With Season Complete, Attention Turns to P.J. Carlesimo’s Future
Josh Newman , Field Reporter
NEW YORK – The Nets’ first season in Brooklyn is complete following an ugly 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday in Game 7 of their first-round series.
As their offseason gets started earlier than they would have liked, one topic sure to dominate the conversation in the coming days is the future of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo.
“I think he did a great job,” Deron Williams said. “I thought that with everything that went on this season, we had a lot of turmoil and he kind of inherited us and I think he did a great job of leading us and getting us to that fourth seed. I’d love to see him back, but as you know, that’s not up to me.”
Williams is spot-on in that Carlesimo did take over a bit of a mess as the interim head coach on Dec. 27 for the fired Avery Johnson. The team was 14-14 at the time, having gotten blown at home on national television on Christmas Day against the Boston Celtics and the next night at the Milwaukee Bucks to fall to .500.
The change at head coach had reportedly been in the works for weeks after upper management was unhappy with the direction of the team under Johnson. Carlesimo came in and the players appeared to respond immediately.
With a largely-soft upcoming schedule to open his tenure, Carlesimo ripped off nine wins in his fist 10 games and 12 of his first 14.
Management had reportedly reached out to Phil Jackson before firing Johnson, but that yielded nothing as Carlesimo, who had already coached 501 NBA games over eight seasons before taking over the Nets, continued to right the ship.
In the end, Carlesimo went 35-19 in the regular season as part of a 49-win Nets team that secured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage in the first round.
With Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov stating on opening night back in November that a reasonable expectation for this brand new $330 million roster was the Eastern Conference finals, is Carlesimo’s 54-game sample enough to get him the job without the interim tag?
“I’m pretty happy with the way he coached, the way things worked out,” Brook Lopez said. “I think a lot of players brought into what he was preaching.”
The 54-game regular season sample is impressive, but the fact remains Carlesimo has never won a playoff series as Saturday’s loss brings his career mark in the playoffs to 6-14. Whether or not the series loss to the Bulls will be taken as a mulligan remains to be seen.
As this begins to unfold in the coming days, it’s also worth noting that the coaching market appears to be devoid of the big name Prokhorov desires. The team is expected to reach out to Jackson again, but the 11-time NBA champion head coach reportedly wants to move into a front office position. With Nets General Manager Billy King signing an extension last month, Jackson finding his way to Brooklyn seems very unlikely.
Ex-Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy’s name has popped up as a potential candidate, but the current ESPN analyst hasn’t commented one way or the other.
“That’s for the upper office upstairs to make that decision,” free agent-to-be Keith Bogans said. “If it was up to us, I’m pretty sure we would like to have him back, but it’s not our decision.”
Carlesimo’s career record in the regular season stands at an uninspiring 239-315 (.431), but his 35-19 (.648) actually gives him the highest winning percentage of any head coach in Nets history.
With Williams, Lopez, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace signed long-term and endorsements to keep him around seemingly everywhere, does it all add up to a full-time job for Carlesimo? We’re likely to find out sooner than later.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA