Brooklyn Nets paying price for unexpected success

The Brooklyn Nets posted a winning record in 2018-19, ahead of schedule. Rivals have noticed as there’s been a run on Nets personnel this offseason.

The Brooklyn Nets arrived ahead of schedule in 2018-19, improving from 28 wins the previous season to 42 victories and a playoff berth. Now, the organization is paying a toll as rival clubs are picking off members of the organizational team that helped that process.

The run on coaching and front office talent has seen G-League Coach of the Year Will Weaver, assistant coach Chris Fleming, assistant general manager Trajan Langdon and, most recently, director of global scouting Gianluca Pascucci depart Brooklyn for promotions elsewhere.

Weaver was the first to move, accepting a position in March to become the head coach for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s National Basketball League.

Weaver had been a special assistant to head coach Kenny Atkinson prior to being named head coach of the Long Island Nets last August after Ronald Nored accepted a position on the coaching staff of new head man James Borrego with the Charlotte Hornets.

Weaver paced Long Island to its first playoff berth, earning G-League Coach of the Year honors by leading the G-Nets to an Eastern Conference-best 34-16 record, matching the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Santa Cruz Warriors and Oklahoma City Blue for the best mark in the league.

Long Island reached the G-League Finals before going down to Rio Grande Valley in three games.

Earlier this month, Fleming accepted a position with the Chicago Bulls to be the lead assistant under Jim Boylan. Fleming played collegiately with Atkinson at the University of Richmond in the late 1980s and was seen as a key cog in keeping Brooklyn’s offense flowing.

Fleming also has extensive international coaching experience, spending eight years as head coach of QTSV in Germany after playing for the team for six seasons and spending one as a player-assistant coach.

He later coached Brose Baskets in Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga for six seasons, leading them to four German Cup titles and four league championships, before making the jump to the NBA in 2105 as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets, joining Atkinson in Brooklyn a year later.

Fleming served three years as head coach of the German men’s national team, as well.

The next piece to depart was Langdon, who is taking his intimate knowledge of the Brooklyn rebuilding process — accomplished without lottery picks thus far — to the New Orleans Pelicans as their new general manager under top executive David Griffin.

Langdon was named G-League Executive of the Year in his dual role as assistant GM in Brooklyn and GM of the Long Island Nets.

The former Duke University star had high praise for the Nets organization.

“My time here in Brooklyn has been fantastic. The challenges that were here upon me coming in three years ago were daunting and what we were able to do in three years was tremendous.”

Langdon was linked to several GM openings before taking the job with the Pelicans.

Earlier this week, it was Pascucci who left the organization. The Nets, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post, had been prepared for Pascucci to return to his native Italy, as he had been rumored as a candidate for the general manager’s job with Olimpia Milano.

But he instead left to join Gersson Rosas with the Minnesota Timberwolves as the new assistant general manager there. Rosas and Pascucci had worked together before with the Houston Rockets, where Pascucci was director of player personnel before coming to the Nets.

Pascucci is widely credited for making the discovery of Rodions Kurucs, the second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft who wound up starting more than half of the season as a rookie.

Professional sports have long been a copy-cat existence, with any type of success — particularly success in unconventional circumstances such as the Brooklyn Nets faced — becoming a blueprint for other organizations to attempt to follow.

General manager Sean Marks did a terrific job putting the organization together initially and shouldn’t have difficulty attracting talented people to replace those who have moved on to more significant roles elsewhere.

Unlike in 2016 when he was starting the rebuild, Marks can sell some success and a whole lot of upside as the organization finally takes control of its own first-round draft picks, beginning with the No. 17 overall selection in next month’s NBA Draft.