By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
While Lionel Hollins continues to hope -- perhaps beyond hope -- that he still has a home in Memphis, red-hot Indiana assistant Brian Shaw is reportedly set to interview for the Brooklyn Nets' vacant head-coaching position.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Nets general manager Billy King is expected to meet with Shaw in the hopes of luring the five-time NBA champion to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in time for the upcoming NBA Draft, which will be held at the Barclays Center on June 27.
Hollins, who is also rumored to be a candidate for the highly coveted job, continues to rail against the Memphis hierarchy, claiming he'd rather maintain his post with the Grizzlies, whom he led to the Western Conference Finals this past season after a record-setting 56-win campaign.
As reported in the Eagle earlier this week, Shaw is likely to be courted by the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as the Detroit Pistons, who are being counseled in their coaching search by none other than Phil Jackson. The "Zen Master" coached Shaw to three straight NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-2002 and had him as an assistant for two more crowns in 2009 and 2010.
As Frank Vogel's right-hand man in Indiana this season, Shaw was given credit for helping to develop the skills of budding young stars like Paul George, George Hill and Brooklyn's-own Lance Stephenson as the Pacers took the defending NBA champion Miami Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out Monday night.
"He's really helped me out," George said of Shaw. "He's the one that gets on me. If I'm not playing well, if things aren't going right, and he knows I'm the reason for it, he'll let me hear about it."
King, who refuses to speak about the Nets' coaching business until a firm decision is made, has some strong selling points to sway Shaw, an Oakland, Calif., native, to come to Brooklyn rather than Motown or L.A.
First, the Pistons haven't reached the playoffs since 2008, finishing at or near the bottom of the Central Division in every season since, including a dismal 29-53 showing in 2012-13.
Secondly, the Clippers, while enjoying the lofty status of reigning Pacific Division champions, may be on the verge of losing All-Star point guard Chris Paul to free agency this summer.
The Nets, coming off a 49-win campaign during their first foray into our fair borough, have their roster all-but-set for next season. Shaw may be the perfect elixir to elicit the resilience and toughness the team appeared to lack at crucial junctures during a disappointing first-round playoff exit to the Chicago Bulls last month.
“I thought we could be a better basketball team, but we need to create a culture that becomes the identity of the Brooklyn Nets," King said when asked to describe what he's lookng for from a head coach. "Something where I think it has to be a vision of the Brooklyn borough, where it’s got to be tough-minded and when you come to play us you know it’s going to be a dogfight every night. That’s what I’m looking for — and a coach to instill that in the team.”
The Nets also boast, when healthy, one of the top backcourts -- Deron Williams and Joe Johnson -- in the Eastern Conference, and a bonafide All-Star center in Brook Lopez. Reggie Evans, who led the NBA in rebounds-per-48-minutes, will also be back in the fold, as will swingman Gerald Wallace, who finished strong in the postseason after an admittedly lackluster regular season.
Getting this formidable roster, which also includes a strong corps of reserves spearheaded by backup big man Andray Blatche, to perform under duress and intense scrutiny is something neither Avery Johnson nor Carlesimo was able to do last season, at least not to the satisfaction of King and team owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
King, who played under legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, is seeking someone with a strong basketball acumen, as well as a leader of men.
“The team has to be more important than the individual," he noted in a recent interview on the team's website (www.brooklynnets.com). "When you look at the programs that win in San Antonio, Miami, Chicago, the Lakers over the years, that’s what they’re all about. The Bulls when Michael was there ... it’s instilling the team is more important. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, but the Bulls are more important than Michael Jordan. In his mind, he looked at the organization as being the team concept.”
King's long-time colleague from his days in Philadelphia, Brooklyn-born coach Larry Brown, was reportedly in contact with the team regarding the job. But the Nets, who have been patient since abruptly giving Carlesimo his walking papers less than 24 hours after the Game 7 loss to the Bulls, appear to have been waiting for the opportunity to speak with Shaw.
If Indiana had knocked off Miami in Game 7 Monday night, it may have been another two weeks before the 47-year-old candidate became available. Instead, LeBron James and the reigning champs did King, Prokhorov and the rest of the Nets' hierarchy a huge favor with a 99-76 blowout win.
As for Hollins, who could soon be displaced by top assistant Dave Joerger in Memphis, his unwillingness to jump at the opportunity to speak to teams regarding his sudden free-agent status may cost him his best shot at landing in Brooklyn.
That is, of course, if Shaw jumps at the chance to be the Nets' third head coach since they officially opened business Downtown last November.
Until then, Brooklyn remains a tough borough in search of a tough new leader.