By Frank McLean
It seems like the trend in the NBA now is that if your club needs a new coach go to San Antonio.
Two of Greg Popovich’s disciples are running benches in the NBA, Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Steve Kerr in Golden State. After all, if you are looking to turn around the luck of your franchise, stealing someone from one the NBA’s most successful franchises is not a bad way to go.
Now teams are raiding the Spurs front office too and that’s where the Brooklyn Nets grabbed their new GM, a one-time Toronto Raptors player Sean Marks.
When the search started for a new GM after the Nets bounced coach Lionel Hollins and GM Billy King earlier in the season, Nets owner and alleged Russian billionaire basketball expert Mikhail Prokhorov set up a search committee. They interviewed eight candidates which included former Raptors president Bryan Colangelo, but Marks stood out and was offered the job.
The route to the Brooklyn Nets throne was not the usual one for Marks.
First of all he comes from New Zealand and as far as I know he is the first GM to come to the NBA from that South Pacific paradise.
His playing career which spanned 11 years was the definition of a “journeyman.”
The 6-foot-10 Marks was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1998 and traded to Raptors the next day. After two years in Toronto, it was off to Poland, but he got picked up by Miami the next season for two more years. A year off because of a knee injury and he was back to play in San Antonio, Phoenix, New Orleans and finally Portland before returning to the Spurs as an assistant coach and then management.
At each spot where he landed Marks learnt from the best like Coach Popovich, Spurs GM R.C. Buford and Heat president Pat Riley.
“Being a journeyman at the time is tough, because you’re packing up your family and moving all around the county, or the world. But it exposed me to a lot of different organizations and a lot of great leaders,” Marks told The New York Post in an interview. “I’ve mentioned Pat Riley, I’ve mentioned Pop and R.C., and some great organizations along the way. Every place I’ve been, I’ve taken something from there.”
But it wasn’t just basketball people Marks took notes on the art of managing in professional sports. He spent time with managers from other sports.
Marks spent time with New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, spent time over the past three years with the All Blacks rugby team of his native New Zealand, even gone to Europe to get performance tips from Manchester United, Manchester City, AC Milan and Barcelona.
“If there’s one thing I learned from R.C. in San Antonio he’s curious by nature, and I’ve learned that from him,’’ Marks said. “There’s a lot of people doing really good things in different places, in sports, different business organizations you can learn from and potentially translate to having this be a successful time in Brooklyn.
“I’ve seen Pop in San Antonio with two bigs and defense-oriented win 85-82. I’ve seen them win 110-100 with ball movement and 300-plus passes a game. Pop has taught me the ability to be flexible and adapt with your personnel.
“The vision of it’s not about me, Pat Riley’s ‘The disease of me,’ I’ve obviously taken that from him. I’ve taken what I learned in San Antonio under R.C. If the intern has the best opinion at the table, let’s roll with it, but he has to first be at the table. If it’s not inclusive and not a collaborative partnership, it’s probably not going to work. That’s the way I’d like to build a team.”
That’s no joke when Marks says that even if the intern has a great idea let’s try it. At his introductory press conference when named to the job he made it known that the door is open to everyone in the Nets organization and that filters down to the coaching staff and players.
Marks will be spending the rest of this regular season evaluating the entire Nets organization from the top right down to the ball boys. His search for a new coach will be not just from the NBA or NCAA ranks but will reach around the world.
He will be expanding the entire front office and that also includes starting up an NBDL operation similar to what the Raptors did this year with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga.
He also does not have a first round draft pick till 2019 thanks to the miss management of Billy King.
It was long road for the 40-year-old from New Zealand to one of the 30 GM jobs in the NBA. What the Nets are hoping is that just a little of the San Antonio magic can rub off on them and if it does things will be brighter in Brooklyn.
Update: More Spurs joining the Nets organization!
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.
Nets Hire New GM On NBA Trade Deadline Day
The Brooklyn Nets announced today, NBA trade deadline day, that the team has named San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager Sean Marks as their General Manager. Let the trading begin!