Jeff Van Gundy said he was caught off guard when he found out Jason Kidd had a falling out with Lawrence Frank and demoted his lead assistant.
"I am truly surprised and it really is a disappointing thing," Van Gundy said on "The Mike Lupica Show" on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "Not only did they share a great bond as a player and coach, I think they were truly great friends. And to let a professional thing come between friendships, I think it really is too bad."
Kidd told reporters reassigned Frank to "doing daily reports," citing "different philosophies." However, sources say Kidd and Frank's relationship soured after assistant Joe Prunty was named the interim head coach for the first two games while Kidd served a suspension, and the rift widened after a blowup between the two coaches.
Despite Kidd and the Nets feeling so strongly that Frank was the perfect mentor for the rookie coach that they signed him to a six-year, $6 million deal, Kidd and the organization decided the right move was to demote Frank.
"I know this about Lawrence Frank, he is an outstanding basketball coach who I think any head coach would be happy to hire him," Van Gundy said. "I couldn’t respect a guy more than him, and I feel for him today because obviously this has got to be a tough period. Everybody I think has followed his career path and for Kidd to make such a move so quickly in his tenure just gives more perception that this thing is not running smoothly."
Van Gundy said the Frank episode and the Nets' disappointing 5-13 start has to have been "a very rude awakening to the coaching profession" for Kidd.
"I wasn’t as concerned with the learning curve as I was, does he know what he is about to get into and is he truly ready for a change in his professional life?" Van Gundy said. "You go from being a player and three weeks later you are a head coach, you are still in basketball but the job descriptions are so much different ... That is why I think it is always beneficial to be an assistant coach first. So that you know is this coaching life for me.
"Is this something I want to be worried about 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?" Van Gundy said. "Do I want to worry about Tyshawn Taylor and Reggie Evans and [Kevin] Garnett and [Paul] Pierce ... So I guess my biggest concern was did he know what he was getting into and would he like what he had gotten himself into after the season started. I don’t know Kidd at all, so I don’t know the answers. But this has been I'm sure a very rude awakening to the coaching profession and how dependent you are on your best players to set the right tone and right attitude and right culture for your team."
Van Gundy says the toughest thing about the Kidd-Frank divorce is a fractured friendship.
"I really feel for Lawrence and Kidd," the ESPN analyst and former Knicks and Rockets coach said. "As you know, if you can have a couple of good friends, that is great. When you lose a friend, that's really disappointing."