- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
As a child, Lawrence Frank says, "I was like a bad Hollywood actor. I kept hearing, 'Cut! Cut! Cut!'" He was cut from so many basketball teams that he decided, at age 12, to concentrate on coaching. And though he's now slightly older and the coach of the New Jersey Nets, Frank says, "I still get freakin' confused with the mascot half the time."
He's 5'8" but looks shorter, 35 but looks younger. When fans ask him for his autograph, he thanks them. No wonder that when Frank replaced Byron Scott two years ago, Larry Brown said it sent the message, "Look, anybody can coach." Trouble was, Frank had the most successful debut of any coach in the four major professional leagues, starting 13-0. Even before the streak ended, he had been stripped of his necktie, which was shipped to the Basketball Hall of Fame, creating a haberdashery hardship for the coach. "I think I only had two ties," says Frank, whose look is CPA, not NBA.
This week the Nets enter the playoffs as the third seed in the East after a recent 14-game winning streak, which raises the question, How did he ever get here? "People would ask that question a lot the first year," says Frank, seated in the coaches' lounge at the Nets' practice facility, next to the couch on which he often sleeps. "And not to sound smug, but it's not like I won a lottery. This is something I've been working at for a long time."
As with most Hollywood actors, embarrassing video survives from Frank's past, from his brief playing days as a child in Teaneck, N.J. "His arms are flapping," Frank says of his younger self, "his legs are pumping, but he's going nowhere." Frank was a peculiar child--his favorite New York Knick was the coach. "I was a big Hubie Brown fan," he says.
At 14 Frank made a list of his 100 goals in life. Among them was becoming a high school coach, then a third assistant in college, then a second assistant in college and so on, up the ladder to the NBA. "Strange as it sounds now," he says, "speaking at Five-Star was one of those goals."
Although the Five-Star Basketball Camp is for blue-chip players, 16-year-old Frank got permission to attend as an observer. Two years later he was a Five-Star coach. He'd already been cut from the Teaneck High team. "Even though I'm Jewish," he says, "I joined a CYO team and became the player-coach. It's the only thing I have in common with Bill Russell."
In high school--during a snowstorm, before a dreadful Nets game in the '80s, in front of roughly eight people-- Frank coached his CYO team at the Nets' arena in the Meadowlands, a few miles from his home in Teaneck.
Multicultural Teaneck was the nation's earliest advocate of busing, and Frank's boyhood friends made a diverse and driven group. One wanted to be an agent. (Andy Miller now represents Kevin Garnett and Chauncey Billups.) Another planned to play baseball. ( Doug Glanville went from the Ivy League to the ivied outfield at Wrigley.)
Frank attended Indiana University in the sole hope of becoming a student manager for Bob Knight, even though there were 65 applicants for four positions. "If I didn't get it," he says, "I probably would have transferred." He got it and spent four years trying not to turn the boss's head. "You definitely did not want to get noticed," he says.
Frank was an advance scout for the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1998, when he attended his Teaneck High 10-year reunion. There, he reacquainted himself with classmate Susan Delaney. They were able to date only because Frank stayed on the East Coast during the NBA labor dispute. "If not for the lockout," he says, "we wouldn't be married."