By Brian Mahoney
After spending $350 million to upgrade their roster last summer, the Brooklyn Nets will start this offseason by looking for a coach.
The Nets announced Sunday that P.J. Carlesimo wouldn't return, hours after they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Carlesimo helped the Nets finish 49-33 after replacing the fired Avery Johnson in December, earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But they spotted the Chicago Bulls a 17-point halftime lead and lost 99-93 at home Saturday night in Game 7.
"The Brooklyn Nets organization would like to thank P.J. for his efforts with the team in his roles as both head coach and assistant, and for his contributions to the team's success both on and off the court. We wish P.J. and his family only the best in the years to come," general manager Billy King said in a statement.
King received a recent contract extension, but the Nets quickly decided they wanted someone new on the bench, even after Carlesimo went 35-19 on an interim basis.
The Nets were one of the NBA's busiest teams last summer. They re-signed starters Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace and traded for Atlanta Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson in hopes of being a contender in their first season in Brooklyn after they were longtime losers in New Jersey.
They got back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but expectations were higher, with owner Mikhail Prokhorov saying in the preseason that he thought the Nets could make the conference finals.
"In one sense, I will say how far we've come from last year, infinitely. But we didn't get as far as we wanted to get," Carlesimo said Saturday night.
"I think we made enormous progress from where we were last year and what these guys accomplished this year, but to me it's a hill. You're always trying to climb up the hill. You go up; you go back. But we thought we could get higher up the hill than we got."
The Nets were just 14-14 after a December slump, prompting Prokhorov, their billionaire Russian owner, to cut short a winter vacation and fire Johnson.
The Nets won 12 of their first 14 under Carlesimo and went 10-3 down the stretch to earn home-court advantage in the first round. They fell behind 3-1 against Chicago, and their comeback came up short Saturday as they tried to become the ninth NBA team to overcome that deficit and win a series.
Phil Jackson was the Nets' priority after firing Johnson, and they may try to make a run at him now.
It was clear the Nets, despite boosting their talent on the roster, need to fill it with more passion. Given the money they have committed to the current group, it will be difficult to change the players, so they may want a coach who can bring that out of them.
They couldn't match the effort of the Bulls, who played harder to make up for the absences of starters Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich during the series.
"I think we have a great group of the guys in the locker room. I just think, like I said, we talked about the word inconsistency all year. I think we just need to find a way to be more consistent, especially mentally," Williams said after the game. "I think that's what got us this series, is just the toughness, the mental breakdowns."
Carlesimo has a career record of 239-315, also serving as a head coach with Portland, Golden State and Seattle/Oklahoma City.