Better times for Larry Drew last Friday, who has been fired as Bucks head coach this morning. Photo: Howie Magner. Jason Kidd will be the new head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. That sentence looks weird because it is weird. According to several reports, the Bucks and Brooklyn Nets have reached an agreement that sends […]
Better times for Larry Drew last Friday, who has been fired as Bucks head coach this morning. Photo: Howie Magner.
Jason Kidd will be the new head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
That sentence looks weird because it is weird. According to several reports, the Bucks and Brooklyn Nets have reached an agreement that sends two second-round picks to Brooklyn in return for the coaching rights to Jason Kidd.
Coach trades are uncommon, but they do happen — the Clippers dealt a first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Doc Rivers just last year. But this one is pretty strange.
Kidd coached in Brooklyn for just one season, leading the Nets to a 44-38 record and a seven-game victory over the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. He’d just completed the first year of a four-year, $10.5 million deal with the Nets.
Another coach to sign a four-year, $10 million deal with a new team last offseason was Larry Drew. Drew has now been formally fired as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
Drew was seated to the right of new draft pick Jabari Parker at his introductory press conference at the Milwaukee Public Market just three days ago. Seated to his left was General Manager John Hammond, who reportedly had no knowledge of the negotiations with Kidd. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, new owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens hadn’t communicated anything at all to Drew about negotiating with Kidd for his job as head coach.
Here are Drew’s initial comments at Friday’s press conference (which you can watch in full on Bucks.com):
“Three weeks ago, I was sitting in Los Angeles watching Jabari [Parker] workout. To be perfectly honest, I sat there and just kind of envisioned him in a Bucks uniform. And I just thought to myself, if this happened, there would be something really really special. And lo and behold, sitting there at the table last night, I’m looking at John [Hammond], and John’s looking at me, and we’re watching the commissioner walk up to the podium, and everybody was kind of holding their breath. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. When they announced Andrew Wiggins as the first pick by Cleveland, I looked around the room and looked at the faces and I could see guys were really trying to hold their composure. When it came to our pick, faces just changed because we knew we got the man that we really wanted. We really did.
“As I look forward to this upcoming season, working with a player of Jabari’s caliber, it kind of reminds me back when I was coaching in Los Angeles and we got a guy in a trade by the name of Kobe Bryant. I remember watching this guy and I remember getting goosebumps watching this guy work out. I got those same goosebumps three weeks ago. I’m just excited, not just for myself, but for the city of Milwaukee to get a [player] of Jabari’s caliber. We’re looking forward to building this thing.
“We feel we have a piece we’re sure is going to take us to another level. Anytime you go through a rebuilding process, it’s important that you get the right pieces. Last night, we accomplished that. I am really looking forward to coaching Jabari and I’m looking forward to making him even a better player.”
Those statements don’t sound like they’re coming from someone who’s job is in jeopardy.
For Lasry and Edens, this deal with Kidd calls into question the all-important matter of trust. The new owners have spent their first few months on the job cultivating the trust of the Brew City, and this move doesn’t exactly scream trustworthy.
The New York Post, which first reported the Kidd-to-the-Bucks story on Saturday, said Lasry and Kidd are good friends. According to ESPN New York, “Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry is known to be close with Kidd after stints as a Nets minority owner and as the former All-Star point guard’s financial adviser.”
If this is at its core a friendship decision and not a basketball decision, that would be a problem in the trust department.
What’s happened to Drew in this situation is unfortunate, but the NBA is, after all, a business. And perhaps the bottom line is that Drew is not the right man for the job. He didn’t inspire much confidence in his one year as head coach and was at the helm for the team’s worst season in its history. Firing him has not been outside the realm of possibility since the new ownership came on board.
After a tough 10-21 start with the Nets (where he did a bunch of strange things), Kidd righted the ship despite a slew of injuries and was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month in both January and March, and he became the first rookie head coach in NBA history to win a decisive game seven on the road in the playoffs, before falling to the Miami Heat, 4 games to 1, in the second round. He might be a good coach; he might not. It’s hard to tell after one year.
The question now is whether a big-name coach with one year of experience — and considerable character concerns— is worth two second round picks and the collateral damage to what had been sky-high approval ratings for Lasry and Edens.
The Bucks are yet to make any formal announcement about Kidd and the new owners are yet to make any public statements on the matter, so this story is not yet over. Stay tuned.