Tony Brown has Nets feeling good about themselves again

NEW YORK -- After committing to the Brooklyn Nets on a long-term contract, Thaddeus Young offered a strong endorsement of Lionel Hollins before the start of the season.

“The good thing with Coach Hollins is you can lay it on the table and he’s going to lay it on the table,” Young said then. “He’s very, very tough. He’s hard on you. And I was telling some of the guys in the locker room, you have to be tough to be able to play for Coach Hollins. If you’re not tough, then you don’t need to be here. This is not the place for you.”

Now listen to Young talk about interim coach Tony Brown following Brooklyn’s 110-104 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night:

“When your coach is not panicking and he’s staying positive and he’s continued to motivate us, it’s huge for us as far as an energy standpoint,” Young said. “It makes us want to continue to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn’t keep us thinking about what’s happening before as much.

“With us, I think our tendencies before was we were harping on the fact that we were giving up leads and we were harping on the fact that we had some plays where we turned the ball over. But Tony’s mentality is, forget about what happened before this, and let’s try to make a push and try to win this game. That’s huge for us as a team. It says a lot that he believes in us, that he wants us to compete, that he believes that we can continue to win the game at any point.”

Based on the contrast of Young’s quotes, it’s clear that Hollins’ tough style had been wearing on his players.

A poor record in a W-L business ultimately was what got the coach fired. And a lack of talent certainly didn’t help. But it seems clear that a change, a different voice was needed. This particular group of players needed a coach that would believe in them, instill confidence in them and empower them -- especially when times get tough. Brooklyn has lost nine games this season in which it led by double digits.

“Listen, we’re a 10-27 team,” Brown said at the time he was installed on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. “Obviously we haven’t played well. We’ve had some key injuries. Our goal is to up our energy level. We want to play freer. We want to have a little bit more fun. But I’m not going in there and telling them, ‘Hey, we need to make the playoffs.’ Our job is to play a little bit harder, a little bit smarter.”

On Wednesday night, the Nets moved the ball, pushed pace and executed late in the fourth quarter -- something they usually don’t do. Trailing 92-90 with five minutes remaining, Brooklyn ripped off 10 of the next 12 points to secure the win. Brook Lopez (20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and Joe Johnson (14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) keyed the run by hitting some big shots, while Bojan Bogdanovic, who came in having missed 18 field goal attempts in a row, went 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

The Knicks may have been on the second half of a back-to-back without Carmelo Anthony, but at this point, the Nets, who had lost 10 straight at home, will take what they can get. And in a lost season, at least they have found a coach who is steering them in a positive direction.