Nets’ New Coach Focused on Job at Hand, Not Power Plays
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said all the right things during his introductory presser at Barclays Center on Monday morning.
He promised to be straight with his players, to be consistent with them.
He promised the Nets were going to be a winner.
He even intimated that he had no plans to try to move up the organizational ladder in a bid to usurp the power of the man who just signed him to a four-year deal, Brooklyn general manager Billy King.
That was the closest Hollins came to taking a veiled shot at his predecessor, Jason Kidd, who bolted for Milwaukee when he couldn’t get his way here on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
Hollins praised the seemingly limitless resources of his billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, who last season spent more money on a single roster than any owner in the history of the NBA, only to watch his team fall to Miami in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He insisted the “nucleus” for a championship team was already here in Downtown Brooklyn, and Hollins would know, having captured an NBA title with Bill Walton and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.
He admitted that he would have to work on the Nets’ mental toughness and on re-building the often-talked-about “confidence” of $98 million point guard Deron Williams, who will be coming back from offseason surgery on both of his oft-injured ankles.
The 60-year-old basketball lifer thanked those under whom he learned the coaching game, including Jerry Colangelo, Jack Ramsey, Cotton Fitzimmons and Paul Westphal.
And after answering all of the media’s queries, the Kansas-born, Las Vegas-bred former point guard took it upon himself to address our borough directly.
Perhaps in a bid to quell the notion that the Nets’ coaching job was a one-and-done merry-go-round for those with higher or, perhaps even more appropriately put, underhanded aspirations, Hollins released an open letter to Brooklyn basketball fans early Tuesday morning.
It reads as follows:
I am proud to be the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. It was great to visit Barclays Center at [Monday’s] press conference and to begin envisioning the upcoming season. I appreciate the opportunity presented to me by Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and General Manager Billy King, who have quickly developed a winning culture in Brooklyn. My goal is to build on the success of the past two playoff appearances and to lead our team to an NBA Championship.
I believe that my 20-plus years of coaching experience have prepared me well to lead the Brooklyn Nets. Our team is going to be aggressive defensively, mentally tough, and a cohesive unit. Soon I will be meeting with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, and the younger players to discuss my expectations of them and to hear what their expectations are for our team. While we are individuals, our players will have to come together as one and make sacrifices for us to be successful.
I am looking forward to getting to know the borough and our fan base. I can assure you that our team will do what it takes to make you proud. Thank you for your support.
Head Coach, Brooklyn Nets
Give Hollins credit for taking the high road on all fronts Monday.
He didn’t bash his former employers, the Memphis Grizzlies, who saw fit to give him the boot despite a franchise-best 56 wins in 2012-13 and an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
He didn’t lash out at the NBA owners and general managers, including King, who didn’t give him a job last summer.
And most importantly, he didn’t pretend to know exactly what style the Nets would employ on the court come November. Only that it would be built upon a foundation of toughness.
But he did reveal that Brooklyn basketball might finally find a true identity under its new leader, especially if he’s given the chance to hang around for a while.
“I want to be tough, mentally,’’ Hollins insisted. “What I prided myself on as a player and a coach in trying to win and to win it all, [is] how mentally tough you are because there is so much adversity in that 82-game season. The playoffs are such a marathon that it takes mental toughness. It takes cohesiveness.
“I believe that I’m a leader,’’ Hollins went on. “The only stabilizing way I can be is just that I’m here and if they’re out watching they know I’m going to be straight with them. I’m going to be consistent with them and we’re going to have fun, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to win.’’
The fourth head coach in the two-year history of the Brooklyn Nets is off to a strong and promising start.
But in this game, and especially this town, it’s how you finish that matters most.
Welcome to Brooklyn, coach.
Nothing But Net: Hollins indicated that he’d be overseeing some of his younger players, though not coaching from the sidelines, during the remainder of the Nets’ Summer League schedule in Orlando, Fla., this week. … Nets C Mason Plumlee, an All-NBA Rookie selection in 2013-14 under former coach Jason Kidd, commented on the hiring of Hollins Monday following Brooklyn’s 98-84 loss to Oklahoma City on the Summer League circuit. “The exciting thing for me and the other guys is [coach Hollins] wants the players to get better, he wants the team to get better,” Plumlee said. “It seems like he’s going to develop guys, which is great.’’ … Hollins was unable to comment on whether or not the Nets would be finalizing a deal with free agent F Paul Pierce anytime soon, and notably left his name out when addressing the specific players he would be working with in his letter to Brooklyn fans. … King reportedly has a deal on the table for Cleveland G Jarret Jack, but the Cavaliers and Nets are still waiting for a third team to get in on the potential swap, which would send G Marcus Thornton to go to whatever franchise gets involved in the trade.