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Nets agree to 4-year deal with Lionel Hollins

Ex-Grizzlies Coach Reaches 4-Year Deal With Brooklyn

July 2, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lionel Hollins is the new coach of the Brooklyn Nets. AP photo
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If Billy King could have jumped in the DeLorean and set the clock back to this time last summer, he might have hired the guy he did Wednesday instead of the guy he actually did hire.

Of course, that is if he knew Wednesday what he didn’t know about the guy he hired last summer until just about a week ago, and probably couldn’t have known until he actually did.

Sound confusing?

Well, Back to the Future references aside, the Brooklyn Nets righted a wrong this week, choosing the valuable experience of a proven winner on the sidelines over a coaching neophyte with what turned out to be highly questionable people skills and business ethics.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

As Jason Kidd jumps into a lucrative three-year deal in Milwaukee after forcing his way out of our fair borough following a tumultuous first season at the helm, King and ex-Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins have reached agreement on a four-year pact in the $18 million range.

“The goal is when we do this to find someone that is going to be here for a long time and move forward,” said King earlier this week during his first public appearance since Kidd’s well-chronicled failed power play in Brooklyn landed him with the Bucks.

After admitting that he’d met with Hollins, owner of a 214-201 coaching record and a Western Conference Finals appearance with Memphis as recently as 2013, on Monday, King revealed that the two would sit down again on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, they had a deal.

“If you look at Memphis, they consistently got better every year, all the way to the Western Conference Finals,” King noted.

Hollins, who will be 61 at the start of next season, was a savvy leader on the court during his decade as a player in the NBA, earning a title with the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and reaching the Finals again twice with Philadelphia (1980 and 1982).

After serving as an assistant coach at Arizona State – his alma mater – and for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the native of Kansas began his head-coaching career with the Grizzlies when they were situated in Vancouver in 2000.

He also moved with the team to Memphis in 2004 after brief stints in Independent Leagues like the IBL and USBL before taking a break from coaching for the next several years.

In 2009, the Grizzlies called on Hollins for what would be his third and most successful stint with the franchise.

From 2009-13, the former point guard guided Memphis to records of 40-42, 46-36, 41-25 and a franchise-best 56-26.

Those marked improvements in record, and bringing the Grizzlies to the brink of the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, somehow got Hollins his walking papers instead of a contract extension last summer.

He was reportedly up for the vacancy in Brooklyn before Mikhail Prokhorov and King opted to give Kidd a shot at the job.

That shot, like the last 17 of Kidd’s storied career on the hardwood, failed to go down.

Brooklyn stumbled to a 10-21 start, lost All-Star center Brook Lopez for the season, rallied to make its second straight playoff appearance and knocked off Toronto in the opening round before a sobering loss to Miami in the conference semifinals.

Just a month or so later, Kidd was angling for more money, more power and, ultimately, a new locale where he could receive both without having to call King his boss.

King will now hire a man who will likely fit in better with a core group of veterans – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams – ready to make a serious push for an Eastern Conference crown.

“One, I think we’re looking for experience, someone we’ll build with for a long time,” King said. “Someone who can develop young players, develop veterans and have a tough mindset. But someone also who has the experience who can take us to where we want to go.”

The Nets might have been closer to that place right now if they’d just hired Hollins one year ago.

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