Nets in the 80s: Meadowlands Miscellany
Notes from the end of a Nets decade
As the core of the early 1980s Nets squads broke up and the team dropped in the standings, plenty of new players and coaches rotated through the Meadowlands, often for short stays. If they didn’t leave much of a mark on the Nets, it doesn’t mean they didn’t impact the NBA in different ways at different times.
Here’s a look at a few of them:
One of just three former NBA players to ever go on to become an NBA referee, Leon Wood played for the Nets during the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons. New Jersey was one of six stops in six NBA seasons for the guard drafted 10th overall by Philadelphia in 1984. He will begin his 24th season as a referee this fall.
JAREN JACKSON SR.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was the fourth overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies and made his presence felt against the Nets with a 36-point outing at Barclays Center last season, including a game-tying 3-pointer. His father started his 12-season NBA career with the Nets in 1989-90. Undrafted out of Georgetown, he played 28 games with the Nets that season.
Better known for his time with the Knicks, Anthony Mason was another passed-over rookie (drafted in the third round by Portland in 1988 but never signed) who got his NBA start with the 17-65 Nets in the 1989-90 season and went on to a solid career, playing through 2002-03.
While Jackson and Mason were getting started during that 1989-90 season, Rick Carlisle’s career was coming to an end, as he was waived after playing just five games. But the call cutting him loose came with an offer as well, to join Bill Fitch’s staff as an assistant coach. That turned out to be the start of a premier NBA coaching career. After successful stints in Detroit and Indiana, Carlisle is beginning his 12th season in Dallas, where he led the Mavericks to an NBA championship in 2010-11.
HALL OF FAME COACHES
Larry Brown wasn’t the Nets’ only Hall of Fame head coach in the 1980s. Bill Fitch is part of the Class of 2019. After that 17-65 mark in the first of his three seasons in New Jersey, Fitch guided the Nets to a 40-42 record and a playoff return just two years later. The Nets were one of five stops in a 25-year head coaching career that included an NBA championship with the Celtics in 1980-81 and an NBA Finals appearance with the Rockets in 1985-86. Willis Reed, a Hall of Fame player from his time with the Knicks, preceded Fitch as head coach before moving into an executive position.
During the 1987-88 season, the Nets had guards Dwayne Washington and Duane Washington. Fortunately, Dwayne Washington was better known as “Pearl” a nickname he picked up as a kid in Brooklyn, where he starred at Boys & Girls before going on to Syracuse.
Drafted by the Nets in the fourth round in 1982, Tony Brown played for Indiana and Chicago before playing the 1986-87 season in New Jersey. He later spent three seasons on the Nets coaching staff, including serving as interim head coach for the final 45 games of the 2015-16 season.
MICHEAL RAY’S LONG ROAD TO NEW JERSEY
The draft pick that eventually became Micheal Ray Richardson briefly belonged to the Nets six years before the guard arrived in New Jersey in 1983. The electrifying guard led the Nets to a playoff win against defending champion Philadelphia in 1984 and made the All-Star Game the next season, but a year later he was gone, suspended from the NBA for drug use. The pick used to select Richardson in 1978 bounced around the league in deals for a fascinating array of players. In 1976, the Rockets traded that future first rounder to the Buffalo Braves – now the Los Angeles Clippers — for future Hall of Fame center Moses Malone. A year later, the Braves dealt the pick to the Nets for another future Hall of Famer, guard Tiny Archibald. The next summer, the pick was on the move again, sent by the Nets to the Knicks as part of a deal that brought forward Phil Jackson — bound for greater success and also the Hall of Fame as a coach. The Knicks took Richardson fourth overall in 1978, and four years later sent him to Golden State for — ironically — former Nets star Bernard King. To acquire Richardson in February 1983, the Nets dealt rookie Sleepy Floyd, a first-round pick, after just 43 games. Floyd went on to a 13-year NBA career, returning to New Jersey in 1994-95 before retiring.
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