old Long Island Nets coach, said before the season opener at Barclays last month, “We’re all new.”
And as Marks himself said Saturday, “We’ll take as many of the things as I possibly can from San Antonio, and Kenny will do it from Atlanta. But we’ll make it our own. That’s important. We have a great group of people that we’ve brought in from all around the world.”
So here’s our best guess at who’s new, drawn from the internet and social media. The Nets, you see, no longer list basketball operations staff.
--Sean Marks, 40, General Manager, hired from the Spurs, announced February 18.
--Trajan Langdon, 40, Assistant General Manager, hired from the Cavaliers --after three years with the Spurs, announced March 8.
--Natalie Jay, 33, cap and contract specialist, hired from the 8th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, announced May 5.
--Andrew Baker, 26, Coordinator, Strategic Planning, hired from the Spurs in March, announced May 5.
--Mitch Heckart, 30, manager public relations staff, hired from the University of Oklahoma. Before that, he worked for the Spurs, reported August 21, not yet announced.
--Kenny Atkinson, 48, Head Coach, hired from the Hawks, April 17.
--Jacque Vaughn, 41, Lead assistant coach, hired from the Spurs, reported April 30, announced May 16.
--Chris Fleming, 46, assistant coach, hired from Nuggets, reported May 24, announced July 5.
--Bret Brelmaier, 28, assistant coach, hired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before that, he worked for the Spurs, reported July 3, announced July 5.
--Jordan Ott, 31, assistant coach, hired from Hawks, reported May 13, announced July 5.
--Adam Harrington, 35, assistant coach/director of player development, hired from Thunder, reported May 21, announced July 5.
--Mike Batiste, 38, assistant coach, player development, hired from the Cleveland Cavaliers where he worked with the D-League Canton Charge, reported June 27, reported July 5.
--Will Weaver, 31, special assistant to the head coach, hired from the 76ers, before that he worked for the Spurs, reported June 7, but not yet announced.
--Logan MacPhail, 29, director of coaching analytics, hired from the Spurs. reported August 21, not yet announced.
--Zach Weatherford, 45, director of player performance, hired from the Naval Special Warfare Command, announced June 9.
--Dan Meehan, 34, head strength and conditioning coach/sport scientist, hired from the North Melbourne Football Club, announced June 9.
--Aisling Toolan, 31, director of physical therapy, hired from the Hospital for Special Surgery, announced June 9.
--Sebastien Poirier, 30, assistant athletic trainer, hired from the Oklahoma City Thunder. reported August 20, not yet announced.
—Lauren Green, 30, assistant strength and conditioning coach, hired from Los Angeles Dodgers, reported September 25, not yet announced.
--William "B.J." Johnson, 35, coordinator of player evaluation, hired from USA Basketball, announced August 22.
--Gianluca Pascucci, 44, director of global scouting, hired from Houston Rockets, announced August 22.
--Shelden Williams, 32, pro scout. Last job with the Tianjin Lions of the CBA, announced May 5.
--Charles Payne, 50, pro and college scout, hired from Stanford University, announced May 5.
--William Grove, 35, advance scout, hired from Golden State Warriors, worked for the Spurs as an equipment manager, reported November 14, not yet announced
--Bill Dooley, 55, advance scout, hired from Virginia Tech, reported November 25, not yet announced.
—Jeffrey Robinson, 27, advance scout, hired from the Spurs in October, not yet announced.
Long Island Nets
--Alton Byrd, 58, Vice President of Business Operations, Long Island Nets, hired from the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, announced March 24.
--Ronald Nored, 26, Head Coach, Long Island Nets, hired from Northern Kentucky --after two years with Celtics, April 15.
--Ryan Gomes, 32, assistant coach, Long Island Nets, retired from NBA and D-League after seven-year pro career, reported July 11, posted July 13, announced August 23.
--Pat Rafferty, 57, assistant coach, Long Island Nets. hired from Central Wyoming College, where he had been head coach for three seasons. Announced August 23.
Among internal promotions, Ryan Gisriel, 26, has jumped from assistant to the Billy King to Director, Basketball Administration, announced on May 5, and Lloyd Beckett, 31, has been promoted from assistant trainer to trainer/physical therapist for the Nets.
Matt Riccardi, senior manager of basketball operations, is now assistant GM of the Long Island Nets; and Aaron Harris, who had been No. 2 behind the departed Gary Sussman, has assumed the top P.R. role. Eli Pearlstein and Megan Walsh, P.R. staffers have also moved up, as was Savannah Hart, who’s Basketball Operations HR Coordinator.
Can it all work? There IS a challenge to managing all the sports science, performance, analytics, development, etc. and some staffers aren’t just new to the Nets, they are new to the NBA. A couple are even new to professional sports.
Marks had great success in San Antonio and his speech can be peppered with references to how “Pop and R.C.” —Gregg Popovic and R.C. Buford, the coach and G.M. of the Spurs— do things. But by carrying out what is more or less a complete turnover, the management challenge is all on him. The Spurs model can help only so much. That’s what they call his job “general manager.”