The Nets sacked head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager Billy King this weekend over the team’s poor performance.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who recently took full control of the team and home court Barclays Center, said he wants to grow the National Basketball Association bottom feeder back into a championship contender, but the ousted leaders were making the team look bad amid heightened media scrutiny.
“I want to stress also one thing, and for me it is a very important lesson,” Prokhorov during a Monday press conference at Barclays Center. “We are playing in the best market in the world. And of course it is a market that makes great pressure, a lot of attention, a very active press. That is why we need players and a coach who can resist this pressure — who can survive.”
Hollins, whose record was just 48–71 in a season and a half, joins a slew of coaches who apparently could not survive. It would seem the coach’s office in Barclays Center was built with a revolving door — Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, and Hollins have all led the team since it moved here in 2012. Kidd was the only one not to be fired. Tony Brown will be the interim coach.
King was in his sixth season as general manager. Brooklyn made the playoffs each of the last three seasons but only reached the second round once.
Prokhorov wants to keep the coaching and general manager jobs separate and danced around multiple reports that the franchise is in negotiations with former Nets coach and current Kentucky head man John Calipari, a hall-of-famer that insiders have mentioned as a possible combination head coach-general manager.
“Coach Cal is a great coach, but we won’t be discussing, today, any name, because it is the first day of our new approach,” Prokhorov said. “We’re not in a hurry.”
Calipari coached the Nets in the late 1990s, leading the then-New Jersey team to the playoffs in 1998, but owners fired him the next season after a 3–17 start.
The announcement came just hours before the San Antonio Spurs crushed the Nets 106–79 on Monday night. Brooklyn (10–28) has the third-worst record in the league.
The Nets have $40 million to spend on free agents this summer, but getting back to the playoffs any time soon seems a long-shot. The team has no first-round picks in the 2016 and 2018 drafts, and its single, 2017 first-round pick may become the Celtics’ property thanks to the deal that brought Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn.
But Prokhorov paints a rosier picture.
“I’m sure next season we will be — I hope — a championship contender,” he said.