Sean Marks: Nets will be built 'through a solid, strong foundation'

ByOhm Youngmisuk and Mike Mazzeo ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

NEW YORK -- New Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks is realistic about the enormous challenge ahead of him in rebuilding the team.

But Marks says he is confident that owner Mikhail Prokhorov and chairman Dmitry Razumov will give him the autonomy to execute his vision to turn the assets-starved Nets around.

"It was a difficult decision; any time you're having to get out of your comfort zone isn't easy," Marks said of leaving his assistant general manager position with the San Antonio Spurs for one of the most challenging rebuilding jobs in sports. "But at the same time, my time spent with Mr. Prokhorov, Dmitry and the rest of the Nets group here during the interviews led me to believe that we have a similar vision.

"And I'm privileged to have had the opportunity in San Antonio to have been around some really good staff members, both Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich] and [Spurs GM] R.C. Buford, tremendous mentors for me, and what I've learned from them. And to be honest, it's time for me to see if I can do this."

Marks, 40, spent the past five years filling a variety of roles in San Antonio, including assistant general manager, assistant coach, director of basketball operations and GM of the Spurs' D-League team. He signed a four-year contract with the Nets worth more than $9 million, a league source told ESPN.

Marks also played for 12 seasons and won a championship with San Antonio in 2005. He said being an NBA journeyman during his playing career allowed him to see how other teams were run and what might work.

"I hope that I can capture all that I've learned and bring it to [Brooklyn], and I have a clear vision of what I'd like to implement here," Marks said. "It'll be built through a solid, strong foundation, a systematic process, and we'll be putting something out there on the court that the community can be proud of.

"The vision is to evaluate immediately, so it'll be evaluating the roster, the staff, the needs, finding out what can be put in in the meantime," Marks added. "By no means is this a wasted year. I think you can still get some things out of this year. We've got some really talented young guys on this team that need to be developed. We've got a culture that needs to be set, and that starts from day one."

Razumov is part of Prokhorov's brain trust that includes Nets CEO Brett Yormark; Irina Pavlova, president of Onexim Sports and Entertainment; and Sergey Kushchenko, a longtime Prokhorov basketball adviser and partner. They interviewed eight candidates, including the likes of Denver Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, two-time NBA executive of the year Bryan Colangelo, Houston Rockets executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and Brooklyn assistant GM Frank Zanin, among others.

The Nets' next big move is to hire a head coach. Lionel Hollins was fired in January, and Tony Brown is serving as the interim coach. Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy, Kentucky coach John Calipari, Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina, David Blatt and Sixers associate head coach Mike D'Antoni all could be considered for the job.

Marks said he has a list of coaches and that "the coach is going to have a defensive mindset and a system that gets them playing well and gets them things accustomed to where I come from."

"We'd like to approach [the coaching search] as a process ... like what we did searching for a GM position," Razumov said. "And it will be a process that will be driven by Sean. We'll follow his vision. He'll be heading that process."

The Nets do not control their own first-round pick until 2019. They are expected to have about $40 million to use in free agency this summer, but many teams will have added money due to the expected rising salary cap.

"Sure, draft picks are one way to build a team," Marks said. "But there's several other places and other ways to go out there and do it. Obviously, you can commit to free agency. My staff, where I've learned, I've seen it done around the NBA where you're building not only through free agency, you're building through the European market, you're building within your D-League franchise and developing players there. So yes, for sure, not having a draft pick as we stand right now -- but that, too, can change.

"The rising salary cap certainly gives us a lot of opportunity out there," Marks added. "It doesn't give us the ability to completely start over, but in a weird way, we are starting over on the same page as many other teams with the new money coming in, but so is everybody else."