When the Brooklyn Nets hired Sean Marks, it was a smart move and widely praised around the league. What the Nets needed was a culture shift and patience, someone who understood the art of finding talent deeper in the draft and developing it. Marks — with Kenny Atkinson as coach — was a very good fit for that (and ownership finally bought into a slower approach… not that they had much choice).
As the league descended upon Toronto for All-Star Weekend in February 2016, the Nets were leaning toward hiring Bryan Colangelo over Marks, according to sources familiar with the process.
During All-Star Saturday night, (Dmitry Razumov, Nets’ chairman and the stateside face of owner Mikhail Prokhorov) and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, then Marks’ boss, had a long talk in the chairman’s suite inside the Air Canada Centre, according to several sources. Buford’s message was clear: The Spurs might not grant their assistant GM permission to take the job unless he would get to do it his way. Several other executives, including Bob Myers, the Warriors’ GM, also praised Marks in chats with Razumov that weekend, sources say.
Marks got the job and the clearance to build slow and right — which is going to take time with all the picks the Nets gave away in rush to get good fast when opening the Barclays Centre and moving to Brooklyn (moves made by then GM Billy King but pushed for by Prokhorov).
What might have been different under Colangelo?
Other candidates might have proceeded differently: sell free agents on the glitz of a big city, and build competitive teams that would bridge the gap until the Nets had their picks back.
Colangelo now is the GM of the 76ers.
That would have been a hard sell. Marks is doing it right, slowly building a culture where strong players can be added to a good young team, instead of trying to buy a bridge.