P.J. Carlesimo has done more than hold down the fort for the Brooklyn Nets since the dismissal of Avery Johnson in December. Based on a 5-1 record as the interim coach and the present unavailability of marquee options to replace him, Carlesimo appears to have a firm grip on the head coaching gig in Brooklyn.
Thinking ahead, though, it's unclear whether the Nets plan to keep Carlesimo in charge beyond this season. And with the way the Nets seem so desperate to grab headlines at every opportunity, it's difficult to feel totally certain his job is safe this year.
There are variables all over the place and good arguments to buy or sell the long-term viability of Carlesimo as the coach of the Nets. Here are the big ones.
Why to Buy
It's hard to argue with success, no matter how many qualifiers are present. Carlesimo has led the Nets to a 5-1 record under his watch, and as long as the object of playing NBA basketball is to win games, his continued ability to do so should count in his favor.
Sure, four of Brooklyn's wins under Carlesimo came against the Charlotte Bobcats (8-24), Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27), Washington Wizards (4-27) and Sacramento Kings (13-21). But Carlesimo doesn't decide who the Nets play; his job is to win. And it's worth mentioning that the Nets' other win in Carlesimo's quintet was a stunning wire-to-wire blowout of the Oklahoma City Thunder in OKC.
Wins matter, and if the Nets keep piling them up, it'll be harder to justify hiring another coach.
The Players Like P.J.
Based on the lack of tears shed over Avery Johnson's departure (not to mention the griping from Deron Williams that precipitated it), it's fair to assume that most of the Nets players weren't huge fans of their former coach.
That's not the case with Carlesimo, though, according to Nets guard Jerry Stackhouse.
“He knows what’s expected of guys, and he holds guys accountable,” Stackhouse said. “It doesn’t matter who it is; he’s telling you if you’re an offender. He’s letting you know. That’s going to benefit us in the end" (via Howard Beck of the New York Times).
A few wins go a long way toward positive player sentiment, so the two main reasons to buy Carlesimo as a long-term answer are related. But because the Nets have seen how bad things can get when the players don't like their coach, the organization might place a higher-than-usual value on Carlesimo's rapport with the team.
Why to Sell
Not Brooklyn's Style
From a bank-breaking new arena to slick uniforms to luxury tax-inducing contracts, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov likes to spend his money in splashy ways.
But P.J. Carlesimo is not a splashy dude.
A few wins are great, but you can bet that Prokhorov is dreaming much bigger. This is a guy, after all, who basically promised a championship by 2015.
Carlesimo is the coaching equivalent of a journeyman role player. He had a few nice seasons in the mid-90s with the Portland Trail Blazers, but hasn't had a winning season in any of his subsequent seasons as a coach. He may be fine as a placeholder in for now, but there's no way the Nets go past this season without grabbing some headlines with a bold (and almost certainly expensive) hire.
There are a handful of notable big-name coaches available on the open market, and with the Nets' penchant for going after big names, you can bet they'll put out feelers to all of them.
Jeff and Stan Van Gundy are both presently unemployed, and not only do both of them have records that are vastly superior to Carlesimo's, but they also possess the name recognition he lacks.
JVG has already said that he won't comment on a job that's currently filled, but there's little doubt the Nets would create a vacancy if there was a chance to lure the former Knicks' coach. His brother Stan, who has NBA Finals experience, could also be an enticing option.
But it feels like there's someone we're forgetting...
Oh yeah, that's right. The guy with the most championship experience and the biggest splash-inducing presence is still out there. If there was one way to fulfill all of the Nets' wildest dreams (and also empty their wallets), hiring Phil Jackson would do the trick.
As we referenced earlier, Howard Beck's exhaustive analysis of the Phil-to-the-Nets possibilities sheds light on the most likely scenario for Carlesimo and the Nets.
Essentially, Carlesimo has a good chance to stick around this year because the timing to bring in Jackson just isn't perfect yet. But rest assured, if and when Jackson shows interest, the job is almost certainly his. Carlesimo himself even admitted as much:
It’s not something I can control. I don’t think there’s too many people that the GM or the coach, if they thought they could get Phil Jackson, might be willing to pull the plug. When John Wooden was alive, if you were a college coach and John Wooden wanted to come to your school, you were probably in trouble (via NY Post).
P.J. Carlesimo is the easiest and best option the Nets currently have. That's why he's got a great chance to coach the team for the rest of the year. From a long-term perspective, though, he's not the answer.
The Nets want a big name with a winning pedigree, and sooner or later, they're going to back up the Brinks truck to get one.