Bruce Ratner made his voice heard last night and since he’s the one who signs off on everything, it seems Nets coach Lawrence Frank is safe.
But, Nets president Rod Thorn and other members of management will meet after the season to decide whether to keep Frank or let him go. A ringing endorsement from the principal owner certainly helps, though.
“I think the coach has done a good job this year,” Ratner said last night. “Obviously, our record is not where we’d like it to be, but the coach has done a good job. I like the coach.
“I haven’t talked to Rod, so we’ll discuss generally all our plans for next year, but I’d have to say we’re truly supportive of the coach. He’s a very good coach.”
Frank’s future has been a major topic for the last few weeks and will be for at least one more.
The Nets’ season ends tomorrow. Exit interviews and clean-up day will be Thursday, and then, at some point next week Thorn will have his season-ending meeting with the media. It’s probably then that Thorn will give his decision, unless he makes it sooner. There is plenty to consider.
Arguments for Frank’s return
1. He did his job
The mission statement before the season was to develop the young players — primarily Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian. Two out of three ain’t bad. Yi was on the right track before he broke his right pinkie and when he returned he wasn’t nearly the same player before he got hurt. Yet, Frank stuck with him longer than he should because of that mission statement.
2. The players and team improved
Harris, Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes played better than expected, helping the Nets disprove some preseason predictions. Most of them had the Nets finishing with 20-something wins and 14th or dead-last 15th in the East. The Nets stayed in the playoff race until April and matched last season’s win total with a lesser team.
3. Money talks
Frank makes $4.4 million next season, which, according to a Sports Business Journal report, is about one-seventh of how much Ratner’s group lost for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31. That’s a lot of money to eat, and then, you have to pay a new coach. Unless you get one on the cheap, you’re paying two men about $9 million to do one job.
Arguments against Frank’s return
1. Lame-duck status
I hate the expression, but it’s true. If the coach is in the final year of his deal players know he’s probably not going to be around as long as them. How motivated will they be to play for him? This isn’t just Frank. It’s any coach in this situation. The first three-, four- or five-game losing streak, and he’s really on the hot seat.
2. Is anyone listening?
The players played hard until the end, but are they doing it for themselves or for their coach? Some of them didn’t like being called quitters. You have to wonder if someone else can get more out of these players, especially considering his status. Frank isn’t beloved by everyone in the locker room — and certainly not in the organization. Sometimes things just run their course.
3. The fans
Everyone in the organization is fully aware of some of the fans’ dislike for Frank, many of them season-ticket holders. (There aren’t nearly as many as other teams have). It’s been reported that the business side wants a more marketable coach. Yes, they would love a dynamic personality, but how many of them are out there? They would rather have more wins and better performances at home. It’s easier to sell that, but in this economic climate and in that building, how many people are buying?
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).