Lionel Hollins: ‘I Believe I’m a Leader’

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins

BROOKLYN – For Brooklyn Nets fans that are not familiar with new coach Lionel Hollins, those who might be wondering if he’s a “slick-and-shtick” or “stand-and-deliver” guy, consider the outfit he wore at yesterday's introductory press conference at Barclays Center.

It was black and white.

There is no gray with this veteran coach, which is exactly what this franchise needs at this moment and going forward.

The last few weeks have been tumultuous, with Jason Kidd bolting for Milwaukee in a Baltimore Colts-to-Indianapolis-like move.

And last season was a roller coaster ride that was nearly derailed by injuries and new faces.

Hollins, 60, is a veteran who oozes steadfastness and confidence. When asked if he needed to be a stabilizing force for this team, his answer was commanding.

“I believe that I’m a leader,’’ said Hollins.

“The only stabilizing way I can be is just that I’m here and if they’re out watching they know I’m going to be straight with them,’’ Hollins said. “I’m going to be consistent with them and we’re going to have fun, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to win.’’

The Nets have won in recent years. Two years ago they won 49 games under P.J. Carlesimo, but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.

Last season they won 44 games under Kidd and took another step, getting to the Eastern Conference semifinals. After the Nets lost to the Miami Heat, the consensus within the organization was that familiarity and consistency were the last ingredients toward taking the next step.

The successful teams – San Antonio, Miami, Indiana, Dallas – have a confidence born from having kept a core group together. When it’s crunch time, those teams have an edge.

Which is exactly what Hollins is looking to instill in Brooklyn. He wouldn’t commit to a style of play. He would commit to a philosophy.

“I want to be tough, mentally,’’ Hollins said. “What I prided myself on as a player and a coach in trying to win and to win it all, [is] how mentally tough you are because there is so much adversity in that 82-game season. The playoffs are such a marathon that it takes mental toughness. It takes cohesiveness.’’

Hollins said he has briefly spoken to point guard Deron Williams and will begin the process of reaching out to other Nets. He will leave the team’s free agency pursuit of Paul Pierce to G.M. Billy King.

Hollins wants a team, a team with an old-school mentality of taking no prisoners. That’s what he built in Memphis, leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals in 2012-13. He was not retained by Memphis, which shifted to a more analytics approach to team building.

“The exciting thing for me and the other guys is he wants the players to get better, he wants the team to get better,’’ Nets forward Mason Plumlee said after the Nets lost 98-84 to Oklahoma City Monday night in their third Orlando Pro Summer League game. “It seems like he’s going to develop guys, which is great.’’

Hollins believes in building players that want to take charge.

“I want them to be leaders,’’ said Hollins.

But make no mistake about who is in charge when the players cross that line and step on the court.

This is Lionel Eugene Hollins’ team.

“People ask me, ‘How are you going to do in New York?’’’ Hollins said. “I know who I am.’’

And now, so do you.