NEW YORK -- Jason Kidd could not even get to his 20th game as an NBA coach without embarrassing himself, and more than once, too. He pulled a Mike Tomlin before Mike Tomlin could, and he fired a mentor he spent the summer recruiting with all the restraint of a teenage girl chasing after Justin Bieber's car.
Brooklyn Nets executives warned Kidd that running off his mentor/assistant/friend/former head coach Lawrence Frank a mere 17 games into a six-year commitment would make the franchise look more dysfunctional off the court than on it.
"All the consequences were laid out for him," a league source said. And Kidd went ahead and put down Frank anyway, quitting on a rocky relationship because it was the easy thing to do.
So is it any surprise that the Nets quit on Kidd again Thursday night, on national TV and on his home Brooklyn floor with the 3-13 New York Knicks in the house? Kidd isn't only coaching a lousy team. Right now, he's coaching a heartless one, too.
The Knicks won by a 113-83 count, outscoring Brooklyn by 18 points in the third quarter, the quarter that routinely serves as a bottomless pit for the Nets.
You know, the quarter that routinely follows the locker room sessions where coaches like Jason Kidd are supposed to make their halftime adjustments.
The Knicks entered the Barclays Center shooting 42 percent from the field, and they shot 57 percent against Kidd's Nets. The Knicks were shooting 32 percent from 3-point range in their first 16 games, and they shot 59 percent from 3 in their 17th.
"Tonight," Kidd said of the Knicks, "it looked like the team of last year, where they made a lot of 3s."
Jason Kidd was a big part of that team until his 40-year-old body broke down in the end, leaving him literally unable to make a shot. As a visionary at the point, one of the all-time greats, Kidd is finding that it's a lot easier to be a coach on the floor than a coach on the sideline.
While it's true that Frank did a dreadful job with Brooklyn's defense -- especially in light of the fact he was given an unprecedented contract for an NBA assistant -- it's also true that the same defense was shredded in consecutive home games against Denver and the Knicks with Frank locked out of the gym.
"Lawrence Frank is the guy Jason wanted to bring in; nobody inside pushed it on him at all," the league source said. "The relationship didn't work, and as a manager sometimes you have to work through troubles in relationships. It was building for months, and Jason didn't want to try to work through it anymore.
"So the move was made. And as terrible as it looked, at least this much is clear: It's all on Jason now, and nobody else."
Kidd is 5-14, and for the first time in his basketball life the game is moving too fast for him. That was the whole point in hiring Frank, a veteran who could slow it down for the novice until he had time to adjust and figure it all out. All along, Kidd sounded more excited about the acquisition of Frank than he did about the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
But Kidd and Frank are control freaks who couldn't control their suddenly volatile mentor-protege relationship, a truth compelling Kidd -- a card-carrying coach killer in college and the pros -- to move on his guy and then to discuss the termination with all the compassion of some red-eyed cyborg.
Thursday night, while Frank was off somewhere merrily writing up his game report, Garnett made it clear that the firing negatively impacted the Nets.
"We have a new system," Garnett said. "We're changing things on the fly. Jason's putting in a lot of new stuff since Lawrence left."
New stuff that isn't working any better than the old stuff. Two nights after Timofey Mozgov collected 17 points and 20 rebounds in 31 minutes against his team, and a few hours after he claimed the Nets were "closer than maybe the public thinks," Kidd watched the Knicks snap their nine-game losing streak by sinking 16 of 27 3s while making the Barclays Center sound an awful lot like Madison Square Garden.
No, the Nets didn't have Deron Williams or Pierce in a starting five advertised in the preseason as the league's best, but Pierce has been awful, anyway, and the Knicks were going without their second-best player, Tyson Chandler.
"We feel we have enough talent to win," Kidd conceded, "but we're coming up short." The losing coach maintained he wouldn't use injuries as an excuse, but he did cite a lack of health as "one of those issues" holding back the Nets. Asked how he'd evaluate his own performance as a coach, Kidd said, "I think you get evaluated by being whole. It starts there. And then once that occurs, then you're evaluated."
But Kidd's been around long enough to understand that almost every team deals with significant injuries, that he has enough active talent to avoid getting blown out at home, and that Williams hasn't exactly been a lights-out franchise player since arriving as a Net.
So a lot of this comes down to coaching, to motivating, to finding ways to elevate a number of players in a funk. When the Nets tried but failed to hire Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers, when they were left with a bunch of George Karls and Lionel Hollinses and Brian Shaws to choose from, I thought Kidd made a lot of sense.
I thought that Kidd would bring instant credibility to the bench, and would see the game the way he saw it as a player -- two frames ahead of everyone else. But that was before he embarrassed himself by intentionally spilling soda onto the court against the Lakers, and before he embarrassed the franchise by asking for Frank's playbook. That was before Shaw, coach of the 11-7 Nuggets, embarrassed Kidd and the Nets on Tuesday night.
"There's a lot of moving parts here," Garnett said.
They're all moving in the wrong direction. That's why Garnett, proud Celtic, has been wearing the expression of a man kicking himself for letting Pierce talk him into this. That's why Kidd was booed in his own building during pregame introductions.
Way back when, Kidd took a 26-win New Jersey Nets team to two consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. So yes, if he could do that as a player, it's possible he could turn it around this year as a coach.
Only in the here and now, that looks like a bigger longshot than the $180 million Nets winning the East. Carmelo Anthony called the Knicks "the laughingstock of the league" the other day, but after four quarters of the city game Thursday night, the joke was most definitely on Jason Kidd.