“We have a very strong experienced coach,” Prokhorov told reporters before Monday night’s home opener against Oklahoma City, a game in which the Nets would win by 31.
In speaking with various Nets players and a coaching peer, it’s apparent that Hollins’ demanding, honest, no-nonsense style sits well with the players and is a nice change-of-pace from their head coach last season.
“So far he’s a guy that demands the attention of us,” Nets guard Jarrett Jack told SheridanHoops. “As grown men and professionals that’s not always the case. Everybody can’t do that.”
“Lionel’s been great,” Veteran Nets wing Joe Johnson told SheridanHoops. “From the moment I’ve met him, we had a great training camp and the one thing as a player that you really respect about him is that he’s very, very honest. And you have to respect it whether you like it or not. He’s going to tell you the truth. I love that in a coach.”
We’re just three games into Brooklyn’s regular season and players like Jack have already taken notice of, and respect, Hollins’ commanding presence.
“To be able to do that this early with this type of group, an older group, I just think it speaks volumes for the type of respect everyone has for him,” Jack said.
A very popular and prevalent style in coaching and managerial changes across the sporting world dictates that one would like to hire an individual whose style and personality is different from that organization’s predecessor. The Nets seemed to nail that in hiring Hollins after seeing Jason Kidd get traded to Milwaukee over the summer in a reportedly botched power play that attempted to undermine management.
Reserve guard Alan Anderson played for Kidd last year and said that Hollins is completely different.
“Coach Hollins has been in the league for a long time, so you can tell [because of] his demeanor, he has his way because he’s been winning for a while,” Anderson told SheridanHoops. “With J-Kidd, it was more like he was trying to feel everybody out and see where he could benefit us as a coach, especially coming off being a player the year before.”
When Hollins has his way, his players tend to play hard and focus on defense and rebounding, two hallmarks of his Memphis teams that regularly reached the postseason.
“Our thing is that we play defense and we rebound,” Hollins said after Monday’s game. “And if we play defense, rebound and don’t turn the ball over, I feel good about the game and at least give ourselves a chance.”
Even though Monday’s win was determined extremely early on, Hollins said he urged his team to not get tired of doing the right thing. And instilling those hard-nosed principles in his players is something that one of his longtime colleagues really admires about Hollins.
“It seems so simple, but a lot of teams don’t play hard night in and night out,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told SheridanHoops. “It’s a long season, and you could buy into the fact that you know you’re tired or fatigued, but if you have a no-nonsense coach and a no-excuses organization, you could usually battle through things like that. And I think that’s what Lionel has been all of his career.”
Battling through fatigue for this year’s Nets will start on the practice courts.
“Practice is intense,” Jack told SheridanHoops. “It’s not too long where he wants to wear your body out, but he has things that he wants to get accomplished, things that we need to fine tune in order for us to be the team we envision we want to be.”
That’s not the only difference between Hollins and Kidd, according to Anderson.
“Coach Hollins demands a lot more with everything,” Anderson said. “He’s a perfectionist. I mean he wants everything perfect. We watch a lot of film, we critique a lot of stuff and, like I said, he wants everything to a T. He doesn’t want anyone half-doing anything.”
Anderson, though he likes Kidd, said the team is definitely responding better under Hollins given the team’s recent influx of younger players this season.
Jack appreciates Hollins’ no-nonsesne style and expects the Nets players to continue to respond well. With Hollins, Jack said, “you try to get in line or you don’t. You got a policy, you play a certain way, a certain style. He expects a certain way and that’s kinda it at the end of the day.”
With this group responding well to Hollins, perhaps the Nets finally have a coach they can count on for the long haul.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. You should follow him on Twitter.