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GM Vandeweghe takes coaching reins of hapless Nets News New Jersey Nets

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News » GM Vandeweghe takes coaching reins of hapless Nets

GM Vandeweghe takes coaching reins of hapless Nets

GM Vandeweghe takes coaching reins of hapless NetsEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - As the New Jersey Nets try to dodge NBA ignominy, their next opponent couldn't be more appropriate.

When the Nets seek to avoid losing a record-setting 18th straight game to open the season Wednesday, they'll face Dallas point guard Jason Kidd, one of the stars they traded away to save money and get younger. They'll meet All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, mentioned as proof of Kiki Vandeweghe's talent for developing young players.

In Dallas, Vandeweghe also worked with Del Harris, who will be his grizzled assistant as he attempts his first head coaching job.

The Nets announced Tuesday that the 51-year-old Vandeweghe, their general manager, will take over coaching duties for the rest of the season. He won't be on the bench when they host Dallas on Wednesday, though. His tenure officially starts with Thursday's practice, after New Jersey sets - or doesn't set - the record.

"Because of his ability to work with young players, to get the best out of young players, he's a natural for this job," Nets president Rod Thorn said.

The Nets fired Lawrence Frank, their coach for 6 1/2 seasons, on Sunday morning. They lost to the Lakers under interim coach Tom Barrise Sunday night, tying the 1988-89 Miami Heat and 1999 Los Angeles Clippers by dropping 17 consecutive games to open a season. Barrise will coach again Wednesday.

"I think we're a desperate team," veteran guard Keyon Dooling said. "It's one thing to say it; it's another thing to go out and play like it."

Dooling won't be playing Wednesday - he's been out after offseason hip surgery, part of the rash of injuries that depleted an already thin roster. New Jersey played some games this fall without four of its projected starters, and Frank sometimes was forced to suit up the minimum eight.

The Nets have repeatedly shed payroll in anticipation of wooing members of next summer's star-studded free agent class ahead of their long-planned and much-delayed move to Brooklyn. But all that salary cap room might not make any difference if free agents doubt New Jersey can compete for a championship anytime soon.

Thorn acknowledged the Nets need to show signs that they're not too far away from contending.

"We're going to try to let everybody see we are capable of winning games, that we do have some very good pieces here that will be here for quite a while that would make it more attractive for potential free agents at the end of the year," he said.

Thorn said there was no point in hiring a permanent head coach because the Nets could have a new owner soon. Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov faces a vote by the NBA's owners by the end of the month on his $200 million bid for the club.

Vandeweghe said his goal hadn't been to become a head coach. But when Thorn raised the possibility Monday, he agreed the move made sense. Vandeweghe will retain his GM title.

"Rod is a very persuasive guy," he said, "and much smarter than I am."

Vandeweghe played 13 years in the NBA, making two All-Star teams with Denver.

"He understands what we go through, the whole 82-game grind, getting back at 6 in the morning from West Coast trips, stuff like that," Nets center Brook Lopez said.

Vandeweghe returned to serve as the Nuggets' GM from 2001-06. His only coaching experience came in his role as director of player development for the Mavericks for two seasons before that, when he worked with Nowitzki and Steve Nash early in their careers.

That's where he got to know Harris, who he called "one of the brightest guys in the game." Harris compiled a 556-457 record in 12 full seasons as a head coach with the Lakers, Bucks and Rockets, leading Houston to the 1981 NBA finals.

The 72-year-old Harris was an assistant with the Bulls last season, then was set to serve as GM of the Mavericks' future affiliate in the NBA Development League. In Dallas, he worked with Nets All-Star guard Devin Harris, and he's also familiar with another key building block, forward Yi Jianlian. Yi played for Harris on China's 2004 Olympic team.

"He's seen every situation possible," Devin Harris said. "He was great for us in Dallas. He's a voice of reason."

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Added: December 1, 2009


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