Is Anybody a Winner in Jason Kidd-Lawrence Frank Fallout?

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Is Anybody a Winner in Jason Kidd-Lawrence Frank Fallout?
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Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank have spent their entire professional lives in an environment that clearly determines winners and losers by a final score. NBA games are simple that way.

But there's no scoreboard involved in parsing out who won—or, more importantly, who was in the right—more than a week after Kidd messily dismissed Frank from his role as an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets.

Situations like that don't lend themselves to easy quantification.

Keeping in mind that we're not dealing in the binary win-loss terms of an NBA basketball game, it's fascinating to dig into the details that led to Frank's unceremonious departure. Maybe if we dig deep enough, we'll come closer to figuring out who got the best of this ugly, complicated saga.

 

The Case for Frank

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Any argument in favor of Frank has to start with the fact that Kidd requested his hiring in the first place. And this isn't the first time Kidd has lobbied to get Frank on the bench, either.

After getting Byron Scott fired in New Jersey back in the 2003-04 season, Kidd made it known that he wanted Frank to take over coaching duties. So there's history here—history that should have prevented anything about Frank's personality and coaching style from being a surprise.

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It's hard to fault a highly-experienced assistant coach who desperately wants to win for stepping in when it became clear that the head coach wasn't equipped to do the job. There was simply no indication in the early season that Kidd had a clue about how to run a team.

The first-year head coach was a statue on the sidelines, didn't appear to have any input on strategic decisions and looked totally out of his depth.

According to B/R's Howard Beck, one scout observed:

He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.

Frank has a notorious "Type A" personality, something the Nets definitely knew when they hired him. So it shouldn't have been remotely surprising that he felt the need to do something to lead a Brooklyn team that obviously required some direction.

The total disrespect Kidd showed toward Frank—which we'll get into momentarily—also paints the former assistant coach as something of a victim in this whole fiasco. Frank certainly did some things to undermine Kidd, but there haven't been any reports of expletive-laden tirades.

In that sense, Kidd certainly comes off looking worse than Frank.

 

The Case for Kidd

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The best defense for Kidd's decision to "reassign" Frank is that the Nets had already warned the assistant coach to tone down his demonstrative sideline activities. They bothered Kidd in large part because he felt they furthered the belief that Frank was actually the one doing all the heavy lifting—never mind that the perception was probably true.

We now know that the Brooklyn brass informed Frank that he had to scale back the yelling and wild gesticulating he'd been doing.

Per Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York:

Frank was told at one point by somebody in the organization to curb his behavior on the bench during games and not be as active and demonstrative as he was earlier in the season, sources told ESPNNewYork.com. The week before he learned he would not be helping run practices or sit on the bench during games, it was definitely noticeable that Frank wasn't doing as much.

And in a now-infamous quote, Kidd also told Frank (in much more colorful language) to remain seated after a Nov. 3 loss to the Orlando Magic.

According to NBA.com's David Aldridge:

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!'

Whether it was right or wrong to so condescendingly marginalize Frank's role is a separate issue. But if Frank got word—on more than one occasion—to step back a bit, it was his job as an assistant coach to heed that directive, regardless of tone.

If he didn't like the mandate or the way it was delivered, he could have quit. But he kept up with his demonstrative style long after that Nov. 3 dressing down from Kidd, and the Nets predictably backed the head coach's decision to oust him.

So, really, Frank had the opportunity to either change his behavior, or leave the situation before it came to a head. He didn't seize it.

Chain of command is important in any job, but according to Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, it's absolutely critical in an NBA locker room.

Per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, Jackson said:

When I look at that situation, I don't know what happened. I do see the reports of a 'difference in philosophies.' If that's true, that's trash to me. Because there's one philosophy, and that's the head coach. I think we're giving too much to an assistant or a staff. You win, it's Jason Kidd. You lose, it's Jason Kidd.

That's just the way it is. And that staff should have the same philosophy as Jason Kidd, win, lose or draw, go down together. I think that's where you get success and that's the way it's supposed to be done.

Jackson has a point. The tiniest fracture on an NBA team can grow into a devastating rift, so it's vital to make sure everyone's on the same page.

At the same time, the Nets bestowed significant power on Frank, making him the highest-paid assistant in the league and basically announcing that he was something more than an ordinary member of the Brooklyn coaching staff. If they'd wanted a quiet "yes man" for Kidd's staff, they should never have hired him, let alone in such a way that gave him such a sense of entitlement.

 

And the Winner Is...Nobody

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In the end, neither Frank nor Kidd comes out of this mess looking very good.

Kidd's impulse-control problems of the past still appear to be part of his makeup. And now we're seeing that he's insecure and lacking the patience necessary to be an effective leader. It seems we can also now add an inability to manage people to the list of shortcomings that already includes a suspected failure in managing on-court tactics.

Frank comes off looking power-hungry and extremely difficult to work with. Keep in mind, too, that Frank appears poised to make things even uglier for the Nets, as he's hired sports attorney David Cornwell to negotiate what's sure to be a contentious buyout agreement, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

If Brooklyn suddenly turns things around under the now-unquestioned leadership of Kidd, the analysis will certainly change. But since Frank left the bench, the Nets have been blown out twice. So if there's improvement on the horizon, it appears to still be somewhat distant.

The situation between Kidd and Frank was ultimately a foreseeable result of giving too much power to someone who hadn't yet earned it. Kidd wasn't ready to be a head coach, but Brooklyn, prizing brand names and wow factor a bit too highly, gave him an immense amount of control.

Who's the "winner" of the battle between Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank?

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Combined with his ego and insecurity about possessing a job he probably didn't deserve, Kidd predictably lashed out at a guy who was making him look even less capable than he actually was.

Maybe Kidd deserves most of the blame for the mess in Brooklyn. Maybe Frank never should have taken the job in the first place. Apportioning blame doesn't really matter, though, because the game between Kidd and Frank is over.

Nobody won.

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