This time around, the red carpet wasn’t rolled out. The press conference didn’t need to take place on the main stage within the Barclays Center. The press room would suffice. After all, this event was about substance, not style.
In hiring Lionel Hollins, the Brooklyn Nets went in a different direction from where they were a year ago. The organization took a risk with Jason Kidd and was ultimately burned by the player the fan base had grown to love. It appears now we have someone who wants to be here and this isn’t just a stepping stone for the next quick promotion.
In listening to Hollins speak during his introductory press conference as well as the sports-talk radio circuit, one thing is certain – he exudes professionalism. He showed his appreciation to front office and clearly respects the roles of his bosses. He admitted to being humbled by being out of the NBA last year and you can tell that he is genuinely grateful for the opportunity to coach this Nets team.
You get the impression that the Nets won’t have worry about being embarrassed by the actions of their new leader. I am not referring to the misdemeanor charges unrelated to basketball, but the shenanigans Kidd displayed last year – the abrupt reassignment of Lawrence Frank, “Soda-Gate”, and then the attempted power play against Billy King which ultimately cost him his job.
With Hollins the Nets now have a coach who has paid his dues throughout his coaching career including: assistant roles, interim tags, and brief stints with the USBL and IBL. He admitted to being low maintenance and was embarrassed by the billboards and attention drawn to his hiring. He is a man who knows who he is and declared that it isn’t about him, but the players.
“I believe I’m a leader.”
A year ago, the Nets saw the need for a heart transplant when the Chicago Bulls eliminated them in a decisive Game 7 on their own home court. The trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce was in theory supposed to fill this void and make the Nets a tougher team. It helped to some degree, but there is definitely room for more growth.
With any organization, sports or not, the tone is always set from the top. Your identity comes from your leader. It’s no wonder why the Bulls or Spurs seem to play the same no matter who’s on the roster. In Hollins, the Nets have a coach whose goal is cultivate a tough mentality and develop leadership qualities within the players. After all, his Memphis team’s mantra was “Grit and Grind”. Should Pierce and Garnett return to Brooklyn, Hollins would have two representatives on the court and in the locker room who will help him carry out his mission.
Throughout the last few weeks, Hollins has been unfairly labeled as someone who’s unable to adjust his style of coaching and that his system is antiquated by today’s standards. Since his hiring, he has made it clear that it was the Grizzlies personnel which dictated that slower pace of play. It was what made them successful, and I am sure very few people in Memphis were unsatisfied with the results. He also cited that in Vancouver they played more up-tempo with Mike Bibby and Shareef Abdur-Rahim on a roster which also included Bryant Reeves.
Hollins admitted that having a year off allowed him to view the game differently and in assessing the team, he wants to play at a quicker pace in comparison to how the Nets played last season. He even referenced that his former mentor, Cotton Fitzsimmons, always said that “you can never have too many shooters”.
For Nets fans fearful that his hiring means the end of Mirza Teletovic, think again. This roster has the ability to stretch the floor with their outside shooting and if Hollins is true to his word, it’s unlikely that he will try to shove a square peg into a round hole.
An old-school coach doesn’t necessarily mean to a return to the Avery Johnson era. Johnson’s micromanaging ways earned him the nickname “The Little General” or “The Little Dictator” to the players who weren’t as fond. It didn’t bode well that the “dictatorship” comment came from the likes of Dirk Nowitzki.
Hollins may be tough and demanding but there seems to be a difference between him and Johnson. Where Johnson was a type-A personality, Hollins doesn’t seem rigid to that extent. His former players admitted the difficulty of his training camps, but they understood the purpose and saw the benefit. To me, Hollins is that tough teacher you had who expected a lot and held you to a high standard, but you respected him for it. For some players on the Nets roster, that type of leader can hopefully bring out their best and further develop their talents.
Lionel Hollins may lack the pizzazz of Jason Kidd, but it appears the Nets are in a better place today than they were yesterday. Their new head coach wants to do just that – coach. He doesn’t appear to be the type that will let jealously control his actions, something we saw in Kidd when first-time head coaches (Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher) received more lucrative contracts and Stan Van Gundy was fully empowered in Detroit.
The Nets are now led by someone who had to take the long road to accomplish what he has. He has earned the opportunities presented to him rather than simply getting what he wanted on demand.
The Nets may have lost Kidd, but they’ve replaced him with an adult in Hollins.