Open Season for Close-Mouthed Nets
Shaw, Hollins join ongoing search for Brooklyn's next coach
As soon as the final buzzer sounded on defending NBA champion Miami’s 99-76 Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals rout of Indiana Monday night in South Beach, the Brooklyn Nets had not one, but two new head-coaching candidates available to them.
While Billy King has remained mum on the Nets’ ongoing search for P.J. Carlesimo’s replacement, fending off rumors that the team had contacted former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy last week, Brooklyn’s general manager can now add Memphis coach Lionel Hollins and Pacers assistant Brian Shaw to his list of potential hires.
Shaw, the owner of five NBA championship rings — three as a player and two as an assistant — acquired during Phil Jackson’s dynastic reign with the Los Angeles Lakers, became available for interviews the moment LeBron James and the Heat punched their ticket to a third consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
The 47-year-old Oakland, Calif., native is the top assistant on Indiana coach Frank Vogel’s staff, but has been mentioned as one of the next-in-line head coaching candidates throughout the Pacers’ deep playoff run.
Jackson, who reportedly gave the Nets a quick, “Thanks, but no thanks”, when asked if he’d be willing to take the reins of our borough’s first major pro sports franchise since 1957, is rumored to have interest in bringing Shaw to Detroit to coach the Pistons, who hired the “Zen Master” as a special advisor earlier this year.
The coach-less Los Angeles Clippers are also reportedly interested in luring Shaw back to the West Coast, but the Nets, buoyed by owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s win-at-all-costs mandate, will doubtlessly take a stab at the red-hot candidate.
“Frank Vogel may need a new lead assistant cause Nets GM Billy King has done a lot of background checking on Brian Shaw, according to sources,” tweeted Indianapolis Star Pacers beat reporter Mike Wells on Tuesday.
Hollins, who spent the past four seasons building the Grizzlies into a legitimate Western Conference contender, was given permission to speak to other NBA teams before the Heat and Pacers even hit the floor for Monday’s Game 7.
The only problem is, he didn’t ask for permission.
The 59-year-old Kansas native, who was a key member of Portland’s NBA title-winning squad in 1977, wasn’t expected to hit the open market until the end of this month. But a terse and somewhat baffling negotiating session with the Memphis hierarchy left Hollins wondering if the organization had any interest in bringing him back.
”People need to know from my perspective that I don’t want to talk to any other teams,” Hollins told a Memphis radio station. ”I want to be here. I told … the media after our exit interviews that if the team offered me a contract that I felt was fair, I’d sign it the next day.”
Hollins shouldn’t speak so soon.
The Grizzlies may be ready to elevate prized assistant Dave Joerger to the head post, leaving Hollins dangling despite his record of success with the franchise, which won 56 games this past season and reached the Western Conference Finals before being swept by San Antonio.
King, who isn’t expected to make any major roster moves this offseason after shelling out over $300 million last summer, isn’t tipping his hand until the Nets have a coach in place, either before or just after the June 27 NBA Draft, which will be held at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Van Gundy was asked by ESPN Radio’s Ian O’Connor over the weekend if he had, in fact, spoken with King or Prokhorov regarding the Nets’ vacated position. But the 51-year-old lead basketball analyst for the network refused to comment on any coaching vacancies, though he did indicate that Brooklyn was a team “ready to compete” for an Eastern Conference crown.
“If Billy wants to talk about who he has talked to, then that’s up to him.” Van Gundy told SNY over the weekend.
For now, Billy isn’t talking to anyone about anything regarding who will guide the Nets in their second season on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
But at least now the GM has a longer list to choose from.
One thing King didn’t remain silent on was the importance of future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd in Nets history.
Kidd, who announced his retirement Monday after 19 seasons in the NBA, led the then-New Jersey Nets to their only two Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
The 40-year-old, 10-time All-Star finally nabbed his long-sought-after NBA crown in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks, as well as capturing a pair of gold medals with the United States Olympic Team.
“Jason Kidd was the captain of the Nets during their most successful period in the NBA, and is considered the greatest player in the Nets’ NBA history,” King said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Brooklyn Nets organization, we congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career.”
Kidd had his Brooklyn moment at the Barclays on Dec. 11, drilling a game-winning 3-pointer to lift the Knicks over the Nets in a memorable 100-97 victory over Brooklyn’s East River rivals.
‘I’m a competitor. I want to win,” Kidd said in the winning locker room that night.
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