NEW YORK (AP) - Lionel Hollins isn’t after power or prestige. Doesn’t seem interested in fame and fortune.
“I’m very low maintenance and I’m actually embarrassed, I drove up and saw the big billboard with my picture on it and I’m like, ‘Come on,’” he said Monday, referring to the front of Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“But I just want to coach.”
After a year away from it that he feared might turn into two, Hollins finally has another opportunity.
The Nets hired him last week to replace Jason Kidd, who left for the Milwaukee Bucks after his bid for more power within the organization was denied. Hollins, who lost his job in Memphis and failed to land another one despite leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals in his last season, suddenly ended up with a position he was considered for last year.
“As one gets older, you don’t know if the opportunity’s ever going to come back around again and to have this opportunity is truly a blessing,” Hollins said. “And the way it came about is truly miracle-like and I’m very thankful.”
Hollins guided the Grizzlies to a 56-26 record in 2012-13 but his contract wasn’t renewed after Memphis lost to San Antonio in the West finals. He had since interviewed for jobs in Denver, Cleveland and Minnesota, plus both teams in Los Angeles.
The Nets never formally interviewed him last year, but general manager Billy King had done plenty of research before hiring Kidd. When he needed to conduct another coaching search after only one season, he turned quickly to Hollins, hiring him after they met twice last week.
King said Hollins’ teams in Memphis reminded him of the Chicago Bulls under Tom Thibodeau, remaining difficult to play even when they lost key players to injuries.
“If you look at all his Memphis teams, they got better every year,” King said. They played hard. When Rudy Gay got hurt, they continued to win. So didn’t matter if players were in or out, they just played consistently and I think that’s a testament to his system and how he coaches.”
Yet the Grizzlies weren’t interested in keeping him when they came under new ownership and management in Hollins’ final season, even after he led them to a franchise-record 214 victories. So he’s looking forward to building a good relationship with King, who will welcome that after an occasionally rocky year with Kidd before his departure.
“To have people over you that are on the same page, they’re allowing you to focus solely on what you have to do, because it takes a lot of energy,” Hollins said. “And it’s important, it’s important to have somebody that trusts your judgment and trusts what you say.”
Hollins stayed busy during his year away, working in TV and radio and most importantly getting some extra time with his family. He was there when his son, Austin, won most Most Outstanding Player honors after leading Minnesota to the NIT championship in April.
He was beginning to consider how he would spend another year out of the work when he got the call from the Nets.
“Two Saturdays ago, this job wasn’t open and I’m sitting at home waiting on the L.A. Lakers to make a decision, and if they make a decision the other way, I’m out of the league for another year again,” Hollins said. “So it was right there on the verge.”