On the surface, it would seemingly take the strength of mammoth Spurs substitute Boban Marjanovic — all 7-3, 290 pounds of him — to lift the spirits of the Nets. But Tony Brown is undaunted. Exhortation is at the top of his new job description as interim coach of a sagging team.
“It’s a rough stretch. The record is not great. It’s easy to get down, it’s easy to not compete when you’re getting your behind kicked on certain nights,” he said at the conclusion of his first day at the head of the bench, which ended with a 106-79 thud against the powerful Spurs at Barclays Center Monday night. “My job is to keep them encouraged. I use timeouts to pump them up, keep them thinking about the next play.”
Brown was so relentlessly positive that he grew hoarse, a day after team owner Mikhail Prokhorov “reassigned” general manager Billy King and fired coach Lionel Hollins, hours after Prokhorov spoke to a team that has now lost 10 consecutive home games and is 10-28 overall. All things considered, especially the Spurs’ 33-6 record, it was a predictably inauspicious start to a new era.
“I know it was probably a bit overwhelming, but I thought he did a great job keeping the focus on basketball and just going out and playing,” Joe Johnson said after having shot 6-for-7 from the floor in a 16-point effort (second only Brook Lopez’s 18) It all was not nearly enough to keep up with the likes of Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 25 points. Brown’s team (and King’s thin roster) trailed only five early in the second half, then was typically worn down.
Thaddeus Young nonetheless credited Brown. “I think the biggest thing was to keep our spirits up,” Young said. “He was huge.”
No one was as huge as Marjanovic, the big man from Serbia, who barely needed to jump to dunk and who dazzled the crowd with 13 points. The Nets only can hope that new management will find such intriguing players.
For now, the Nets will offer opportunities for all the players they do have. The interim coach’s philosophy, expressed after a chat with Prokhorov, was, “Let’s find out what we have.”
They found they have a long way to go to be like the Spurs.