Ex-Nets coach blasts team's unrealistic expectations
By Brian Mahoney
P.J. Carlesimo thinks the Brooklyn Nets' goal of winning a championship within the next two years is "maybe not totally realistic," though he believes they are a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Carlesimo went 35-19 as interim coach after Avery Johnson was fired in December, but the Nets told him he wouldn't return the day after a Game 7 loss to Chicago in the first round. He is working on ESPN as an analyst through the rest of the playoffs.
The Nets finished 49-33 in their first season in Brooklyn. They haven't hired a new coach, and Carlesimo said whoever gets the job will take over what he believes is one of the best teams in the league because of the opportunity to win right away.
"Having said that, the expectations to win a championship in two years, that's a heavy load for anybody, not just for Brooklyn. But I don't know if that's realistic the way the roster is right now," Carlesimo said Thursday on a conference call.
"I wouldn't say that team cannot win a championship, because we thought we could this year if things broke a little better for us. But if that's on your plate that you need to win a championship in two years, I think that makes it a little challenging."
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said after buying the team in 2010 his goal was to win a championship within five years. The Nets made a big leap up the standings this season after they hadn't made the playoffs since 2008, but further improvement will be difficult. They have five players scheduled to make at least $10 million next season — four of them are under contract for two more years after that — so it will be difficult to add pieces.
The Russian billionaire has shown a willingness to spend, but not the patience to improve gradually. The Nets were 14-14 when he fired Johnson, who had been Eastern Conference coach of the month in November.
Carlesimo thinks Prokhorov has a team capable of winning 50 games, but not one that he would consider a favorite for the title.
"I also think the expectations are maybe not totally realistic, but you'd rather have that from your owner, and then he's got the wherewithal to back it up," Carlesimo said. "That's his goal. We talked about that from day one. He doesn't make any bones about it. He doesn't want to have a nice team, he doesn't want to just sell tickets in Brooklyn and make the team competitive. He wants to win an NBA championship, and as a coach you can't ask for more that. So if what comes with that is a short leash, well, so be it."
Carlesimo, who previously held head coaching jobs with Portland, Golden State and Seattle/Oklahoma City, said he would be interested in remaining in TV but was only committed to doing it through the postseason and would consider a coaching job if he had an opportunity afterward.