The Bucks announced on Tuesday the hiring of coach Jason Kidd, one day after firing former coach Larry Drew.
Kidd's arrival in Milwaukee was facilitated by a compensation agreement between the Bucks and Nets. Brooklyn will receive second-round picks in 2015 and 2019 for agreeing to allow Kidd out of his previous contract. Earlier reports indicated that Brooklyn was seeking a first-round pick for Kidd, but a compromise emerged after Kidd's failed power play seemed to rule out any possibility that he might return to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn allowed Kidd to speak with the Bucks after Kidd's failed play for more power within the Nets organization. According to reports, Kidd's request to become the Nets' president of basketball operations, which would have placed him above GM Billy King in the organization's hierarchy, was denied by Brooklyn's ownership group.
Reports of tension between Kidd and King had surfaced at various points throughout the 2013-14 season, but the Nets ultimately won their first playoff series since 2007 before losing to the Heat in the conference semifinals. Kidd's abrupt ejection from Brooklyn qualifies as a shock, given that he had remained involved in their offseason events and that his departure comes on the eve of the free agency period. That he would directly seek such authority so early into his coaching career is also rare by NBA standards.
Why is Kidd landing in Milwaukee? The driving force appears to be his long-standing relationship with new Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who used to be a minority owner of the Nets. The two men apparently struck a deal to bring Kidd to Milwaukee without first informing Bucks GM John Hammond or Bucks coach Larry Drew. Reports have indicated that Kidd was interested in being made Bucks president, but Milwaukee officially introduced him only as coach.
"When you list the characteristics that make a successful head coach, you would include leadership, communication and a competitive drive," Hammond said in a statement. "Jason used all of those traits to become a 10-time All-Star player in the NBA, and has now translated his on-court success to the bench. We welcome him to the Bucks organization and look forward to building a championship-caliber team with him as our head coach."
Trading a playoff-bound team for one of the league's weakest rosters is an unusual move for a coach, particularly an inexperienced coach, but Kidd may have his reasons. In addition to leaving behind a strained relationship with King, Kidd escapes the pressure and expectations that come with coaching in New York City. He also, perhaps, gets a shot at more money. This summer, the Knicks reportedly gave Derek Fisher a five-year contract worth $25 million, while the Warriors inked Steve Kerr to a similar deal. Both deals were worth more than double Kidd's four-year, $10.5 million contract with the Nets, which was signed in 2012 and included a team option on the final year of his deal. Bleacher Report indicates that Kidd's new contract with the Bucks will pay him at least $12 million over the next three years. Power could be another motivating factor; it's always possible that Kidd's role expands upwards as time passes in Milwaukee.
"Jason is a determined leader, a tough-minded competitor and a great teammate," Lasry and fellow Bucks owner Wesley Edens said in a statement. "We believe his focus, vision and intensity will help him work alongside John and [assistant GM David Morway] to rebuild the Milwaukee Bucks as we aspire to achieve excellence over the next several years. We are excited that Jason will call Milwaukee his new home."
"Despite the challenging season, Larry always handled himself and represented the Bucks in a first-class manner," Hammond said Monday, in announcing Drew's firing. "Larry did the best he could in a difficult situation, especially given all of our injuries. I want to thank Larry for all of his efforts, and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
Kidd, 41, posted a 44-38 record in 2013-14, his first season on the job in Brooklyn after retiring in 2013 following a lengthy playing career. That first year on the bench was full of twists and turns: Kidd served a suspension for a DUI plea, he drew a fine for intentionally spilling soda on the court, he cast off lead assistant Lawrence Frank to desk duties, and he was fined for criticizing the officials during the playoffs. Nevertheless, he twice took home Coach of the Month honors and guided the Nets to a moderate degree of postseason success.
King, 48, was hired as Nets GM in 2010. During his tenure, King has orchestrated trades to acquire Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as owner Mikhail Prokhorov has green-lighted an aggressive, spend-happy approach to roster-building.
The Bucks signed Drew, 56, to a four-year contract worth a reported $10 million contract when the Hawks elected not to re-sign him last summer, and the deal includes a team option on the final year. A longtime assistant coach, Drew has compiled a 143-169 (.458) record as a head coach in four seasons with Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Hammond, 59, was also given a contract extension in 2013 that would keep him in place through the 2015-16 season. At this point, Hammond, who has held his position since 2008 and won 2010 Executive of the Year honors, is expected to remain in place.