Nets Giving P.J. Carlesimo a Chance
If the New York media seems like they’re going through the motions with regards to the Brooklyn Nets’ coaching search, it’s because we’ve all been down this road before. It was less than a year ago that Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni as an interim coach with the Knicks, and even as the team was ignited by the coaching change, the speculation about Phil Jackson and a host of other candidates began.
But as tempting as it is to toss out names — Jackson, the Van Gundy brothers, Mr. Miyagi, etc. — there’s a danger of repeating our mistake.
Woodson retained the job because the players responded to his structure and discipline. Interim Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo offers a lot of the same things and, for the time being, has support of ownership (One person familiar with the situation told HOOPSWORLD that the Nets have yet to reach out to any candidates).
Why else would owner Mikhail Prokhorov take two hours of his schedule to eat with Carlesimo at Milos, an upscale Greek seafood restaurant on 55th st. in Manhattan?
“I couldn’t really eat a lot because I don’t like to eat before a game, and I couldn’t drink wine, which was disappointing,” Carlesimo said before Saturday’s 103-100 win over the Cavaliers — his second win in as many games as interim coach.
Carlesimo may not have benefitted from Prokhorov’s generosity at lunch, but it’s not a stretch to think he’ll benefit from the Russian billionaire’s patience. Prokhorov has refused to put a timetable on the coaching search, and when asked if Carlesimo could retain the job, said, “It depends on the results of the team.”
“He wants to win a championship,” Carlesimo said, adding, “he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship… If we keep winning games, that would be good. He definitely prefers winning.”
Prokhorov, who cut his heli-skiing vacation in British Columbia short to address the coaching situation, seems willing to stick with Carlesimo as long as the results are there.
“He’s the coach,” Prokhorov told the media Friday night. “Let’s wait and just give him some support. It’s very important for the team”
So far, the players have complied.
The Nets have beaten two lower-tier teams in two games under Carlesimo, but it’s not his fault the Bobcats and Cavaliers were on the schedule. What’s important is that the movement and spacing returned on offense and center Brook Lopez re-established himself as the focal point of the offense, pouring in 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting against Cleveland on Saturday.
Basically, Carlesimo simplified everything for Lopez, who tended to take too many mid-range shots under ousted coach Avery Johnson. Only one of Lopez’s 13 field goals came from outside the paint on Saturday, and the seven-foot big man said there’s “no doubt” that taking shots closer to the rim is going to help his game and the Nets’ offense.
“We’ve been on him about posting up close to the basket,” point guard Deron Williams said. “P.J. told us not to give him the ball if he’s outside of 12 feet when he’s posting up.”
But Carlesimo’s arrival didn’t change everything. The Nets’ habit of blowing big leads came back on Saturday as the Cavaliers cut a 15-point deficit down to one point.
“It’s something, like I said, we’ve talked about it and we know it’s a problem and we talk about it during the game and for whatever reason, it’s just a point in the game where we get lulled to sleep,” Williams said. “We got to find ways to not have that happen. If we see that happen we have to kind of hit a switch and get out of it.”
Now comes the hard part. The Nets now have road games against the Spurs and Thunder on Monday and Wednesday respectively, and it’s games like these that could ultimately determine Carlesimo’s fate.
Obviously nobody, not even Carlesimo, is pretending he’s the favorite for the position. Prokhorov avoided the subject on Friday by acting as if he didn’t know who Jackson was, and even Carlesimo had some fun with the talk on Saturday.
When asked if he’d give the Nets permission to speak with Jeff Van Gundy, Carlesimo gave a quick “no.”
“I told Mikhail in no uncertain terms I don’t want him talking to anybody,” Carlesimo continued. “Especially Jeff. That’s a personal thing. It’s not a comment on his coaching abilities, it’s a personal dislike.”
As you can probably tell, Carlesimo trusts the New York media not take his words out of context. He’s known this crowd since he coached Fordham’s JV team in the early 1970s and Carlesimo is coaching his fourth NBA team — he doesn’t feel the need for any pretention.
Carlesimo knows there are candidates out there. He also knows that if he wins, that won’t matter.
“I think it’s available,” Carlesimo said of the Nets gig. “There’s also coaches that are available and that’s not something I have any control over. Whatever we have to deal with, we have to deal with.”