The news that Nets head coach Jason Kidd had demoted top assistant coach Lawrence Frank might seem shocking to some, but for former Duke and Bulls star and current ESPN analyst, Jay Williams, it was no surprise. That’s because Williams witnessed their tense relationship first-hand at training camp with the Nets.
The conflict between Kidd and Frank actually came to a head after a November 4 loss to the Pistons. That’s when Kidd publicly lambasted his top assistant, as revealed by Yahoo’s estimable Adrian Wojnarowski:
After Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd blistered top assistant Lawrence Frank in a staff meeting on Nov. 4, the partnership was irreparably damaged and ultimately spiraled to its end on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Hours after a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic – Kidd’s first game on the bench following a two-game suspension to start the season – the entire coaching staff witnessed Kidd lose his temper with Frank and escalate a strangely uneasy and brief coaching partnership together.
There had been conversations about moving forward together in recent weeks, league sources said, but the decision to let go of Frank was Kidd’s choice.
Kidd told reporters on Tuesday night that Frank – the highest-paid assistant in the NBA – had been reassigned to writing daily reports and would no longer be on the Nets bench. It is unclear if the Nets will actually require Frank to perform those duties to gather the rest of his $1 million annual coaching contract, league sources said.
“With Jason,” one league source told Yahoo Sports, “once he turns on you, he turns. That’s how he was as a player, and that’s what we’re seeing again now.”
But the underpinnings for the rift between the former player and coach could stretch as far back in time as Kidd’s tenure with the New Jersey iteration of the Nets. Frank was an assistant under coach Byron Scott in the early part of the millennium when the Nets went to back-to-back NBA Finals with Kidd at the helm. But Frank took over for Scott from 2004-05 to 2007-08 when Kidd was traded to Dallas mid-season.
Jay Williams appeared on Jason Mcintyre’s podcast for The Big League, and discussed Kidd and Frank’s relationship when he appeared in training camp for the Nets after his life-threatening motorcycle accident:
“I’m speaking totally upon speculation here, but when I played training camp there, and I worked out with J-Kidd for a good five or six months, there was always a little bit of friction between [Kidd and Frank]. Not in the regards of, ‘hey, we hate each other,’ but more so in their styles; their approach to the game. When you arrived in training camp, Lawrence Frank handed you a book that was about 10 inches thick that was the playbook. I literally felt like an NFL Quarterback with all the plays I had to memorize, and I had a very difficult time doing so. And then while we would be in practice, when Lawrence Frank would call out different plays, J-Kidd would end up running the plays that he felt fit the team, and Lawrence wouldn’t really say anything to him. Now, Jay’s obviously a perennial All-Star, and you can see that, right? So, the fact that [Kidd] had to re-assign Lawrence Frank didn’t surprise me at all because he is going to do the things he wants to do his way.”
You can listen to the rest of Jay Williams podcast with Mcintyre where they continue to discuss the Nets and college basketball over at The Big Lead. But Williams’ anecdote foreshadows the butting of heads when the two were again teamed — this time on the bench — in Brooklyn this season.
Whether Frank’s demotion — he’s just writing reports and will no longer appear on the sidelines with the team — ignites a lethargic and injury-plagued Nets team, remains to be seen. But with all the losing this early in the season, and Kidd’s inexperience as a coach, the loss of a lifetime teacher of basketball like Lawrence Frank could spell even further doom for the most expensive payroll in the NBA.
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