GM Vandeweghe to coach winless Nets

Updated: December 1, 2009, 1:17 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The New Jersey Nets have chosen general manager Kiki Vandeweghe as the replacement for fired coach Lawrence Frank.

Vandeweghe agreed to take over for the rest of the season after the Nets agreed to bring in longtime NBA coach Del Harris as Vandeweghe's virtual co-coach.

The Nets finalized the Vandeweghe-Harris plan Monday afternoon and formally announced the move at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Vandeweghe
Vandeweghe

Nets assistant coach Tom Barrise coached the team against the Lakers on Sunday night in Los Angeles and will be in charge Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks at home when New Jersey tries to avoid falling to 0-18, which would represent the worst start to a season in NBA history.

Vandeweghe will take over at Thursday's practice and coach the Nets beginning with Friday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

"Because of his ability to work with young players, to get the best out of young players, he's a natural for this job," Nets president Rod Thorn said.

Sources said Vandeweghe did not want to move to the bench, given his lack of head coaching experience, without a seasoned assistant.

"Rod is a very persuasive guy," Vandeweghe said, "and much smarter than I am."

Harris was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1995 with the Lakers, took the Houston Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1981 and also coached the Milwaukee Bucks. He served in a similar lead assistant/mentor role in Chicago last season alongside first-year Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.

Harris and Vandeweghe worked together as assistants in Dallas on Don Nelson's staff and developed a close bond in those days.

There is already a strong connection between the franchises after they collaborated on a blockbuster trade in February 2008 headlined by Jason Kidd's return to Dallas in exchange for Devin Harris.

Thorn acknowledged the Nets need to show signs that they're not too far away from contending.

"We're going to try to let everybody see we are capable of winning games, that we do have some very good pieces here that will be here for quite a while that would make it more attractive for potential free agents at the end of the year," he said.

Vandeweghe played 13 seasons in the NBA with four teams and was a two-time All-Star. His only coaching experience came in Dallas as a fellow assistant with Harris on Don Nelson's staff, which is where Vandeweghe and Harris developed a close bond.

Despite working in management for much of the decade, Vandeweghe has always been considered one of the league's top one-on-one tutors, quickly earning players' respect thanks largely to his expertise on footwork and balance and his own success as a player. Sources say that the Nets hope having Vandeweghe in close proximity to their young players -- such as Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee and Yi Jianlian -- will speed their development.

The Nets' historically bad start, furthermore, has quickly shifted the franchise into evaluation mode. Signfiicant roster alterations are essentially on hold until the summer, when the expected ownership transfer from Bruce Ratner to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov coincides with New Jersey possessing significant salary-cap space.

Harris is also familiar with several players on the Nets' roster, having worked with All-Star point guard Harris and forward Eduardo Najera.

After working on the bench and in the front office with Mavericks, Vandeweghe was named general manager of the Denver Nuggets in 2001. He spent one season as an analyst for ESPN after the Nuggets chose not to retain him after the 2005-06 season and joined the Nets as a special assistant to Thorn in 2007.

When Ed Stefanski moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers, Vandeweghe was elevated to general manager with the Nets.

New Jersey went 34-48 in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 but is 0-17 this season.

Frank, meanwhile, said Monday that getting fired with the Nets winless is his only regret after more than five years as New Jersey's head coach.

"I understood with our record that there could be potential consequences and that if we didn't win that it would end in termination," Frank said, "and you just kind of want to fight as long as you can fight to get a win because all this team needs ... this team needs to validate some of their hard work.

"You just wanted to see this group through and have a win, because once they win -- not that it solves all problems -- but it just does really relieve a great deal of pressure on them. So I guess my only thing was I just wanted to fight to at least get this group a win and see where we can go," he said.

Frank was dismissed Sunday morning with an 0-16 record, hours before New Jersey lost to the Lakers that night, tying the NBA record for consecutive losses to start a season.

He told reporters during a conference call it's hard to leave with unfinished business but insisted has no bitterness toward the organization. Even though he had an injury-depleted roster, Frank said he understood why he was fired.

"I knew at a certain time and point we were going to have to win some games regardless of our roster and we just didn't deliver," Frank said.

Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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