The Nets are desperate and luring John Calipari away from Kentucky makes sense.
The Brooklyn Nets will undoubtedly make the celebrity hire here because the team’s Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, simply wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s why John Calipari goes right to the top of any and all searches when you have a desperate billionaire who is looking to make a big splash calling the shots. Do the names James Dolan and Phil Jackson ring a bell?
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, who thinks he’s John Wooden because he once coached his daughter’s fifth-grade team to a championship, was ready to offer Calipari everything last summer before Coach Cal decided to return to Kentucky and wait for something better/more lucrative to come along.
Now it’s Prokhorov’s turn. Prokhorov woke up Sunday, looked at his terrible club and with his deep accent essentially mumbled: “I must break you.”
Billy King, the general manager, was reassigned while head coach Lionel Hollins was canned.
You don’t blow up your organization six weeks before the trading deadline unless you have a plan in place, right? Only Prokhorov, Nets CEO Brett Yormark and Dmitry Razumov, the owner’s right-hand man behind the Iron Curtain, know for sure.
Calipari is the primary target, according to several sources close to the Nets and Calipari. It will take a lot to get him, which means power and money, perhaps even a small piece of ownership. Remember, Cal’s not the desperate one here.
Calipari has been down this road before with the Nets and knows he’ll have to hire a smart general manager to handle the day-to-day business. The job requires heaving lifting. The Nets are in a complete rebuild without many assets.
The disastrous trade with the Celtics will haunt this franchise for a decade. Boston owns the Nets’ first-round pick in 2016 and 2018 and has the option to swap first-round picks in 2017. The Nets will have to start rebuilding through free agency and if we know one thing about Calipari it’s that he can recruit his designer suit off.
The Nets must find a coach and GM who can build a team that will attract fans to the Barclays Center.
And for what it’s worth, Calipari maintains a close relationship with most of the players he’s sent to the NBA. That’s a major plus.
The safe play is to make a run at Spurs general manager RC Buford, who is one of the best in the business even if most NBA fans and Prokhorov couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. Buford would give the Nets instant credibility. And if he hired Tom Thibodeau as head coach the Nets would be onto something.
Coincidentally, the Spurs are in Brooklyn on Monday so let’s hope Prokhorov and his underbosses are taking notes. The Spurs are the gold standard because they have great ownership, smart people running the front office, a great head coach and an all-time franchise player. Finding the latter is the key and that’s not easy.
But the Nets have the ability and resources to build a stable organization whether they hire Calipari, Buford or any other worthy candidate. And it begins with Prokhorov, Razumov and Yormark allowing their basketball people to run the operation. Their way isn’t working. We have the record and the attendance figures to prove it.
Dolan has gotten his best results when he’s backed off. He did it with Donnie Walsh for two years and he’s giving Jackson similar freedom for now.
When the Nets moved to Brooklyn they wanted to prove how hip they could be by mortgaging the future for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two aging stars who had been put out of their misery just a few months earlier by Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. King took the fall for this but it was something the owner wanted. Big mistake. Actually, that’s too kind. Humongous mistake is more like it.
The Nets should have been patient, allow the novelty of being in Brooklyn to occupy the fans for a few years while building a real team. They blew that chance.
Now it’s back to the drawing board. Calipari is a good choice. Buford is a proven winner. Either way, somebody is about to hit his own version of the Powerball jackpot in Brooklyn.