Nets fire Frank after 0-16 start

The New Jersey Nets have fired Lawrence Frank, the coach told Yahoo! Sports.

Frank will not coach against the Lakers on Sunday night, when the Nets will have a chance to tie an NBA record with a 17th straight loss to start the season. New Jersey assistant Tom Barrise will coach Sunday instead.

Nets president Rod Thorn will spend Monday in meetings with staff about a choice for a longer-term interim coach, sources said. Thorn will choose among three Nets assistants – most notably Barrise and John Loyer – and GM Kiki Vandeweghe. Sources believe that if Vandeweghe wants the job, it will be his.

Yahoo! Sports first reported early Sunday that Thorn had made the decision to fire Frank. Thorn was expected to meet with owner Bruce Ratner on Sunday to inform him that he would replace Frank on Monday, but sped up the process after news of Frank’s imminent dismissal became public.

As the consecutive losses to start the season have reached 16, the return of several key players has done little to improve the Nets’ performance and that cost Frank his job.

“Rod didn’t want Lawrence to have that record attached to his name,” one source close to situation said.

Vandeweghe has been on the team’s Western trip, studying the team’s personnel. Vandeweghe has wanted to dismiss Frank as far back as last season, sources say, but Thorn has resisted until now.

Sources said Nets management had come to believe that Frank had lost much of the team, a fact that has played out in losses to Denver and Sacramento in the past week. Once the Nets played so poorly against the Kings – believed to be the most winnable game on the trip – management decided it could no longer go on with Frank as coach.

Frank was in the final year of his contract, earning $4 million for the season.

Despite the return of point guard Devin Harris(notes) and shooting guard Courtney Lee(notes), the Nets have played long stretches of uninspired basketball. “Most of the guys have tuned him out,” one source with direct knowledge of the locker room environment said. “This isn’t all Lawrence’s fault, but everyone knows that this can’t go on anymore.”

Frank took over for Scott as New Jersey’s coach in January of 2004, winning his first 13 games on the bench. Frank led the Nets to the playoffs three times, including two Atlantic Division titles. Frank has a close relationship with Thorn and has repeatedly said that Thorn has stood by him in the past couple seasons when other executives would’ve probably fired him. Frank has a 225-241 record in parts of six seasons, and most league executives believe that he’ll work again as a head coach.

“I want to thank Lawrence for his more than a decade of service to the Nets, first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach for the past six and a half seasons,” Thorn said in a statement released by the team. “Lawrence always approached every day with a passion for his craft that was infectious, and his dedication to the game as well as his work ethic are to be both admired and appreciated. I wish he and his family only the best of good fortune in the future.”

Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Adrian a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Nov 29, 2009