Nets fire coach Lawrence Frank after 0-16 start
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP)The winless New Jersey Nets fired coach Lawrence Frank on Sunday, several hours before they matched the worst start in NBA history with their 17th straight loss.
Assistant Tom Barrise temporarily replaced his friend, but the Nets remained 0-for-the-season with a 106-87 loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Though Frank's departure has been widely expected while New Jersey lost every game in the season's first 4 1/2 weeks, several of Frank's players claimed they were stunned when their energetic coach showed up at their morning team meeting in Los Angeles not wearing his Nets gear.
"It's tough, because he was the hardest worker on the team," center Brook Lopez said. "He's so passionate about what he does. It was a rough situation, and he did a great job of not using our injuries as an excuse. He came in every night and had us prepared."
The Nets won't choose a permanent replacement for Frank until after they return from their four-game road trip Monday. Their next game is Wednesday at home against Dallas, when the Nets must win to avoid NBA ignominy.
Frank was in his sixth full season, the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference and the most successful coach in the Nets' NBA history. But none of those victories came this season, and the team dismissed him with a 225-241 record.
"Lawrence always approached every day with a passion for his craft that was infectious, and his dedication to the game as well as his work ethic are to be both admired and appreciated," Nets president Rod Thorn said in a statement. "I wish he and his family only the best of good fortune in the future."
Frank began his career with a 13-game winning streak, the best coaching start in league history. But he couldn't overcome a losing streak that was even longer, just a game shy of the 17-game skids set by the 1988-89 Miami Heat and the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers.
Plagued by injuries this season, the Nets faced some games where they were missing four starters and suited up the minimum eight players. Still, they played hard and stayed close for most of those games, figuring the wins would come when they started getting some bodies back.
"That's probably as little talent as I've seen anybody put on the floor in the long time with everybody hurt," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Yet they were able to fight and stay competitive. The guy's done a great job there."
Despite the losses, Frank was expected to last through the four-game trip out West that ends Sunday, with management wanting to give him time with a regular roster. But they decided it was time for a change after the Nets fell far behind in losses at Denver and Sacramento.