Jason Kidd's Nets
are off to a 6-14 start. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Did ego and insecurity motivate Nets coach Jason Kidd's decision to remove assistant coach Lawrence Frank from the bench and "reassign" him to report-filing duties?
NBA.com reported Monday that Kidd, in an apparent attempt to exert his authority, cursed out Frank in a dispute over the latter's coaching manner during games.
Kidd reportedly preferred that Frank, who began the season actively and vocally coaching Brooklyn's defense, take a lower profile on the bench during games.
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!"
Frank did as he was told. Other coaches playing the Nets thought he was ill, he was so quiet during recent games.
SI.com's Chris Mannix previously reported that Kidd took issue with Frank's style.
At least once the two had words after a practice, with Kidd expressing frustration at what he perceived to be the more vocal Frank aggressively trying to run practice in a way Kidd didn't. Said a source connected to the situation, "It just didn't work."
Yahoo! Sports reported last week that Kidd "blistered" Frank in a November staff meeting, and multiple outlets reported that there was "friction" between the two men in recent weeks.
Kidd initially refused to go into much detail about the decision, saying only that “different philosophies” led to the change, which is also keeping Frank away from team practices.
The first-year coach later explained his thinking in a TNT interview.
“Philosophies, sometimes things don’t work out,” Kidd said. “You have to accept that. I could accept that. At the same time, there’s a brand, the Brooklyn Nets, that has to move forward. I have to find a way to make them better. For coaches, it happens just like players. It could be a disagreement, or an understanding that we don’t get along. But I have to do what’s best for the brand, and that’s what I had to do.”
So far, the "Nets' brand" -- as Kidd calls it -- is 1-2 since Frank's demotion. Both losses came in blowout fashion and the only win was against the Bucks, who have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn's defense ranks 29th in the league -- better only than Utah -- and the 6-14 Nets are only a half-game up on the last-place Knicks in the Atlantic Division.
Brooklyn's players have confirmed the tension between Kidd and Frank, who is reportedly pursuing a contract buyout agreement.
“Guys do notice [the tension]," Nets guard Joe Johnson said, according to the New York Daily News. "I know I surely noticed it. Something just wasn’t quite right."
ESPNNY.com quoted Paul Pierce: "Obviously some behind-the-scenes things that probably went down that didn't go well with the coaches and that's why the decision was made."
Mark this down as one more milepost along the transition from star player to rookie coach for Kidd. If a star player throws a behind-the-scenes tantrum, it's in just about everyone's best interests to keep that private. If a rookie coach flips out on a longtime adviser, and then takes the drastic step of publicly demoting him, there's a decent chance that dirty laundry winds up getting aired out.
One wonders just how carefully Kidd thought things through, even if it reportedly took him weeks after the first incident to officially pull the plug. Does it really matter if Frank was coaching while on his feet, given that assistants, especially those designated as defensive coordinator, regularly do the same thing? Wasn't there some way for the two men, who have known each other for years, to piece this back together? Wouldn't it have been better for "the Nets' brand" if they kept the tension in-house and came up with an alternative, less-public resolution? What's stopping anyone else wronged by Kidd from airing his grievances now that the floodgates are open wide?
As long as the Nets keep losing, Kidd will remain an easy and open target for fan frustration and media criticism, thanks to his DUI suspension, his soda-spilling stunt
and this public falling out. Kidd, his personality and his decision-making have become the Nets' leading story, and that's never a good thing for a team that's fighting to stay out of the basement. Hall of Fame playing career or not, NBA coaches rarely get the opportunity to repeatedly make negative headlines without repercussions. Kidd might have spent November tearing into Frank, but he'll be spending the rest of December yelling for his players to help him change the narrative.