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Heading back to Long Island with a new head coach ... but no change in mission

The Long Island Nets took their first steps to prepare for the upcoming 2021-22 season. Although the team is returning to the island for the first time in nearly two years, the mission remains the same; developing talent and putting the players in the best situation to perform and chase their dreams.

At the Nets G League affiliate’s second local player tryout held at LIU Post, several key members of the organization were on hand to scout the talent on the island. Matt Riccardi, the GM of Long Island, Adam Caporn, the new head coach, and his assistant coaches, Jimmy Oakman, James Maye and Lance Harris were among those on the sidelines Sunday.

Sunday’s purpose was to find a handful of players who the organization feels can contribute in practice and get them a step closer to achieving their dreams. For Caporn, lured all the way from Australia, it’s the first steps of his new chapter.

“I think the main thing is understanding what the players are going through, appreciating they’re putting themselves in a difficult situation and chasing a dream. Coming from this scenario with that level of empathy and giving them a little bit of encouragement to keep chasing,” Caporn said at the local player tryout Sunday. “A lot of people aren’t going to make it but we want to be appreciative of people putting themselves in a situation and giving them a chance.”

Caporn is the head coach that perfectly fits the Nets G League affiliate’s strategy. He arrives on the island with a decorated resume in his native country of Australia. The 39-year-old most recently helped Australia win a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. H was an assistant and spent the last seven seasons as head coach of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence — the country’s leading development program.

“That’s really the development side of things. We really want to invest in getting our players better and to help the Nets. Also, further their careers and help them get to where they want to get,” Caporn said. Our environment will be well thought out to maximize player development within the context of a team that’s trying to win games and represent Long Island and the Nets well.”

NBL Combine 2017/18 Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Due to the depth in Brooklyn, there’s a high chance some younger Brooklyn players will wind up on assignment in Uniondale, home of Nassau Coliseum. They’ll there to develop and/or get minutes on the court. Brooklyn has indeed sent down a number of draft picks to Long Island, including Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs and Nicolas Claxton in recent years. Caporn is excited to work with Brooklyn’s talent when they arrive to Long Island.

“It’s a nice thing to hear and we do have good talent. I’m really excited to work with it and excited to be a part of the Nets, who have great depth, talent all around and chasing great things,” Caporn said.

Riccardi praised Kessler Edwards — the Nets only signed two-way — as an individual and endorsed his character as well but didn’t explain how the team plans to use Edwards this upcoming season, directing the question to Sean Marks and Steve Nash. The same goes with the vacant two-way spot, which Riccardi said the team talks about all the time. That’s also in the hands of Marks.

Caporn said that he was attracted (from 10,000 miles away) to the culture within the organization, just like Patty Mills — a fellow Aussie — r who is very close to Caporn. Caporn joked about the competitiveness between them but spoke about how the decision was an easy one for him.

“As you get connected with the Nets organization, the culture is obvious. You can feel it and the action makes it real. For me, it was an easy decision. The care for family, for the person as a whole and the desire to be competitive, win and strive for excellence. All of that is wrapped up in something you feel each day,” Caporn said. “I loved it so far, hoping to contribute to it strongly and having Patty [Mills] makes it even better.”

Men’s Basketball Medal Ceremony: Day 15 Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

All in all, Riccardi and the rest of Long Island’s coaching staff are most excited about returning to the island and playing in front of their fans at Nassau Coliseum.

“Just getting back on the island, to be honest with you,” Riccardi said. “Getting back with the fans here on the island and reconnecting. We’ve been gone [in the bubble] and it’s been two years at this point. Looking forward to getting back at Nassau, get this new group of players in front of the community and just have the support of the community behind us,”

The Long Island Nets season opener is November 8. They last played at Nassau Coliseum the first week of March in 2020.