- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Oct. 30, 2001, Jason Kidd's debut with the Nets was overshadowed by Game 3 of the World Series and Michael Jordan's return to the Garden.
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank couldn't tell you that Roger Clemens pitched the Yankees past the Diamondbacks that night, or that Jordan's Wizards fell to the Knicks. But, more than a decade later, he can tell you exactly what happened inside Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.
"To me, where it all started was the first year when we got Jason, on opening night," Frank, a former Nets coach, recalled before Wednesday night's Nets-Pistons game at Prudential Center in Newark.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Lawrence Frank and Jason Kidd
"We had around 5,600 people here in the stands [close, the official box score said 8,749]. It was during a World Series game, and we're playing the Pacers. We're down 11 heading into the fourth quarter. We put Kidd on Reggie Miller and [Kerry Kittles] on Jalen Rose. They played like Rottweilers and turned the game around and we won the game at the end, and then you just knew it was gonna be a different Nets team."
Prior to the Kidd era, the Nets had made the playoffs just once in a seven-season span. But they acquired the All-Star point guard in a blockbuster trade the day after the 2001 NBA draft, and it took only one game for Frank -- an assistant under Byron Scott at the time -- to realize that the Nets had something special brewing.
They trailed the Pacers 79-68 after the first three quarters but outscored Indiana 35-18 in the final period to claim a 103-97 victory behind Kidd's near-triple-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The Nets went on to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history in 2001-02, and repeated the feat in 2002-03.
"It's hard to beat going to the Finals," Frank said. "That's as significant as anything."
Frank got his first chance to be a head coach in the NBA in 2004, after Scott was fired, and wound up winning his first 13 games -- a league record.
"We just focused on one game at a time," said Frank, who was 33 at the time. "And it wound up to the point where we just strung some wins together."
Frank went on to compile a 225-241 record with the Nets, taking the team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons at the helm. But after failing to qualify for the postseason in the next two years, Frank's 2009-10 squad got off to an 0-16 start, which led to his dismal. That season, the Nets became just the fifth team in NBA history to lose 70 or more games.
Barring some sort of miracle, Wednesday night's game -- a game in which his Pistons ultimately prevailed over the Nets, 99-92 -- is likely the final game Frank will ever coach in his home state. The Nets will move into the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season.
"The building we're playing in isn't the same, so that’s different,” said Frank, who was raised in Teaneck, still has a house in New Jersey and added that many of his family members still reside there. "But there's so many great memories when you talk about the support the team always had through good times and bad, and just how the franchise turned around with the Jason Kidd trade, and the years of success we had once we made that deal.
"It’s time for a new beginning for them, but as a Jersey guy, it's sad that this is going to be the last time. But you never know how it turns out. I was reading that [Newark mayor] Cory Booker wants to try to attract another team here, and this is a basketball-rich state with a ton of tradition, not just as the professional level, but in the high school and collegiate ranks, so it's bittersweet."
3dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo