P.J. Carlesimo after 2-hour lunch with Mikhail Prokhorov: It all comes down to winning
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On Saturday, however, the two shared a two-hour lunch at Estiatorio Milos, a Greek restaurant in midtown Manhattan. And somewhere between bites of grilled fish and sliced zucchini, Carlesimo learned a few things about the man he hopes will be his boss for the rest of this season and beyond.
"He is willing to do what it takes to win a championship," Nets interim coach Carlesimo said before Saturday night's 103-100 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. "He has a good understanding of our team and the NBA . . . I think if we would keep winning games, that would be good. He definitely prefers winning."
Winning and winning big is the only thing that can secure Carlesimo more than a temporary run at the helm of the Nets. Carlesimo, who has been an assistant on the team for the past two seasons, took over Thursday after the Nets fired Avery Johnson after 28 games in which he went 14-14. Carlesimo is 2-0 after facing two of the worst teams in the league.
Since the firing, multiple media outlets have reported that Prokhorov is courting former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Another name that has surfaced repeatedly is former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. A source close to Van Gundy said Saturday, however, that he will not interview for the job while Carlesimo is an interim coach because he does not consider it officially "vacant."
That likely would not be a problem for Jackson. The former Bulls and Lakers coach interviewed for the Knicks' job in 1995 when Van Gundy was the team's interim coach. Van Gundy ended up keeping the Knicks' job for six more seasons.
Carlesimo was asked before Saturday night's game if it bothers him that there are so many reports out there about the Nets wanting to interview other coaches.
"I told Mikhail today in no uncertain terms that I didn't want him talking to anybody," Carlesimo said, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
YES analyst and former NBA coach Mike Fratello has never been an interim coach, though he did take over Memphis in the middle of the 2004-05 season after Hubie Brown suddenly resigned. He believes that Carlesimo has an advantage in that he has been around the team and the players.
"It's a tough position coming in in the middle of the season," Fratello said, "but it helps when you know the team like he does and have a feel for the guys."
Though Carlesimo did not go into specifics about what he discussed with Prokhorov, it is clear that he thinks he has a shot at keeping the job.
"I think it's available," he said. "I think we need to win. And I think there are also other coaches who are available. That's not something I can control. I can deal with what we have to deal with. We'll just have to go at it one day at a time."