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Coaching Carousel Not Moving In the Swamp

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There's nothing like a good old-fashioned non-sensical vote of confidence to get me thoroughly confused.

The type of vote of confidence that comes in support of the coach of a 30-41 team would likely qualify for this distinction.   Especially if that coach was in his fourth full season, with win totals of 41, 49 and 42 in the previous three.  And even more so if that coach had never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

Enter Rod Thorn.

As reported by the Newark Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro, the Nets' president had this to say yesterday about the future of head coach Lawrence Frank:

But for the first time, the Nets president declared that Lawrence Frank will be his coach next season -- which was widely assumed all along -- and he adds that not even a visit to the lottery will change that reality.

"I don't have any thoughts or ideas of replacing him at all," Thorn said yesterday. "He's done a good job for us, and I'm sure he'll continue to do so in the future."

"I don't see anything that can transpire that would change my mind," Thorn said. "I got a call from a writer the other day who said he's writing a column that the coach should be fired. So I know it's out there in the media, and from fan e-mails. But that's not going to influence me one way or the other. I know the job Lawrence does for us."

I have yet to understand what this sort of course of action achieves.

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Disclaimer: This isn't a call for Lawrence Frank to lose his job. 

[Aside: I made that mistake last year.   It was a mistake not because I was incorrect (that remains up for debate), but a mistake because while I'm willing to do a certain amount of speculation and assertion as a writer on this wonderful Interweb of ours, there needs to be a limit on what lines I can cross with limited access.  Without being there every day, without seeing what a coach does on a day to day basis -- and without a cardinal sin of misconduct to make the rest irrelevant -- calling for a fellow man's job simply isn't something I'm entirely sure I can do in good conscience.  At least not without having that claim locked down to a rather extreme degree.  In Frank's case last season, I hadn't done that.  There were grounds to question his coaching -- as will be enumerated once more shortly -- but not for me to make the pompously definitive claim that I did that he needed to be canned.]

But there is plenty to question of what exactly Frank has done in order to merit the assurances he has received from Thorn.

Whether he needs to be fired, I'm not sure.  But Lawrence Frank seems hardly to be the type of guy to whom a team would want to orally bind itself with the off-season soon a-coming.

Credit Frank for helping spark the Nets to a 13-game win streak when he took over for Byron Scott in the middle of 2003-04.  Credit Frank for not making any one move in particular that was egregious beyond all belief.

The problem, of course, is that there isn't much we can credit Frank for doing particularly right either.

On the offensive end, only once in Frank's four seasons have the Nets cracked the league's top 20 in efficiency, peaking at 16th last year.  This seems particularly abominable when one considers that Jason Kidd was Frank's point guard for most of that time.  Frank isn't known as an offensive maven, and he has done nothing to rein in the free-wheeling ways of Vince Carter during his time in the Swamp either.  Not much to write home about here.

On the other side of the floor, Frank inherited from Byron Scott a team that had finished first in defensive efficiency in consecutive seasons and fourth the year he took over at mid-season.  Since then, the Nets' have finished ranked sixth, third, 15th and 21st in Frank's tenure.  Frank isn't known as a defensive maven.

Two big sentences from the above stick out here:

1.  Frank isn't known as an offensive maven.

2.  Frank isn't known as a defensive maven.

The numbers back it up.  This isn't all that encouraging, seeing as special teams performance isn't a crucial part of basketball.  Yep, folks, offense and defense pretty much sum up the x's and o's portion of this game.  Frank isn't special in either department.  Not good.

Furthermore, Frank has no grand history as a leader either.  Watching his team over the past few years has constantly led to the "Do these guys even listen to him?" question.  He hasn't gotten through to Vince Carter.  He couldn't keep Jason Kidd interested.  The team's body language during timeouts is routinely negative. 

None of the young players on this team seem to have experienced any sort of truly special development thus far.  Josh Boone has been all right.  Marcus Williams has been okay.  Sean Williams has had his minutes jerked around left and right.  Nenad Krstic was headed in the right direction prior to injuries and has been lost since (certainly, Frank isn't necessarily to blame here).  Antoine Wright turned into nothing special as a Net.

And when all else has been said and done, it's worth remembering that in Frank has yet to get the team out of the second round.  That would be the team that Byron Scott had taken to consecutive Finals prior to his own firing in January 2004.

No great tactical work on either end of the ball.  Questionable leadership.  Questions about the progress of the neophytes.  Lack of playoff success.

Yes, with the Nets apparently headed toward an era of rebuilding, it seems only fair to wonder why Rod Thorn seems determined to not even consider rebuilding on the bench as well.