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Cal Basketball: Nets GM Sean Marks Sure to Earn His Money in Coming Days

A look at how Marks and other Cal basketball alums are faring as coaches or executives.

A year ago, Cal grad Sean Marks looked like a potential NBA executive of the year. The Brooklyn Nets’ general manager had assembled a roster that included Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

What could possibly go wrong?

The NBA title so many predicted evaporated after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. But the Nets’ issues were rooted much earlier.

Irving refused to receive a COVID vaccination and wasn’t allowed by NYC regulations to play home games. In three seasons with Brooklyn, he has appeared in just 103 regular-season games for a list of reasons that stopped just short of the dog ate my homework.

Harden’s production fell off dramatically and he became frustrated, asking out. He was traded to Philadelphia for temperamental (and injured) Ben Simmons, who made $33 million this season without ever playing a game.

Durant averaged nearly 30 points, but even he missed 27 games.

The Nets were, without any argument, the most disappointing team in the NBA.

Oh, but things are about to get worse, at least potentially. Irving has until Wednesday to pick his $36 million option. He wants a long-term max deal (in the neighborhood of $245 mil) from the Nets, but Marks and the front office justifiably aren’t sure they can trust him. They want to see his response to a one-year contract before handing him a blank check.

Irving reportedly has given the Nets a list of six teams with whom he’d like management to swing a sign-and-trade deal, if it comes to that. If he simply opts, two-thirds of the super trio is gone. And where would that leave Durant?

Durant came to Brooklyn as a package deal with Irving, whom he decided was a more attractive teammate than Stephen Curry. So who can possibly know what the man is thinking?

Marks, who played four seasons at Cal through 1998, spent 11 seasons with six teams as an NBA player, then worked as an assistant coach and executive with the San Antonio Spurs, perhaps the NBA’s most stable franchise.

You’d think that experience might have warned him off from the combustible threesome the Nets lined up. Instead, Marks braces for a week where pretty much anything could happen.

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Here are five more former Cal players now in positions of authority at different levels in basketball with our forecast of their future:

G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Shareef Abdur-Rahim

SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM, NBA G League president: Hired to run the NBA’s minor league in 2019, the former one-and-done Cal star and 12-year NBA standout created and oversees the G League Ignite, which develops high-end prospects who prefer to play professionally rather than in college. The experiment has been a success, with three NBA Draft lottery picks emerging over the past two seasons, including the Warriors’ Jonathan Kuminga as a No. 7 selection in 2021 and 19-year-old Australian guard Dyson Daniels, who went No. 8 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night. Forecast: The G League and, in particular, the Ignite addressed a need and Abdur-Rahim is capably steering the ship.

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd

JASON KIDD, Dallas Mavericks coach: Cal’s greatest player and a Hall of Famer, Kidd took his third NBA head coaching job last season with the team that drafted him out of college. He showed how much he’s grown, instilling a much-needed defensive mindset and guiding Dallas to a 52-30 regular-season record. The Mavs advanced through the playoffs before losing to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Kidd is armed with versatile star Luka Doncic (28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists), the best 23-year-old player in the world. Dallas addressed a need up front by trading this offseason for 6-10 forward Christian Wood (18 points, 10 rebounds). Forecast: The Mavs were good this season and should be better going forward.

Portland coach Shantay Legans

Shantay Legans

SHANTAY LEGANS, Portland coach: The Pilots went 19-15 in Legans’ first season, their biggest win total in 11 years. They were 7-7 in the West Coast Conference play, matching the total number of victories they had managed in league play the previous five seasons. The team’s top seven scorers return next year and Legans has added five recruits, including two big men his team needed. Forecast: Gonzaga isn’t sweating yet but no one will be surprised if the Pilots climb next season from their sixth-place slot in the WCC standings.

Dennis Gates

Dennis Gates

DENNIS GATES, Missouri coach: Gates went 39-19 in his second and third seasons as coach at Cleveland State, including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2021 — the program’s first in 12 years. A former defensive specialist in the backcourt at Cal, Gates has replaced ex-Bears coach Cuonzo Martin, who was 11-21 in his final season a year ago. The Tigers have just three returning players but Gates recruited eight transfers, including Missouri State’s Isaiah Mobley, rated by CBS Sports as the fourth-best transfer in the class. Forecast: Nothing will be easy in the Southeastern Conference, but Gates has a six-year deal worth an average of $2.75 million (a raise from $500,000 at Cleveland State), so he’s got some time to get things turned around.

Justin Labagh, standing far right, with his CCSF team

Justin Labagh, standing far right, and his CCSF team

JUSTIN LABAGH, CCSF coach: Labagh played in 17 games over three seasons as a walk-on at Cal in the late 1990s. He has won 17 conference championships as head coach at City College of San Francisco. The Rams were 32-1 this year, ending the season with 28 straight victories to capture their fourth state JC title under Labagh. Only the legendary Jerry Tarkanian had previously done that. A 10-time California coach of the year, Labagh has compiled a record of 518-61 — a stunning .894 winning percentage — in 18 seasons. Forecast: CCSF will happily accept more of the same.

Cover photo of Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks by Brad Penner, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo