Sunday, November 29, 2009
Updated: November 30, 10:03 AM ET
Nets fire Frank amid trip
By Marc Stein
The winless New Jersey Nets have fired coach Lawrence Frank with immediate effect.
The Nets announced the move Sunday shortly after ESPN.com's report that Frank would not coach the Nets in Sunday night's road game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite playing hard for assistant coach Tom Barrise, the Nets matched the worst start to an NBA season with their 17th straight loss as the Lakers overwhelmed New Jersey 106-87.
The Nets' announcement said that Frank's permanent replacement has not yet been chosen.
Sources with knowledge of New Jersey's thinking told ESPN.com that the Nets wanted to delay the widely anticipated coaching change until after the team returned from its four-game West Coast trip. Yet it appears that Nets management determined that it had to make the move before facing the Lakers after reports became more widespread that Frank's dismissal was imminent.
The Bergen (N.J.) Record and Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday that Frank's firing was expected as early as Monday no matter the outcome Sunday against the Lakers. After New Jersey's first loss of the week Tuesday in Denver, ESPN.com quoted a source close to the situation as saying that Frank could not survive a winless trip.
"I want to thank Lawrence for more than a decade of service to the Nets, first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach for the past six and a half seasons," Nets president Rod Thorn said in a statement. "Lawrence always approached every day with a passion for his craft that was infectious, and his dedication to the game as well as his work ethic are to be both admired and appreciated. I wish he and his family only the best of good fortune in the future."
Nets assistant coach John Loyer and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe are considered the internal co-favorites to succeed Frank for the rest of the season, although neither has ever been an NBA head coach. It's believed that the Nets will settle on Frank's replacement in time for Tuesday's scheduled practice after organization meetings to assess all of their options.
A source close to Frank told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan earlier Sunday that Frank has known for a week his departure was imminent, with the only question being where and when it would happen.
According to The Associated Press, players were shocked when Frank showed up at the team's morning team meeting in Los Angeles not wearing his Nets gear.
"It's tough, because he was the hardest worker on the team," center Brook Lopez said. "He's so passionate about what he does. It was a rough situation, and he did a great job of not using our injuries as an excuse. He came in every night and had us prepared."
Frank, who set an NBA coaching record by winning his first 13 games as Byron Scott's replacement in the 2003-04 season, is in the final year of a contract that pays him $4 million this season.
He is the second NBA coach to be fired this season after Scott's dismissal by New Orleans earlier this month.
Speculation has been mounting all week in New Jersey that Vandeweghe would be asked to replace Frank, largely as a cost-saving measure given the relative inexperience and anonymity of the coaches on Frank's staff.
Frank's record as Nets coach is 225-241. Injuries have plagued the team throughout its 0-17 start, which includes four losses by three points or fewer, but New Jersey's effort and energy have noticeably deteriorated since a home loss to New York on Nov. 21, amid increasingly strong signals that Frank would soon be dismissed.
The Nets entered Sunday's play averaging an NBA-low 85.6 points and shooting a league-worst 40.3 percent from the field. Eleven of their losses have come by double digits, including all four games of this Western road trip.
With the loss to the Lakers, New Jersey joined the 1988-89 Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers during the lockout-shortened 1999 season as the only teams to start 0-17.
Another source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday: "The team hasn't lost interest in each other, which is a good sign, but I don't know how much more interest they have in [Frank's message]."
New Jersey's streak had reached 16 with Friday night's 109-96 defeat to Sacramento, which matched the franchise's longest losing streak.
The Nets have dropped 17 straight road games dating to March 18, when they routed the Knicks by 26 points. New Jersey has also lost 28 of 36 all-time road games against Los Angeles.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from STATS LLC was used in this report.