Pat Riley faxing his resignation to the New York Knicks in order to become head coach and president of the Miami Heat was controversial. It stunned the basketball community. However, the audacity of Jason Kidd’s power move to replace General Manager Billy King and assume control of the Nets’ basketball operations will forever remain a historic moment in the basketball lore of this city.
Kidd’s ultimatum was either he be allowed to replace King, who first hired him, or he’d depart for the Milwaukee Bucks—it was a gangster-like move. It was like John Gotti’s orchestrating the murder of his boss, Dom Castellano, at Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan on my mom’s birthday. It was also a reminder of two old adages. First, “If you want a friend, get a dog.” The second, “With friends like that,who needs enemies?”
Kidd began his coaching career with the Nets this past NBA season immediately upon retiring after a 19-year playing career. He secured a four-year, $10.5 million contract and coached the Nets to a 44-38 season, guiding the team to a sixth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. They beat the third-seeded Toronto Raptors in seven games but were eliminated in the second round by the Miami Heat.
Kidd replaced a veteran coach, the now fired Larry Drew, who took over the Milwaukee Bucks last season. Drew’s team was 15-67 and fell to last place, securing them a first-round draft pick.
The team was sold in April. The euphoria and angst to improve may have delayed the new owners from familiarizing themselves with some NBA rules, especially the anti-tampering rule. Evidence suggests Kidd would have never stepped into Brooklyn without another position being guaranteed. Considering the timing, it was done before the Nets permitted the two parties to communicate.
Like Riley’s move, it’s about power, but with novice coaches Derek Fisher (the Knicks) and Steve Kerr (Golden State) recently signing on for $5 million per year, it’s also about the money.
In Kidd’s defense, coaches should be able to make personnel decisions if the opportunity exists considering how coaches can be terminated for a team’s poor performance. But not in this case. That’s not what he signed on for. If King left or moved up, yes. Kidd signed on to coach, but with his ultimatum, there was no turning back, no coming home, just a negotiation for compensation, two second-round draft picks and the team’s search for their fourth coach in two years, re-emphasizing another old adage, “Don’t let the doorknob hitcha, Jason!”