EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When will the Brooklyn Nets finally find the right coach?
Is Lionel Hollins going to be the guy who brings an end to all the changes at the position?
Brook Lopez is entering his seventh NBA season -- in that span, the Nets have had seven different coaches.
“It’s been ... interesting,” Lopez said on media day.
Since the team moved to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets have had three coaches. Hollins is the fourth.
“The fourth one in three years,” Deron Williams said. “So, you know, maybe this will be the right voice. Hopefully, it’s the right voice.”
In Memphis, Hollins was able to bring stability. He went 13-26 on an interim basis in 2008-09. In his first full season at the helm, the Grizzlies went 40-42 and missed the playoffs. But their winning percentage increased in his final three seasons with the team -- from .561 to .621 to. 683.
The Grizzlies formed an identity as a tough, defensive-minded team that played big. They were aggressive and gave their best effort every night -- even if it wasn’t the most aesthetically-pleasing basketball to watch.
“Well, they let me stay for a long time,” Collins joked Saturday, following the team’s first day of training camp. “And when you get to stay for a long time, stability comes.
“Just having a plan and vision of how you want it done, how you want the team to be perceived from my perspective and then have them create an identity on the court for however they play. Keep doing it day after day after day, and if it’s successful then they let you stay around a little longer. Keep having success and growing on it, that’s what it’s about.”
Already, Hollins is trying to instill similar values in the Nets: toughness, aggressiveness, physicality, mental fortitude. The roster might not exactly be the same -- Lopez and Kevin Garnett aren’t Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and the Nets have more shooters than the Grizzlies did -- but the core principles are the same. Now it’s about installing plays and learning systems.
Hollins said the Nets aren’t going to play the same way they did under Jason Kidd. There are no stretch fours like Paul Pierce on the roster this year.
“I want to create a mentality, create a culture. Today they surprised me with their energy and effort on defense,” Hollins said. “But can we back it up?”
When asked about toughness, Joe Johnson said, “I don't think we can sit here and honestly talk about it. I think it's more show and prove. We talked about being a tougher team last year, when J-Kidd was here. We showed signs of it, but we weren’t consistent. We’ve got to get some consistency out of every guy on this team. Then we’ll see what happens. But until then, we can't really -- we can say we want to be a tougher team, but we have to go out there and show it.”
Hollins wants his team to practice, and practice a lot. “Under Jason Kidd, we practiced ... but not really,” Johnson said, causing reporters to laugh.
Things are different now.
“We gotta be a defensive-minded team first,” Williams said. “We wanna push the ball. We wanna be a tough team. And we just gotta play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion for the game. We’ve gotta believe that we can win every time we step on the floor. I think we’re a veteran group and we realize that we have to be a good defensive team if we wanna win, point blank. If we’re not gonna be a good defensive team, it’s gonna be hard for us to compete for a championship.”
So how did Hollins feel on Day 1, after being out of coaching for a year?
“Very painful. My back was hurting. My feet were hurting,” he said. “But other than that it felt great. I had butterflies before we came out. It was a good day.”