EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you listened to Nets general manager Billy King and point guard Deron Williams, the qualities they desire in the team's next head coach are embodied by the coach who beat them in the first round of the playoffs and put interim coach P.J. Carlesimo out of a job Sunday.
King and Williams praised the example set by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who didn't have superstar Derrick Rose all season, lost starters Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng in the course of the playoff series and still got his shorthanded team to the second round by virtue of heart, toughness and physical defense.
The absence of energy, especially on defense, from the Nets in the first half of their Game 7 loss to the Bulls on Saturday night was unfathomable, considering what was at stake. They gave up 61 first-half points, fell behind by 17 and couldn't come back.
"The sense of urgency wasn't there to start the game," King said Sunday. "It came the second half, but when you're behind by so many points, you've got to dig yourself out of a hole.
"[Chicago] is very well-coached. They execute and they grind it out. That's where we're trying to get to is where they are."
Williams said he has spoken to former Utah teammates Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer as well as current Nets teammates C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans about their experience playing for Thibodeau with the Bulls. "I think that's kind of what we need," Williams said. "It starts in training camp. We've got to kind of find our identity.
"I've heard a lot about the way he practices . . . Just repetition, and everything is defense, and if you're not in the spot he wants you to be in . . . He's almost like a drill sergeant. He just commands a lot out of his players."
Asked to name the quality the Nets most need to add, Williams said, "Toughness. I think we got out-toughed in that last series, especially [in Game 7]. So I think that's the main thing."
Williams then cited his former Utah coach, Jerry Sloan, as another example of someone who could instill that missing ingredient in a team. "He had that effect. Just the way he talked to us every day and the way he prepared us for games kind of rubbed off," Williams said.
Going strictly by the numbers, it was hard to argue with the job Carlesimo did after replacing Avery Johnson. He took a team that was 14-14 and in a tailspin and went 35-19 to get the Nets into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. But there was an inconsistent quality to the Nets, who were called "lackadaisical" by television commentator Charles Barkley.
"That's on the players," Nets forward Gerald Wallace said. "Players got to take into account their effort and what they're putting in and what they want to get out of the game. I think P.J. did a great job being thrown into the situation he was thrown into. He got us into the playoffs. I don't think any blame should be on him. We didn't show the effort."