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Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported last Tuesday that a "heated" Nov. 4 staff meeting in which Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd "blistered top assistant Lawrence Frank" precipitated the disintegration of their relationship, leading to Frank's eventual "reassignment" from on-the-bench defensive coordinator to tucked-away preparer of parody-inviting "daily reports." But what exactly did Kidd say to blow things up? According to David Aldridge's Morning Tip at NBA.com, something not-very-nice at all.
As has been previously reported, and as noted by Aldridge, the confrontation stemmed from steadily mounting discomfort at Frank's vocal role on the bench:
Kidd brought Frank in to run the defense, draw up plays, be the coaches' voice at practice. And then, Frank did that. And Kidd was taken aback.
Frog, meet scorpion.
"The assistant's job is to stand up and call coverages," an NBA coaching source said last week. "Every time the offense comes down and calls a play, my defensive coach stands up and yells 'four down!' or 'get to the side.' Jason didn't like it. He thought Lawrence was coaching the team."
That apparently rubbed the first-year head coach — who had previously chosen assistant Joe Prunty, not former head coach Frank, to lead the Nets when Kidd missed the season's first two games while he served a two-game DWI suspension — the wrong way:
Kidd tried, gradually at first, to start putting his own imprint on the team. He would be, a member of the organization said last week, direct and honest with players in film sessions, going over things one-on-one with players -- "that's a bad shot, and here's why. That's losing basketball, and here's why," the source said. He tried to point out that he did know a couple of things about defense based on his career as a player (whether he specifically mentioned his four first-team all-NBA defensive team selections is unknown), and that he had ideas that were different from Frank's.
But Frank "wouldn't stop talking," the second coaching source countered. [...]
The denouement came in the now well-reported blowup Kidd had with Frank, where Kidd, according to a source, told Frank: "Sit the (bleep) down! I'm the coach of this (13-letter word) team! When you're on the bench, don't (bleeping) move!"
While there are plenty of options when it comes to 13-letter words — I rather like thinking that Kidd told Frank he is "the coach of this characterless team," myself — the clear implication is that Kidd said something that would be frowned upon during Mother's Day brunch. Or, y'know, pretty much any other time or place, really.
Aldridge writes that Frank clammed up to the point that "other coaches playing the Nets thought he was ill," which probably led to some pretty amazing post-game small talk. ("What's the matter, Lawrence? Cold? Flu? Laryngitis?" "Um ... [whispers] yeah. That's it. [fake cough]") And then, last week, the other shoe dropped and Frank was spirited away to a cubicle somewhere deep in the bowels of Barclays Center.
On one hand, using such (shall we say) colorful language in the context of a professional sports locker room environment isn't the most shocking thing in the world, especially considering the one using it is all of seven months removed from occupying one of those lockers and dressing for games himself. And as former Kidd coach/Frank colleague Byron Scott noted last week, the personalities of the two men involved made this explosion less a total stunner and more a matter of time. (Which, again, makes it seem so curious that Kidd pushed so hard to bring Frank on-board, to the point where Frank is reportedly the highest-paid assistant in the NBA.)
If Kidd had opened a dialogue with Frank about dialing things down a bit so that he could take a more active role in the team's preparation, schemes and strategy, only to see Frank decline to defer, well, that's a pretty big problem. You could certainly understand Kidd being frustrated with feeling undermined in the midst of a disastrous start to his first season as a head basketball coach, especially given the high-profile nature of the job, Brooklyn's league-leading payroll, early-season injuries to key expected contributors like Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Pierce, massive expectations, intense media scrutiny and all the other pressure-packed elements of running the Nets.
On the other, though, yelling curses at your employees is rarely an optimal strategy for getting the best out of them, and if Kidd had let the temper get the better of him to the point where he just blew up on Frank before addressing the situation in a less explosive manner, that's a pretty big problem, too. Either way, the details of Kidd's fireworks-heavy approach — especially in light of reports that Frank "is in the process of retaining 'high-powered' legal counsel, presumably to settle a buyout" of his six-year contract — don't figure to make this situation (or the Nets' brand with which Kidd is earnestly concerned) look much better anytime soon.
We'll likely continue to hear about the rift, its causes and its effects until Frank's legal wranglings wrap up, but at this point, that's less an issue for Nets fans than Kidd's philosophical differentiation bearing on-court fruit for a team struggling to make up ground in the Eastern Conference. Unless Kidd's charges can start stringing together some wins — after a Saturday victory over the worst-in-the-East Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn welcomes the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Celtics on Tuesday — the 13-letter word best describing the Nets will probably continue to be "unsightliness." Or maybe "vexatiousness." (Man, that word list is fun.)
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