Nearly a decade ago, after a 22-20 start to the season and a five-game losing streak that saw the team dumped by an average of over 13 points per game, New Jersey Nets head coach Byron Scott was fired by the team and replaced on an interim basis by unheralded assistant coach Lawrence Frank. Frank went on to win his first 14 games as Nets coach and lead the team to within a game of the Eastern Conference finals, losing in the second round to the eventual champion Detroit Pistons. The work earned Frank a full time gig with the Nets, one that he held onto until a 0-16 start doomed his 2009-10 season with the team.
Then-Nets point guard Jason Kidd was rightfully thought to be the driving force behind Scott’s firing, much in the same way he was the clear driving force between the recent dismissal of Frank as Brooklyn Nets assistant coach. Kidd, who now coaches the Nets, begged the team to bring his former coach back on board to guide him through a rookie season last summer, but apparently balked at Frank’s apparent overcoaching and inability to understand his role as an assistant.
Byron Scott? Working with a sweet TV gig after being let go by the Cleveland Cavaliers last spring, all he could do was stand with his arms crossed in bemusement from afar as his former player and underling clash away a decade later. In a talk with the New York Post, Scott detailed how he didn’t seem to mind the eventual success of his former assistant coach, while not exactly sharing cheery back-and-forth discussions with the player he worked with from 2001 to early 2004:
“It does surprise me a little that it happened so quickly,” Scott told The Post, admitting he had not been aware of Tuesday’s bombshell move when Kidd demoted his former lead assistant Frank because of philosophical differences. “But it’s safe to say that I’m not [surprised] it happened at all because of the personalities involved.”
“I remained very friendly, very cordial with Lawrence. We always spoke at games where we coached against each other,” Scott said. “Same when he was on Doc’s [Rivers] staff in Boston.”
Kidd and Scott? A slightly different relationship.
“It was just, ‘Hi, hello, how are you doing coach?’ last season when he was with the Knicks and I was in Cleveland,” Scott said. “But he’s not inviting me to his house for dinner and I’m not inviting him to my house for dinner.”
(It doesn’t really say much about Scott the TV analyst that he wasn’t up on the Frank firing news a day after Lawrence was reassigned. I know nobody is tuning into see Scott really break down the ins and outs of the league, his credibility as an analyst has kind of been lessened after iffy endings in New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland … but that was a pretty big story, and Scott had no idea?)
(Or, he could have been feigning ignorance in order to appear impartial and/or indifferent.)
Nobody is looking good in any of this. Scott may have lost his last shot at a head coaching gig after an underwhelming turn in Cleveland, though it’s fair to blame some draft missteps for that stagnant turn with the rebuilding club. Meanwhile, though Frank was respected as an assistant coach in Boston under Doc Rivers, he made no real impact in Detroit for two seasons, winning just 36 percent of his games (with a roster that probably should have won 36 percent of its games), and Nets players appear to be siding with Kidd after his decision.
If anything, though we’ve been wary of Kidd as a rookie head coach (you’ve got to have some time away from the game in order to gain perspective), Jason comes off as the sympathetic figure; quickly dismissing his mentor of sorts (non soda pop division) before things came to a head. It’s true that Kidd still needs some help in running the team, but Frank apparently overran his boundaries to a point where Kidd’s players (who have chafed at a lack of direction at times this season) sided with Jason.
At least Frank, once his buyout hits, has a dinner date the next time he’s in Los Angeles. Jason Kidd gets no such dinner with Byron Scott.
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