Nets look to move on without Frank
Serious rumors of Frank's imminent firing began late Saturday
The Nets lost to the Lakers 106-87 on Sunday to fall to 0-17
An interim coach is expected to be named on Monday
LOS ANGELES -- Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts knew something was up when he entered the meeting room at the team hotel Sunday morning and didn't see Lawrence Frank standing in front wearing his usual Nets T-shirt and Nets track pants.
Douglas-Roberts and his teammates knew Frank was no longer their head coach when he walked into the room wearing a brown sweater, slacks and brown shoes.
"That was the only time I've ever seen him without Nets gear on," said Douglas-Roberts. "I knew then he was gone. I knew right away."
In an emotional final speech that lasted less than two minutes, Frank told the players and assistant coaches in attendance that he enjoyed coaching the Nets, wished them the best and implored them to find a way to be the solution to get the team back on track. Before he left the room he told them that he was always going to be a Nets fan and that he would be cheering for them.
Serious rumors of Frank's imminent firing began late Saturday, and instead of delaying the inevitable until the Nets returned home from their four-game West Coast road trip, Frank was let go Sunday morning. The decision saved Frank and the team from answering questions about his job status while also saving Frank from watching his team tie the longest losing streak to start an NBA season, which the Nets did Sunday by losing to the Lakers 106-87 to fall to 0-17. They can break the record Wednesday night in New Jersey against the Mavericks.
Frank was replaced on Sunday by assistant coach Tom Barrise but the interim coach for the rest of the season will not be officially named until the team returns to New Jersey on Monday. At that time Nets president Rod Thorn will decide between Barraise, assistant coach John Loyer and general manger Kiki Vandeweghe. None of the candidates have prior NBA head coaching experience.
Barraise was nearly brought to tears less than ten seconds into speaking to reporters outside the Nets locker room on Sunday before his first game as an NBA head coach. "It's a tough day. It's a somber day," said Barraise. "Lawrence and I have been together for ten years. We're friends. I'm close with his family. It's the business we chose and it happens and you move on, but it's hard."
Nets players were still coping with the news when they entered the visiting locker room at Staples Center. Nothing was written on the dry erase boards as players were still talking about the awkward timing of finding out their coach had been fired just hours before a game.
"A lot of guys on the team have had coaching changes, but for me and Brook [Lopez], we're still trying to figure this thing out," said Douglas-Roberts. "We're trying to figure out how to move forward. It's such a sudden change on the day of the game. We don't really know what to think."
Rafer Alston, who has been in the league for ten years and has played for almost as many coaches, tried to ignite his teammates by letting them know the coaching change was only the beginning of more changes if they didn't improve.
"I think in this instance, if they could fire players, some of us would be fired too," said Alston, who committed a hard foul on Lakers guard Shannon Brown out of frustration as he attempted a three-pointer at the end of the blowout Sunday. "But you can't fire all the players because you need guys to play, but when you're 0-16 I think if they could fire 15 players they would probably fire 15 players. I told these guys, 'Don't think for one second they're not looking at some of us to move too with our record and the way we've been playing.' When you're 0-16, players need to go, but the easiest thing to do is put it on the coach."
Alston, who was playing in the NBA Finals just five months ago, lamented that the Nets' losing streak was just another chapter in a roller coaster career that also saw him win 22 straight games in 2008 with the Rockets, the second-longest streak in league history.
"I'm in the record books," he said. "I was on the team that had the second-longest winning streak in the history of the game and I'm now on the team with the longest losing streak in the history of the game. I guess my kids can call me a winner and a loser." As much as players and assistants insisted Frank didn't lose the team, others believed that a change was necessary and had been anticipated for weeks. "He kind of had a sense of it and so did the players," said Courtney Lee. "We just didn't know how long it would take and when it would happen."
Across the hallway in the Lakers locker room Phil Jackson was reminded of the time he nearly took the Nets head coaching job in 1999, before agreeing to coach the Lakers. "The offer was the best offer I've ever gotten as a coach, but they didn't have what a team needs to succeed; a heartland, a fan base and an energy source," said Jackson, who lost 15 games in a row as a Nets assistant coach in 1981. "I don't even know if New Jersey has their own television station, they get most of their feeds from New York and Philadelphia."
The biggest problem for whoever inherits the team for the rest of the season will not be the team's location but their roster, which has been in flux all season as injuries have sidelined eight different players. Frank used nine different starting lineups before his firing.
"It's tough," said Alston. "He wasn't dealt a Royal Flush. He was dealt a pair of twos and paid the price."
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