With the sting of Saturday night's Game 7 loss at home to the Bulls still fresh, the Nets' general manager informed the interim coach that he won't be retained. A search for his permanent successor is expected to begin immediately, and King said there's no definitive timetable on naming a replacement.
King said he'll reach out to, among others, Phil Jackson to gauge the interest of the man who won 11 rings with the Lakers and Bulls. Other potential candidates could include ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who's believed to want to get back into coaching next season, and SMU coach Larry Brown, who's a close friend and mentor of King. Stan Van Gundy's name also might surface.
Carlesimo, 63, posted a 35-19 regular-season record after Johnson was fired Dec. 27. But although Carlesimo righted the ship, compiled the sixth-best winning percentage in the league since then and guided the Nets to the Eastern Conference's fourth seed, King thought it was better to go in another direction.
"It was a difficult decision," King said at the PNY Center. "We talked about it, but looking at the long-term future with this organization, I felt it was best to look elsewhere and try to find the right fit.
"I thanked him. He did a hell of a job for us in a difficult situation. But by doing it now, there's a lot of jobs open. Hopefully, it gets P.J. a chance and as well gives us a chance with a lot of candidates out there to explore and look at. That's what we'll be doing in the next couple of weeks."
That should include a conversation with Jackson, who's currently serving as an adviser for the Pistons during their coaching search. It's unclear if Jackson wants to return to the sideline or if he'd insist on having a say in personnel decisions.
King plans to get to the bottom of it. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll call him," he said. "I'll reach out to a lot of people and talk. But you know, he's one of the best coaches sitting on the sidelines, so you've got to reach out."
Deron Williams smirked when Jackson's name was mentioned. "Who wouldn't want to play for Phil Jackson?" he said.
Williams even said he'd play for his former coach in Utah, Jerry Sloan, with whom he sometimes clashed. But he also said the Nets could benefit from a taskmaster like Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "I think that's kind of what we need," he said."It starts in preseason in training camp. That's where we kind of, you know, find our identity. I've heard from how he practices. I've got a lot of [information] about how they practice and just repetition and everything is defense. If you're not in the spot he wants you to be in, he's kind of like a drill sergeant, and I think he gets a lot out of his players."
Jeff Van Gundy is an intriguing possibility. Although he hinted last week that he might want to return to coaching, he's staying extremely tight-lipped. "My comment," Van Gundy told Newsday at halftime of Game 1 of the Knicks-Pacers series Sunday, "is I have no comment."
No matter whom King hires, Williams and Joe Johnson hope they bring some offensive flexibility. Too often, the Nets threw the ball to someone and the ball stuck, leading to stagnation. They wouldn't mind an offense in which motion and passing the ball are more of a priority.
"Definitely," Johnson said. "I just think we definitely need it where we can get more movement and put guys in better position to score the basketball. In the playoffs, it's hard to play so much iso basketball, one-on-one, especially when you've played a team six times. That was probably one thing that kind of hindered us." With Barbara Barker