Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Nets currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at the coaching.
New additions: head coach Lionel Hollins, assistants Paul Westphal, Tony Brown, Joe Wolf and Jay Humphries.
Gone: head coach Jason Kidd, assistants Joe Prunty, Eric Hughes, Sean Sweeney.
Strengths: After going through last season with a first-time coach in Kidd, the Nets opted for a much more experienced man in Hollins. The defensive-minded coach should be a good fit with a unit that improved in the second half of last season. The no-nonsense coach is tough and should be ideal for the Nets' veteran-laden roster. He has worked well with big men like Marc Gasol, which should bode well for Brook Lopez.
Potential obstacles: With the Nets, health is a big key. Hollins will have to do what he can to keep Deron Williams and Lopez healthy after both underwent surgery during or at the end of last season. Kevin Garnett is one year older and Hollins will have to manage his minutes and games. The Nets lost Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston -- two key pieces -- in free agency. They basically replaced the veterans with combo guard Jarrett Jack and some younger, developing players, like Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev and second-round picks Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. Hollins will have to try to keep the Nets in contention while also developing some younger players. On top of all this, the Nets will be learning a new system from a new coach for the second time in a year.
Biggest challenge: Due in part to injuries, Kidd was not able to get Williams to play at a high level last season. Now, Hollins will try to get his star guard playing at an All-Star level again. Getting healthy is a major key for D-Will. And regaining his confidence and happiness is just as big. Can Hollins get the best out of him?
What they’re saying: “When I look at this team I look at some veteran players that can score, some young guys that are coming up and need to be developed,” Hollins said. “And when we start talking about style, I have to sit down and see through watching the tape just exactly what we want to do. I know that I want to play at a little quicker pace than they even played at, that we played at in Memphis. But I don’t want to run up and down the court and jack up shots. I want to be aggressive. I want to be tough defensively. I want to be tough mentally.”
Outlook: Kidd took over a team as a first-year head coach under win-now expectations. Hollins takes over now with the franchise lowering its championship aspirations after letting Pierce walk in free agency. The Nets still want to contend and make the playoffs. But they are realistic about their title hopes. In the offseason, the Nets wanted to get younger and more athletic but maintain a veteran core that can get to the playoffs. Hollins will have to balance it all and monitor and maintain the health of Williams, Lopez and Garnett.
Kidd had a rocky first season at the start before turning it around in the second half. But throughout it all, he maintained the respect of his veteran players. Now, Hollins will have to win over vets like KG, get the best out of D-Will and develop the likes of Bogdanovic and Karasev all while installing his system and establishing a new culture. After being out of basketball since 2013, Hollins has been itching for another crack. He comes to the Nets humbled and motivated. And the team will be looking to him to establish stability after the franchise’s dramatic split with Kidd.