Less than 24 hours after their first season in Brooklyn ended with a first-round exit in the playoffs, the Nets announced Sunday that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo will not be offered the full-time position and that the organization would begin a search for a new head coach.
“The Brooklyn Nets organization would like to thank P.J. for his efforts with the team in his roles as both head coach and assistant, and for his contributions to the team’s success both on and off the court," Nets GM Billy King said in a statement. "We wish P.J. and his family only the best in the years to come.”
Carlesimo, 63, was promoted from assistant to interim coach in December when Avery Johnson was fired after a 14-14 start. The Nets went 35-19 under Carlesimo to claim the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed but lost to the Bulls in the first round in seven games.
Yahoo! Sports reports that television commentator Jeff Van Gundy (former coach of the Knicks and Rockets) will be a "top target" in the Nets' search while NBA.com added Stan Van Gundy (former coach of the Heat and Magic) and coaching lifer Larry Brown (most recently with the Bobcats) to the list. ESPN.com reports that the Nets will likely pursue former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was linked to the franchise in rumors when Johnson was fired.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is notorious for his ambitious goals for the franchise -- including a championship by 2015 -- and he told Bloomberg Television in April that he doesn't think his franchise is far from reaching his goal.
“One more good player, and we need time to make a really strong team,” Prokhorov said.
Brooklyn's first-round exit is surely seen as a disappointment within the franchise considering the circumstances. The Nets dropped Game 7 at the Barclays Center on Saturday, conceding 61 first-half points and getting booed by their home crowd as a Bulls team playing without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich simply outfought them. The one-and-done stings worse given that the roster's payroll runs deep into the luxury tax after trading for Joe Johnson and re-signing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace to big-dollar deals last summer.
Carlesimo's dismissal comes just weeks after King received a contract extension in late-April. The veteran coach joins Jim Boylan (not retained by Bucks), Mike Dunlap (fired by Bobcats), Lawrence Frank (fired by Pistons), Byron Scott (fired by Cavaliers), and Doug Collins (stepped down from Sixers) as coaches to lose their jobs since the end of the 2012-13 season. Interim coach Lindsey Hunter’s future with the Suns also remains up in the air. Carlesimo had been a head coach on three previous occasions: Portland (1994-1997), Golden State (1997-1999) and Seattle/Oklahoma City (2007-2009) and is perhaps best known for his run-in with former player Latrell Sprewell, who was suspended for choking him in 1997. His career record is 239-315 (.431). He has never guided a team to the second round of the playoffs during his nine-year coaching career.