Longtime Nets President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn announced he is stepping down on July 15. Thorn wants to guide the Nets through the beginning of the free-agent bonanza before stepping aside. With Thorn out as GM, and owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s deep pockets, a wide range of names have been mentioned to replace Thorn. Here we break down the candidates:
Jerry Colangelo — Colangelo is a basketball legend whose most recent accomplishment in his storied career was building the 2008 USA “Redeem Team.” He was the longtime owner and general manager of the Phoenix Suns, and helped make the franchise one of the best in the NBA even though they have never won an NBA title. If Prokhorov wants to make a big splash and prove to everyone just how much money he has then he he’ll hire Colangelo because it will likely take big bucks to get him out of retirement. Colangelo said over the weekend that if the Nets called he would take the call, and early on he appears the front-runner.
Bobby Marks — Marks (no relation to me) is Thorn’s right-hand man and second-in-command for the Nets. Thorn has a familiarity with him, and is said to be really fond of him. Marks would be a safe pick for Thorn, as it would keep continuity in the front-office. However, hiring Marks would probably not be something Prokhorov would want as Marks is unproven as a GM, and is not really a guy you can sell to free agents. Marks probably won’t get the job unless Thorn really pushes for him, but even then he is a long-shot.
Kevin Pritchard — Pritchard was inexplicably fired by Portland this past week despite turning that team into a contender following the “Jail Blazers” era. Pritchard is one of the top GMs in the game, and would actually be a great fit for the Nets. Rod Thorn and Co. have stockpiled draft picks for the next few years, and Pritchard’s expertise is the Draft. With all those picks, Pritchard would be able to wheel-and-deal like he did in Portland, which should make him very appealing to the Nets.
Sam Presti — The whiz-kid in Oklahoma City has done a remarkable job turning that franchise into one of the most exciting in the NBA. He has built a team that is the envy of the rest of the League in both talent and chemistry, and is one of the hottest names in the executive ranks. It would take a lot to pry Presti from Oklahoma City, where he seems to be firmly entrenched in trying to bring that team to the championship level. If Prokhorov throws a lot of money at him, though, who knows what might happen.
R.C. Buford — Buford has been one of the top GMs in the game for a long time. Him and Gregg Popovich have formed one of the most stable front offices in all of basketball, and Buford is beloved by fans and owner Peter Holt. Buford has allowed the Spurs to thrive by keeping Tim Duncan, and continually plugging in players around him who are effective. Buford also has a knack for finding international talent like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. While Buford may get contacted by New Jersey, I don’t think he would leave his comfort zone, and his life in San Antonio behind.
Jeff Bower — The current GM in New Orleans has done a very good job with that team considering the circumstances. Bower works for George Shinn, whose cost-cutting measures have helped prevent the franchise from giving Chris Paul the team he needs to win a championship, and Bower had to deal with the aftermath of building a team as the city was rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. Bower has made some great draft picks the past few years with Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton last year, and Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter this year. Bower has been with New Orleans since 1995, but with their ownership situation currently in flux, now would be the time, if any, to jump ship.
Maurizio Gherardini — Gherardini has served under Bryan Colangelo in Toronto for the past few years after serving as the GM of top Italian club Benetonn Treviso. Before leaving Benetton for the Raptors, Gherardini was pursued by Prokhorov to be the head of CSKA Moscow, but Prokhorov was turned down as the Raptors outbid him. Gherardini is a great talent evaluator of international players and has helped Toronto sign overseas pros like Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker. If offered the job, Toronto won’t hold him back according to reports, and with Prokhorov’s desire for a global brand, hiring Gherardini could happen.
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