Nets president Rod Thorn said he had been formulating his opinion for about a week. Ultimately, the reason he decided to give Lawrence Frank a chance to finish out his contract as coach is because he believes in him.
“In my mind, he’s a good coach,” Thorn said this morning. “If you get rid of a good coach you’ve got to get a good coach. In my mind he’s a good coach. He’s done a good job here.
“This past year we weren’t expected to do very well. We ended up doing better than most people expected us to do. Our younger players got better for the most part. My feeling is we’re on the right road.”
And with that ended more than a week of speculation and conjecture of what Thorn would do, who would replace Frank and whether the players still are listening to him. Now it’s on to making sure the Nets improve on the basketball floor so Frank can keep his job.
Bringing back Frank for next season may not be a popular decision with the fans, but it makes sense on so many levels.
First of all, Nets’ ownership lost more than $25 million according to Sports Business Journal last year. The team has had a few rounds of layoffs and is sharing a summer league team with the Sixers to split the expenses.
All of that said, eating Frank’s $4.5 million salary wouldn’t be smart.
Secondly, the Nets didn’t underachieve like some teams. They may have overachieved – although it’s hard to say 34 wins is a good thing – when you consider what they were predicted to do this past season.
Additionally, Devin Harris improved. Brook Lopez was better than expected. The same can be said for Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Ryan Anderson.
Frank certainly had more positives than negatives this past season. The biggest minus was the Nets’ record, but he basically had a pass for that when in preseason Thorn and GM Kiki Vandeweghe said the development of the players were what mattered.
Some in the organization were unhappy that the plan shifted when the Nets were in the playoff race and they played veterans because they were trying to win games. But the players – except for Yi Jianlian – got better or played better than anticipated. Besides, playing to win is the most important thing. You want to teach the players how to win and what it takes. That should always be the plan. It will be next year when Frank knows he has to win to keep his job.
Even if he does, there’s no guarantee the Nets will extend him or give him a new deal after the season. So much depends on what happens this summer, who comes in via the draft, free agency and trades, and how the young players continue to develop.
There are other factors, too, like whether the Nets are on track for Brooklyn, whether Bruce Ratner still owns the team and if there is a marquee coach available next summer that could make a big difference.
As for 2009-10, Thorn isn’t concerned about having a coach in the final year of his contract on the bench. He thinks the players will listen to Frank and continue to play hard for him. They did for most of this past season, but at times they could have and should have given a little more. Had they given more effort defensively and executed better down the stretch of games they might have been in the playoffs now, might have been playing the roles of the Bulls or Sixers, who are giving the Celtics and Magic fits, respectively.
You can blame some of those things on the coach, of course. But the players also share in that. They have to work a little harder defensively, have to be smarter with the ball late in games or take better shots.
These are the things the Nets will have to do better next season because they’re healthy and because they will hear the same voice and likely will play a similar style. Maybe the Nets will go to Lopez more – at least they should. But all of that will depend upon what personnel changes the Nets make.
That’s what Thorn has to turn his attention to now that he has decided his coach will be back and that his voice still is being heard.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)