In a lengthy interview just before the Hornets game Sunday, Sean Marks talked to Adrian Wojnarowski about the challenges of his new job and left little doubt about what he took away from his years with the Spurs. Call it the three "C's" -- communication, caring and commitment.
Admitting he can't "sugarcoat the challenge," that the Nets have "a long way to go," Marks laid the core of what he hopes to achieve to Woj ... creating a new culture at Barclays Center.
"There's only 30 of these jobs, and only a handful that are in the market and the place that Brooklyn is," Marks said. "I viewed it as a special job, I viewed it as – I'm not going to sugarcoat it, there's absolutely a challenge ahead, but with the changing of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the new money coming in, I think that gives Brooklyn, just like every other team, a luxury of somewhat starting over."
In talking with Woj, he had addressed many of the themes at his press conference on Friday, but added details and noted what he learned working with the Spurs, starting with an unpaid job basketball operations assist in 2011. One thing he kept coming back to was the need for greater communications across the board.
"One of the greatest things about the Spurs was in a meeting with RC their willingness to accept others' opinions," noting that even interns can speak up at staff meetings in San Antonio. He wants to instill that his hires, again talking about bringing in a lot of his people.
"We are starting at ground zero ... The people we bring in there, we have to be open minded." The Nets ownership and management has often been criticized for trusting too much in a small group ethos.
As for caring, he said he learned from his time in Miami as well as in San Antonio about the premium good front offices put on the "15 guys" on the team and in subtle ways.
"Coach Riley went out of his way to know my kids names," Marks said. "Pop knew my kids names."
Pop, he told Woj, wasn't just about basketball. His caring was part of his way of developing relationship up and down the organization. "It's not always about basketball. There was casual conversation," he said, noting how it worked in building team chemistry ... in often subtle ways.
"One thing that stands out is the caring for players, how much time Pop takes in getting close to players," he added. "Everything revolves around those 15 guys, everything was done for them. You need an extra nanny for the family room because someone had a baby."
It wasn't just about basketball either, Marks said. Players would come to him with personal issues and Pop would often start off practice with discussions of politics, family like
Marks also said he believes Mikhail Prokhorov and the rest of his ownership are "committed to winning," telling him "We want the gm to lead the process." He noted that he wants "[Prokhorov] to trust me and the staff ... It's important to discuss the collaboration with him and not only him but the coach."
He noted that Pop had told Marks when he elevated him to assistant coach, "I want you to learn how I value talent, how I value players, so you will have an appreciation when you become an GM.
As for specifics in turning things around with so few assets, Marks said he is going to have to be "creative," noting the need for more comprehensive scouting, more reliance on the D-League and maybe finding a "strategic" way --not further described-- to get into the first round if there's someone the Nets really wanted.
"We’re going to have to be open to everything," Marks said.
He emphasized the need for "sports science," particularly within the "performance" staff -- strength and conditioning, medical. Free agents, he said want to know not just about winning but about competence as well as culture. It has to be understood that free agents have a checklist, thinking "I will want to go there because how they treat my wife, my kids, my body."
Marks gave no hints about who he wants as his head coach, but noted what his model is, a close partnership. His time in San Antonio gave him an "appreciation of how close Pop and GM are."
Also on Woj's podcast, Deputy NBA Commissioner Mark Tatum, who called Marks "a great hire," went on record about the growing frustration in the league for African-American candidates in pursuit of general manager jobs. . Tatum talks with Woj about new NBA investments and programs in identifying and training African-American candidates, including ex-players, to move into front offices.