Jason Kidd's Burgeoning Candidacy to Become Nets Coach Reeks of Desperation

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

Dec. 26, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: New York Knicks guard Jason Kidd (5) against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on the veracity of recent reports, Jason Kidd is about to make the nearly unprecedented leap from the New York Knicks' backcourt to the Brooklyn Nets' bench as their next head coach.

Yes, head coach. 

According to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brooklyn and the future Hall of Fame guard are negotiating a deal that would lock him in for the next three seasons. Brian Geltzeiler of SheridanHoops has also confirmed the negotiations are ongoing.

While there probably won't be an announcement until later this week—Nets brass even interviewed Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw after the initial reports came out—it seems Kidd's burgeoning candidacy has real, strong legs.

And that's really, really strange.

When Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first broke the story that Kidd was interested in the Nets job on Sunday, the overarching initial reaction was, "I'm sure you do, Jason." Less than a month ago, Kidd had finished his final NBA season with the Knicks, going scoreless in his final 10 postseason games.

It was seen largely as the right time for Kidd, a consummate professional and guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer, to walk away from the game.

No one expected him to walk right up to the Barclays Center and say "I want this." And even fewer expected Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King to hand it to him.

But after an impressive interview on Monday, in which Kidd floored Brooklyn brass by being "well-prepared" and showing a "supreme confidence," per ESPN's Marc Stein, his candidacy has gone from nice little SEO-y side story to legitimate seemingly overnight.

So what happened? The Nets fell in love with the Kidd brand.

They saw the headline grab of "stealing" Kidd from the cross-city Knicks. They basked in the thought of bringing back the man who once led them to two NBA Finals on the floor, even though it was in a different city and under different ownership.

They looked at Kidd's resume as a player—10 All-Star appearances, an NBA championship, nine All-Defensive team selections, one of the best all-around point guards in the game's history—and convinced themselves that it could translate to being a head coach. 

In other words, Brooklyn got desperate.

This shouldn't be a surprise. 

It's been clear since the outset of the Nets' hiring process that they wanted a splash-worthy name. They went after Phil Jackson, asked for permission to interview Doc Rivers and kicked the tires on Lionel Hollins before moving on to their final two candidates: Shaw and Kidd. 

Shaw, who retired in 2003 as a player, has put the work into becoming one of the NBA's most respected assistant coaches.

He studied under Phil Jackson immediately after his career ended, eventually getting the endorsement of Kobe Bryant to take over for the Zen Master in 2011. And when the Lakers chose Mike Brown, Shaw went on to work under Frank Vogel with the Pacers, a team that has pushed LeBron James and the Heat each of the past two postseasons. 

Jason Kidd is Jason Kidd

Should Brooklyn ultimately make the move official, the phrase you'll hear tossed around consistently is that Kidd "played like a coach." He was always running his teams' offenses like a maestro, dishing out dimes and cultivating a respect around the league from his fellow players.

When Kidd was signed by the Knicks before last season, James spoke glowingly of his former Team USA teammate to the New York Post's Marc Berman

“He’s great for the game," James said. "I love him. I always looked up to him. He’s going to be really good for that team.’’

It's a nice sentiment that's shared across the league. But being liked by players and respected doesn't make him a head coach. It doesn't make Kidd able to draw up plays out of timeouts, adjust defensive schemes to each individual opponent and work the ungodly amount of hours these men put into the job.

There are a multitude of factors that go into being an NBA head coach in today's game, as evidenced by three of the five or six best coaches (Erik Spoelstra, Gregg Popovich and Vogel) leading their team to conference finals appearances.

In fact, Brooklyn seems to know this. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, one of the Nets' requirements to take Kidd's candidacy seriously was having head-coaching experience on the bench: 

Kidd countered with his plan to bring former Nets coach Lawrence Frank aboard, per Stein:

I have a suggestion for Brooklyn brass. It's a doozy, so hold onto your seats. If you're so worried about Kidd's competency as a head coach that you need someone with experience on the bench holding his hand, perhaps that's a hire you ought to not make. Seems crazy, I know. 

What's more, the main problem with the Nets last season wasn't their coaching.

Sure, the ones they had in place during the 2012-13 season could certainly use some improvement. Avery Johnson, with his rote tendency to bark at players and micromanage, has always been a coach more suited to the collegiate game than his former peers in the NBA. And I wouldn't trust P.J. Carlesimo to run a hardware store for 20 minutes while I go out for supplies. 

Should Brooklyn hire a good coach, it's fair to say the team could contend for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Therein lies the problem, though. The cause for Brooklyn's mediocrity now and going forward is not the man on the bench. It's the men in the front office who spent the entirety of the past two years building a sinkhole of a roster worth half of its price tag.

The moves to extend Deron Williams and Brook Lopez were understandable at the time and still look prudent now—even if Williams isn't a "franchise guy" and Lopez can't rebound. Both are winning players who are among the best at their positions. But outside of that duo, the Nets have built a nearly inflexible roster that is only going to get worse going forward.

It was King who gave up a top-three protected pick for then-Blazers forward Gerald Wallace, who was on an expiring contract. The move was bad at the time, got worse when King compounded it by giving Wallace $40 million over four years to stick around and became a worst-of-all-time contender when Damian Lillard, who was taken with the pick acquired for Wallace, turned into an instant star in Portland.

And then there was Joe Johnson, he of the six-year, $123.66 million contract. Taking him off the Hawks' hands allowed general manager Danny Ferry to get a huge start on his rebuilding project in Atlanta. It gave the Nets 16.3 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting. 

Essentially, King went to McDonald's, spent $1,000 of Prokhorov's money on a few quarter-pounders and then expected them to suddenly turn into filet mignon. And then he was surprised when they didn't.

No coach is going to fix that.

Wallace was so bad this season that he's almost untradeable after the first year of his contract, and Johnson's deal was thought to be untradeable when Brooklyn acquired it.

The only asset the Nets have is Kris Humphries' $12 million expiring contract, which will almost certainly be dealt for another expensive veteran by next year's trade deadline. But don't expect a ton of teams to line up for Humphries until the very last possible second. 

There is a ton to like about the Brooklyn situation. You've got an owner willing to spend gobs of money, a brand-new building and the cache of being one of the NBA's "cool" teams. That wasn't happening in New Jersey the last time Kidd was with the Nets franchise.

From Kidd's perspective, taking this job is a no-brainer. We've learned over time that once you're in the NBA head-coaching fraternity, you're pretty much eligible for every open job for life. Even if he's a relative failure in Brooklyn, it can be chalked up to a "learning experience" whenever he takes his next job. 

For the Nets, Kidd's candidacy is indicative of a deeper, franchise-wide problem. Brooklyn has been thinking with a big-picture mentality for the past couple years rather than worrying about the foundation of the building. They're the Yankees of the 1980s, spending gobs of the owner's money on players he'll recognize when reading their names in the paper or on the internet. 

Hiring Jason Kidd as their next head coach might not be the worst thing the Nets have done over these past couple years, but it would be a glaring indicator that they haven't learned a thing. 

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