The introspection about what has happened to the Nets since he bought the team six years ago was “tortured,” Mikhail Prokhorov said Monday, and the decision to change management was “very easy.” Then the owner might have left himself open to more of the former emotion when he said of his reeling team, “I’m sure the next season, I hope, we will be a championship contender.”
So, while he acknowledged that he has learned many lessons, he might not have picked up on the peril of setting lofty expectations. The man who came in predicting a title within five years still is bullish on a franchise that has few top-tier players and none of its own first-round draft picks until 2019.
“I want us to have a much firmer blueprint: what kind of players we’re looking for and why. I think we need to have a sense of identity and style of play,” Prokhorov said during a news conference at Barclays Center, a day after he fired coach Lionel Hollins and announced the pending reassignment of general manager Billy King — who dealt many draft picks in a bold push to make Prokhorov’s quick title dream come true.
“I take full responsibility for the state of the team and I think Billy King did his best. Just, we need a fresh look,” the Russia-based owner said.
Prokhorov does not have a specific strategy to rebuild a team that is in shambles and has few assets. He will let that evolve when he chooses a new general manager and coach. He said that he prefers those jobs be done by two separate people, which might cool speculation that the team will approach former Nets coach John Calipari about returning as a one-man operation.
“We are not in a rush of finding people,” Prokhorov said, having called Calipari “a great coach” before adding, “but we won’t be discussing any names because it’s the first day of our new approach.” (On his own Twitter feed Monday, Calipari said his current post as head of Kentucky’s basketball team is the greatest coaching job in sports.)
The owner did mention one name, Andrey Vatutin, president of the Moscow CSKA team, only to say that, despite rumors, Vatutin will not be the Nets’ next GM. In fact, Prokhorov said that one of his key lessons of the past six years was learning that he must find people who can withstand playing or working in New York. That might have been a slap at Deron Williams, who never did warm to the area after King decided to build the roster around him.
King was close with Prokhorov, who evaluated the situation for a month-and-a-half before reaching his decision Sunday. “It was just very easy,” the owner said, also telling reporters, “trust me, I have tortured myself more than you. All of your questions are very nice compared to what I have inside.”
Prokhorov was upbeat when he spoke with interim coach Tony Brown (“He’s pretty engaging,” Brown said) and addressed the team. Brook Lopez, who Monday night played for his eighth Nets coach, said of the owner, “He wanted us to know he’s going about his job, figuring things out and talking to his cabal and see what they want to do next.”