Ex-Grizzlies Coach Reportedly Nearing Deal With Brooklyn
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If Billy King could jump in the DeLorean and set the clock back to this time last summer, he might just hire the guy he’s about to hire instead of the guy he actually did hire.
Of course, that is if he knew now what he didn’t know about the guy he hired until just about a week ago, and probably couldn’t have known until he actually did.
Well, Back to the Future references aside, the Brooklyn Nets appear on the verge of righting a wrong this week, choosing the valuable experience of a proven winner on the sidelines over a coaching neophyte with highly questionable people skills and business ethics.
As Jason Kidd jumps into what is being reported as 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 revealed Tuesday morning that he is a touch smitten with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.
"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, who refused to bury his ex-coach 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.
He also didn’t shy away from throwing flowers at his potential new coach’s feet.
"If you look at Memphis, they consistently got better every year, all the way to the Western Conference Finals,'' King noted.
ESPN reported early Wednesday that King and Hollins were already hashing out a deal that would reportedly pay the Nets’ fourth coach in three years about $4 million per year, or approximately $1.5 million more per annum than Kidd got.
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.
Now, it’s up to King to hire the man who likely would have 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 if they’d just hired Hollins one year ago.
Nothing But Net: King would like to have Hollins hired and in place by Wednesday since he’s got to get busy re-signing free agents. Pierce, who is already attracting offers from the Los Angeles Clippers, would likely be back on a two-year deal and Alan Anderson and Andray Blatche are also still on the market. One key player King failed to bring back was Shaun Livingston, who inked a three-year, $16 million deal with Golden State on Tuesday. Livingston started alongside Williams in the Nets’ smaller lineup, which Kidd installed following the team’s dismal start to the season. The veteran point man could only have received the $10 million over three years King had to offer via the team’s mid-level exception, so it was no surprise that he took the more lucrative offer from the Warriors.