Frank to return as coach
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Despite missing the playoffs for two straight years, team president Rod Thorn is convinced the New Jersey Nets are on the right road and that Lawrence Frank is the man to lead the team.
Thorn announced on Wednesday that the 38-year-old Frank, who is the longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, will be returning for a sixth full season.
"In my mind, Lawrence is a very good coach," Thorn said. "The players understand he knows what he is doing and they play hard for him."
Thorn said he reached his decision on Frank's future the past two weeks and told him on Wednesday morning.
Frank has posted a 225-225 record in five-plus seasons as coach. He has a year left on a contract that was to pay him $4.5 million next season. His 225 wins are a franchise record.
"We're very excited to be coming back for another year and we look forward to taking another step forward with this group," Frank said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Frank said the wait was not tough
"Working for Rod is very easy, what you see is what you get, he is very, very truthful," said Frank, who said he is still disappointed after missing the playoffs. "That's what I respect, he is very honest whether it's good or bad news. He said everything was going to be evaluated and from that point on I didn't fret because there was nothing we could control. I trusted him and the process and kept doing my job."
Thorn is not concerned that Frank will enter next season as a lame duck.
"He is just concerned with how he can coach the team and help the team do as well as it can," Thorn said. "Anything that is ancillary to that, I don't think Lawrence cares about those things."
Thorn insisted that the one factor that made his decision was his belief that Frank was a good coach.
"If you get rid of a good coach, you have to get a good coach," Thorn said. "In my mind he is a good coach, he has done a good job here. I think this past year most people didn't think we would do well and we did better than expected. Our younger players got better for the most part and my feeling is we are on the right road."
The team underwent a major change in February 2008 when perennial All-Star point guard Jason Kidd was traded to Dallas in a move that signaled a rebuilding process for New Jersey.
I think this past year most people didn't think we would do well and we did better than expected. Our younger players got better for the most part and my feeling is we are on the right road.” -- Nets president Rod Thorn
Most experts predicted that the Nets would not win more than 25 games this past season. However, a young team led by Vince Carter surprised many early in the season.
Devin Harris, who was acquired in the Kidd trade, developed into an All-Star point guard. First-round draft pick Brook Lopez turned into an outstanding young center and fellow rookies Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ryan Anderson showed promise.
The problem is the Nets faltered down the stretch, posting a 4-12 record in March and 8-16 in the final 24 games.
Thorn said he plans to get ready for the draft, the summer league and free agency in the next few months.
When Thorn met with the media last week to discuss Frank's future he said his decision would be influenced by whether he felt the coach's voice was still pertinent and had the team headed in the right direction.
While saying he supported Frank, Harris said Monday that some veterans were not listening to him.
"I think there are always times through the year where some player or a couple of players get upset, normally about playing time or maybe not enough shots or things like that," Thorn said. "You deal with those things in-house. They tend to take care of themselves if you have the right group of people."
Frank replaced Byron Scott as the Nets coach on Jan. 26, 2004, a move Thorn made after coming to the opinion that the team was no longer listening to its coach.
Frank, who had been a Nets assistant for three years, started his head coaching career with 13 straight wins, a new NBA mark for consecutive wins by a head coach to begin a career. The streak was also the longest of any coach in any of the four major professional sports to begin a career.
The Nets, who went to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 under previous coach Byron Scott, made the playoffs under Frank in 2004, '05, '06 and 07, but did not advance past the conference semifinals.
A native of Teaneck, Frank worked as an assistant coach with the Vancouver Grizzlies before joining the Nets. He also worked at the University of Tennessee and Marquette University.
Frank attended Indiana University, where he spent four seasons as a manager for the Hoosiers basketball team led by Bob Knight.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press