After Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd blistered top assistant Lawrence Frank in a staff meeting on Nov. 4, the partnership was irreparably damaged and ultimately spiraled to its end on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Hours after a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic – Kidd's first game on the bench following a two-game suspension to start the season – the entire coaching staff witnessed Kidd lose his temper with Frank and escalate a strangely uneasy and brief coaching partnership together.
There had been conversations about moving forward together in recent weeks, league sources said, but the decision to let go of Frank was Kidd's choice.
Kidd told reporters on Tuesday night that Frank – the highest-paid assistant in the NBA – had been reassigned to writing daily reports and would no longer be on the Nets bench. It is unclear if the Nets will actually require Frank to perform those duties to gather the rest of his $1 million annual coaching contract, league sources said.
"With Jason," one league source told Yahoo Sports, "once he turns on you, he turns. That's how he was as a player, and that's what we're seeing again now."
The Nets have been in a spiral since the start of the season, a deluge of injuries and a novice head coach contributing to a 5-12 start and a series of embarrassing episodes.
Kidd has been at the crux of the criticism, including a $50,000 league fine for purposely spilling a cup of soda on the floor to try and manufacture a late-game timeout.
Around the Nets, officials and players insisted that Frank had returned to the organization as exactly who he had always been: prepared, organized, hardworking and strong in his convictions. Kidd had hired Frank to have a strong hand in the day-to-day coaching, game planning and practice preparation of the team, but quickly changed course in his desire for Frank to be such a force within the staff, league sources said.
Frank has always had strong opinions, but it is the head coach's job to sift through the advice and make the ultimate choices. "He was loyal," one league coaching source with knowledge of the dynamic told Yahoo Sports.
Kidd had come to differ with Frank's beliefs on how the Nets should defend, league sources said, but those had been strategies that the coaching staff had hammered out together throughout the summer and training camp.
As Kidd worked to convince Nets management to hire him directly out of his playing career with no coaching experience, part of his pitch had been his desire to hire Frank and give him significant responsibility. Kidd played for Frank from 2004-08 in New Jersey and kept a strong relationship with him through the years.
Frank's wife has been ill, and taking a job that allowed him to live in his Northern New Jersey home had been an ideal scenario. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers offered Frank a chance to be his top assistant, eager to reunite after having Frank on his staff for a season with the Boston Celtics.
Before the start of training camp, Kidd was effusive in his praise of Frank, telling Yahoo Sports: " 'The staff and me have to feed you every day,' Lawrence tells me," Kidd said. "And then you have to digest it. You have to pick what I want to share with the guys. It’s a great partnership."
Frank is still owed money on his Detroit Pistons head coaching buyout and has a six-year agreement with Brooklyn – that includes four coaching years – that averages more than $1 million a year, sources said.
Kidd surprised many when he passed over Frank to be the interim coach during Kidd's two-game suspension to start the season. Kidd chose assistant coach Joe Prunty, who had no previous NBA head coaching experience.
Frank had been a head coach for parts of seven seasons with the Nets, owning a 225-241 record. Kidd played for Frank from 2004-2008.
Several scouts following the Nets had seen a noticeable change in Frank's on-court disposition in recent weeks, clearly seeing him far less engaged on the bench.