A significant part of any professional coach's job is getting his players to buy what he's selling. It doesn't matter how talented the coach may be at designing plays or adapting to the opposition if his players aren't on board. Without players, you don't win.
The messages sent from the front office go a long way toward forcing players to do what the coach wants them to do. The way the Nets have handled Lawrence Frank's job status is a case study in ensuring that the players don't go along with his plans.
Last week, Nets president Rod Thorn told the media that he was taking time to decide if Frank would be back next season. His reasoning was honest. Thorn wondered if Frank's voice still reached his players, but the fact that he even had to ask the question made it seem like a bad idea to risk choosing the wrong answer to the question.
Thorn obviously thinks the Nets are still listening to Frank, because he announced Wednesday that Frank would be back. He didn't do much to assure us that he actually believes he's the right man for the job, though. For one thing, Frank's contract only runs through the end of next season and the Nets won't give him an extension. If he's the right man for the job, there should be a little more to show for that belief.
These two lukewarm shows of support may have something to do with the economy. The Nets don't want to pay Frank to not coach for them while paying another coach. It's much easier financially to just have an interim assistant take over the job next season, although terrible management if a team is actually trying to win games. The Nets have made it clear that they aren't enamored with Frank, and finances are the only plausible reason why they wouldn't make a move to replace him right now.
Returning to Thorn's crucial question of how much Frank resonates with his team, it's surprising that he came up with a positive answer. On Tuesday, the Nets' point guard Devin Harris, a player who became an All-Star under Frank, publicly came down on the opposite side of the coin. He made the same weak show of support for Frank before answering a question about whether or not the team listens to Frank.
"If you look at us and how we play defensively, you wouldn't think so," Harris said. "Maybe not. But it's a hard thing to discern because you can only speak for yourself. It's no secret that we're not that good defensively and we tend to struggle with team-oriented things, so maybe not everybody is buying in as much as we need to."
Frank's back, but the long-term prognosis is pretty bleak.