COMMENTARY | Luxury tax be damned, the Brooklyn Nets are all-in for a run at an NBA title in 2013-14.
The Nets made the blockbuster trade of the summer, picking up longtime All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as former NBA champion Jason Terry, from the Boston Celtics in what was ostensibly a sign-and-trade deal involving Keith Bogans and a bunch of spare parts.
Brooklyn, in its first season back on the New York side of the Hudson after more than three decades in New Jersey, made the playoffs for the first time since 2007, earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 49-33 record before bowing out to the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
That came after coach Avery Johnson was fired just after Christmas. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo helped engineer a nice second half, but was not retained.
Instead, the Nets are rolling the dice with former franchise point guard Jason Kidd, who led the Nets to their only two NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
But here's the thing: Kidd just retired as a player after spending last season as a reserve with the New York Knicks.
There are not a lot of instances where a player has jumped directly to being a head coach, at least not where the now-outlawed player-coach title didn't come into play. Player-coaches haven't been allowed in the NBA since the first salary cap was put in place in the 1980s; it would be a ridiculously large loophole in a cap structure that already has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese.
My research found four instances where a man went from professional basketball player one year to professional basketball head coach the next, without a player-coach title being involved. The results? There was some good, some bad and some ugly.
Larry Brown spent five years in the old American Basketball Association, playing point guard for the New Orleans Buccaneers, Oakland Oaks, Washington Capitols, Virginia Squires and Denver Rockets (it's worth pointing out that the Oaks, Capitols and Squires were one franchise that, well, bounced around a lot in the old league that was a rival of the NBA in the 1960s and 1970s).
Brown was a three-time All-Star who led the ABA in assists three times and helped guide Oakland to a title in 1969.
He retired after the 1971-72 season because of hip problems and was named head coach of the ABA's Carolina Cougars. He led the Cougars to 57 wins-a 22-game improvement over the previous season-and Carolina posted the best record in the league, earning Brown Coach of the Year honors. But the Cougars fell short in the playoffs, losing a Game 7 at home to the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Finals.
Brown, currently the head coach at SMU, turned out OK as a coach-if "OK" is to be defined as being named to the Hall of Fame and being the only coach to win a national championship at the Division I level and an NBA title. As a pro coach with more teams than one may want to count, most recently the Charlotte Bobcats from 2008-10, Brown is 1,327-1,011 and led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship in 2004.
Red Kerr retired from the Baltimore Bullets in 1966 after a 12-year career spent mostly with the Syracuse Nationals, with whom he was a three-time All-Star.
Kerr was chosen by the Chicago Bulls in the 1966 expansion draft, but never played for the Bulls. Instead, he became their coach. He led the fledgling Bulls to a 33-48 record-still a first-year record for an NBA expansion team-and got Chicago into the playoffs, where they were summarily swept in the first round by the St. Louis Hawks in the Western Semifinals.
Kerr was named NBA Coach of the Year and got Chicago back to the playoffs the following season before leaving to take over another expansion entry, the Phoenix Suns, in 1968. That didn't work out so well; the Suns were 16-66 in their first season and Kerr was fired 38 games into year two.
Before there was Larry Brown in Carolina, there was Tom Meschery. Meschery played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Warriors in both Philadelphia and San Francisco and with the expansion Seattle SuperSonics for four years before retiring in 1971.
Meschery, who had been an All-Star once in his NBA career, was named head coach of the Carolina Cougars in 1971. But the Cougars managed just a 35-49 record, finished last in the Eastern Division and Meschery resigned at season's end. His replacement? The aforementioned Larry Brown. If at first you don't succeed with a neophyte coach, try, try again, it would seem.
Meschery is a fascinating character, however. Born in China in 1938, the son of Russian immigrants who fled the communist revolution in 1917, he moved to the United States with his parents after World War II. He has published two books of poetry and blogs about sports, literature and life.
The San Diego Conquistadors had just completed their first ABA season and owner Leonard Bloom made a splash when he signed Wilt Chamberlain to a personal services contract with the hopes of having the longtime NBA star suit up.
But the Los Angeles Lakers sued to prevent Chamberlain from playing and a California court ruled that Chamberlain could only play in 1973-74 with the Lakers, because he they still held his rights. However, nothing prevented Chamberlain from coaching the Q's. Coaching didn't really suit Chamberlain, as he missed several games-one to sign autographs for his new book and a couple of others for reasons unknown-and assistant coach Stan Albeck did most of the actual coaching.
Chamberlain went in the books with a career "coaching" mark of 37-47 and a six-game first-round playoff exit.
What It Means For Jason Kidd
History can give us signs, but ultimately Jason Kidd's coaching career will play out in its own way. He has surrounded himself with experience, hiring Lawrence Frank-who coached Kidd with the Nets-as his lead assistant. Frank was an NBA head coach for parts of nine seasons, most recently the last two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, where he was 54-94.
Kidd represents an expensive gamble for Prokhorov and the Nets, but he was highly respected as a player and was a teammate of Terry's when the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011.
It's a high-risk move for Brooklyn, but it's worth pointing out that Brown was the only one of the four players-turned-coaches who made the transition from point guard to the bench and he had far and away the most success.
Portents of things to come? We'll know that by April, at the latest.
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who also covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jason Kidd
- Brooklyn Nets
- Larry Brown
- Mikhail Prokhorov
- Wilt Chamberlain