Experience Should Count

The professional sports world is a unique industry. In any other profession, a resume featuring a track record of success is usually what gives you an advantage over a neophyte vying for the same job. Apparently that’s no longer the case in the NBA, as it’s become a place where experience is something that can be used against you.

Fans better get used to seeing not only ties but pocket squares.

Fans better get used to seeing not only ties but pocket squares.

Once the messy divorce was finalized with Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets’ fan base seemed torn as to who would be the best man for the job- Lionel Hollins, Mark Jackson, and George Karl to name a few. All three are veterans who have achieved success over the years; however, each of them seems to have a blemish or two that discredits their coaching abilities.

As it appears that Billy King has found Kidd’s successor in Hollins, many Nets’ fans fear that this has disaster written all over it. Here are some of the things that I’ve read on the Twittersphere:

  • “This will be the second coming of Avery Johnson.”
  • “His style won’t work. He focuses too much on defense.”
  • “He is too old-school.”
  • “It won’t sit well with Deron and others.”
  • “There goes any chance of landing Durant in 2016.”

What’s ironic is that the same people who are trashing Hollins for being a tough, defensive-minded coach are probably the same people who put Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy on pedestals. The last time I checked, those two weren’t exactly the types that place emphasis on offense and behave like Rex Ryan with their players. There’s no denying that Hollins is accomplished leader who experienced tremendous success with the Memphis Grizzlies, but for some fans out there it seems as if the Nets would’ve been better off by bringing Kiki Vandeweighe back.

Consider his last three regular seasons in Memphis:

Season

Winning Percentage

2010-11

0.561

2011-12

0.621

2012-13

0.683

There was steady improvement from one year to the next, and the Grizzlies’ success carried into the playoffs. In those three postseasons, Hollins led his teams to an 18-17 record, not bad against the “Group of Death” also known as the Western Conference. As the eighth seed in 2011, the Grizzlies stunned the top seeded Spurs in six games only to take the Thunder to seven games in the conference semi-finals. In 2013, Hollins guided Memphis to the Western Conference Finals where they were swept away by a superior San Antonio team.

Is Hollins the perfect coach? Of course he isn’t, but who is? There is only one Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Hollins is a very good coach and is most likely an upgrade over our previous leader. It’s not a sexy hire but the Nets are better off with substance over style.

As Colin Cowherd recently alluded to following the NBA Draft, we tend to be critical of things we are familiar with. Perhaps that’s why teams shun four-year American college players and opt for the unknown foreigners. We obsess over their flaws and what they can’t do rather than focus on what they can do.

As for Hollins, we do know that he has had success in player development, especially with centers and power forwards. This would bode well for Brook Lopez, whose game still has room for growth, as well as Mason Plumlee.

As Tom Lorenzo mentioned in this article: http://www.netsdaily.com/2013/5/14/4329634/lionel-hollins-grizzlies-nets-head-coach-contract, Hollins is not exactly a players’ coach but his guys would “go to bat for him”. You would have to assume that savvy veterans like Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce would respect his approach and support his vision.

I don’t get the impression that Hollins is another Avery Johnson. If you recall, Johnson was labeled a micro-manager and would often clash with his point guards. This dated back to his days in Dallas with Devin Harris and continued in Brooklyn with Deron Williams. Hollins may be old-school in his approach but to me he resembles that tough teacher you had who demanded a lot but you respected him for it. Watch this video and you will see his sideline demeanor, how he communicates, and how his players admire him as a person and coach.

I’ve heard the concerns that he won’t be able to coexist with Williams. Well, the Nets tried pairing their franchise point guard with his golf buddy as coach and that didn’t work out the way we all envisioned it, did it? This dismisses the notion that Deron needs a players’ coach to be effective. His best years were under the direction of Jerry Sloan, who was not exactly the “warm and fuzzy” type. The key for Deron is to be healthy and hopefully the surgeries he had this offseason will finally allow him to be just that.

For those out there that feel this ends any chance of Kevin Durant or other players signing with Brooklyn in the future, might I remind you of the summer of 2010 when we all had front row seats to both the Knicks and Nets striking out in their quest to win the free-agency sweepstakes. You can plan for the future but at the end of the day, you cannot predict what’s exactly going to transpire. There is just too much uncertainty and to bank on someone like Durant coming here two years from now is foolish. How did that go with LeBron and Dwight Howard? Build a winner and let the rest take care of itself. A successful ball club in the biggest market with the best arena will be enticing to free agents.

The Nets may have jumped into the swimming pool this time around without making a splash, but for a franchise that just got burned you can understand why. Assuming Pierce resigns and both Williams and Lopez return healthy, there’s no reason why the Nets cannot pick up where they left off last year and compete in the East.

Maybe the sky isn’t falling after all and the Nets got the guy they should have hired twelve months ago.