NEW YORK -- Jason Kidd hasn't even coached 20 games in the NBA, and already he has had to make what will be one of the toughest decisions he will ever make as the Nets' head man.
On Tuesday, Kidd demoted lead assistant and former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank, citing "just different philosophies." Of course, Kidd and the Nets felt they needed Frank so badly that they signed him to a six-year, $6 million contract that included a position with the organization in the final two years of the deal, according to league sources.
Yet parting with Frank was an absolutely necessary move for Kidd to make. By demoting the most experienced guy on the staff -- the guy who was supposed to help guide Kidd -- the Nets' rookie head coach has decided he is going to do things his way. It's all on Kidd now, and the organization clearly supported his move, especially given how much money Frank makes.
Of all the things Kidd has had to deal with so far in this mess -- and he has a variety of issues that come in all shapes and sizes, like a bad box of chocolates -- the absolute last thing he needs to worry about is whether a "Game of Thrones" is happening on his bench.
Kidd is overloaded with things he has to figure out, such as how to stay afloat and win some games with an injury-ravaged roster that isn't looking so deep and talented after all. He can't do his job while having to wonder if his top assistant has a different agenda or "just different philosophies."
Sources say Kidd and Frank's relationship began to sour after assistant Joe Prunty, not Frank, was named the team's interim coach for the first two games of the season, when Kidd was serving a suspension. Sources say Frank, the assistant with the most head-coaching experience, seemed to be hurt by that decision.
A rift between the two widened after a blowup at the team facility that could be heard by many others in the building, sources confirmed. Clearly, Kidd and Frank were on two different pages.
The team made efforts to smooth things over, but Kidd and the organization felt the last alternative was the best solution. The only solution. One coaching source told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the Nets ultimately concluded that the pairing would not work if Frank insisted on telling Kidd "what to do."
Kidd's initial approach was to allow Frank and assistant coach John Welch to handle the defensive and offensive duties as coordinators of sorts. Kidd envisioned his coaching style to be much the same as how Larry Bird leaned on veteran assistants Rick Carlisle and Dick Harter with the Pacers. But two sources say Nets players felt Frank was overcoaching earlier in the season, and the worry was that players would tune him out.
Sources say the players support Kidd and prefer to hear one voice. The Frank demotion shows that Kidd has decided to be more hands-on and be the dominant voice, even if he is still very much finding his own coaching voice.
Golden State's Mark Jackson, another former player turned head coach, had a very strong opinion on Kidd's breakup with Frank, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
"When I look at that situation, I don't know what happened. I do see the reports of a 'difference in philosophies,'" said Jackson, who spent time around both Kidd and Frank as a YES commentator covering the New Jersey Nets. "If that's true, that's trash to me. Because there's one philosophy, and that's the head coach. I think we're giving too much to an assistant or a staff. You win, it's Jason Kidd. You lose, it's Jason Kidd.
"I think that when you talk about a difference in philosophy, that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Because -- and this is not Lawrence Frank, this is if it's true -- Lawrence Frank as a head coach, when I'm calling Nets games for three years, his staff had the same philosophy. That's just the way it is. And that staff should have the same philosophy as Jason Kidd, win, lose or draw, go down together. I think that's where you get success and that's the way it's supposed to be done."
The Nets' 5-13 start to the season has been utterly disappointing. The Nets have been rocked by injuries to Deron Williams (ankle), Paul Pierce (broken hand), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee); all are out indefinitely.
The Nets have about as much chemistry on the court right now as a hand-picked team of pickup basketball players -- an old and slow team, at that. And perhaps even more disturbing is that the Nets might have less heart and fight than we thought, judging by Tuesday's lopsided loss to the Nuggets.
Kidd's job is to find a way to fix everything and make it all work while taking his coaching baby steps amidst championship-or-bust expectations. The last thing he needs is to be concerned about whether there's division on his coaching staff.
When the team opened training camp at Duke University in October, Kidd and Frank were a tight pair and lunch partners. But a relationship that began in 2001, when Kidd arrived in a trade to New Jersey -- where Frank was an assistant coach under Byron Scott before later becoming Kidd's coach -- fell apart despite its best intentions.
Only time will tell how much Kidd will miss Frank's experience on the bench. But Kidd has decided to take control and do things his way. Some in the Nets organization view this move as Kidd's continued growth as a head coach.
Kidd made the move he had to make. Now it's time to show he can coach the Nets out of this mess without Frank.