P.J. Carlesimo hopes to keep job

P.J. Carlesimo believes the possibility of finishing out the season as the Brooklyn Nets' coach is "available" to him.

He knows that he can strengthen his hold on the job if the Nets can string together a number of victories under his leadership. Carlesimo, formerly a Nets assistant under Avery Johnson, who was fired Thursday, never had talked with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov prior to Saturday.

"He wants to win a championship. He's willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship," Carlesimo said of Prokhorov. "He's got a good understanding of our team, and the NBA. I think if we keep winning games, that would be good. He definitely prefers winning."

He and Prokhorov discussed Carlesimo's future over lunch, among other things.

"We went to Milos, an excellent Greek restaurant on 55th street (in Manhattan)," said Carlesimo, who led the Nets past the Charlotte Bobcats, 97-81, in his debut on Friday night. "The vegetables were incredible. The sliced zucchini. The food was really good. I couldn't really eat a lot because I don't like to eat before a game, and I couldn't drink wine, which was disappointing. But it was excellent. A really, really good restaurant. I'd love to go back there. (Mikhail) was a gentleman. We had a really, really good time."

Carlesimo said it was difficult to be in Johnson's position -- the final year of his contract with enormous expectations for the team. Johnson wanted an extension, but never got one. The Nets are in the third year of Prokhorov's five-year championship plan.

"It's infinitely better to have many years on your contract and hopefully at a good number, because that does make you a more effective coach without question," Carlesimo said. "At this point, if Phil (Jackson) were coaching or (Jerry Sloan) when he was in Utah. Gregg Popovich. They have more credibility with the players and more leverage with the players than I do, yes. But it's honestly not a concern now.

"You really don't want to go into the last year of your contract ever. There's no coach that can say he wants to do that. ... But coaches don't have, with very, very, very few exceptions, the leverage that a player has. There's more zeros on their contracts than on coach's contracts."

On Friday, Prokhorov, who left a heli-skiing vacation in Canada to be at the Barclays Center, publicly supported Carlesimo at a news conference. He also sidestepped questions about the team's interest in Jackson, the former Bulls and Lakers coach.

"P.J. is the head coach and we have an amount of trust with him," Prokhorov said. "Now P.J. is the head coach, and if it becomes necessary, you know who the usual suspects are."

A league source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets hold Jeff Van Gundy in high regard and consider him a serious candidate for the job, if he's interested. But another league source told ESPNNewYork.com that Van Gundy, an ESPN analyst, needs to learn more about the inner workings of the organization and ownership before determining his level of interest. The source said Van Gundy, the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach, likely would prefer taking over the Nets after the season, not during it.

"I would never comment on a job that was filled," Van Gundy told Yahoo! Sports, which first reported his preference to wait until after the season. "I was an interim coach. I hope P.J. has great success there. He's someone I respect greatly."

Asked about the possibility of Van Gundy taking over, Carlesimo comically replied tongue-in-cheek, "I told Mikhail today in no uncertain terms that I didn't want him talking to anybody or (general manager) Billy (King) -- especially Jeff. That's a personal thing. It's not a comment on his coaching ability. It's just a personal dislike."

Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson also has emerged as a candidate for the Nets job, a source told ESPN.com. Sampson coached the Rockets during Kevin McHale's leave from the team earlier this season.

One coaching source advised Thursday that an approach for Southern Methodist University's Larry Brown could not be ruled out, even with Brown in his first season at SMU, because of Brown's close relationship with Nets general manager Billy King. Other veteran coaches available include Nate McMillan, Mike Dunleavy and Flip Saunders, also an ESPN analyst.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.