Sam Cassell—Nets Era Birthed Leader, Head Coach: Analyst [WATCH]

24 Jan 1999: Jayson Williams #55 and Sam Cassell #10 of the New Jersey Nets cheer on of the St John''s Red Storm during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. The Blue Devils defeated the Red Storm 92-88. Mandatory Credit: David Leeds /Allsport

Earlier in September it was believed that Sam Cassell was a leading candidate in the Houston Rockets’ coaching search.

A three-time NBA Champion, Cassell, 50, was the 24th overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft out of Florida State. During his 15-year NBA career, Casssell averaged 15.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6 assists in stints with the Rockets, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics.


Appearing on Heavy Live With Scoop B yesterday, I asked Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard on where Cassell fit in the equation. “I don’t know what Sam’s philosophy is coaching wise,” he told me.

“And I say that because one, I think Sam would make a really good head coach because Sam was a leader man… Sam is a leader! I covered the teams he was on and Sam is a great guy. He was a leader, all the players loved him, he could instill confidence in guys.”

I got to know Broussard during his days covering the-then New Jersey Nets for the New York Times during their days playing at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the 1997-98 NBA season. Cassell was traded for Stephon Marbury in March 1999. While hosting, Nets Slammin’ Planet on 620 AM One-On-One Sports, I remember reading my cue-cards and detailing the nine-player deal between the Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

Marbury went to to the Nets with Chris Carr, Elliott Perry and Bill Curley.

The Bucks got Sam Cassell, Chris Gatling and Paul Grant in the move.

The Timberwolves acquired Terrell Brandon, Brian Evans and two draft choices from the Nets, including a first-round pick.

“I contend,” started Broussard.

“Maybe this is putting too much on it but… now obviously Stephon Marbury was a better player than Sam individually but, I contend that had the Nets not traded Cassell for Marbury — and Cassell got hurt early in that season and then the Nets lost like, 16-17 straight games and that led to Calipari getting fired. But, had Cassell stayed healthy and been able to stayed playing with Keith Van Horn, Jayson Williams and Kendall Gill… I think Keith Van Horn’s career may have been different. Because if you remember, Van Horn was viewed… he was going to be a star. He averaged what, like 19.8 as a rookie and he was legit, and Sam believed in Keith. Keith was — some players were like, ‘Keith is a little soft.’ but, he had Jayson Williams, who obviously had the tragedy where he accidently shot his limo driver and he went to jail, but Jayson Williams was his bodyguard. Jayson loved him. He was tough and he was his protector; he was going to protect Keith and then Cassell built up Keith like, ‘That’s my man, I believe in him.’ So Keith was brimming with confidence and his guys believed in him.”

Added Broussard:

“And Marbury came and I think that Marbury from afar — this is just speculation because it wasn’t right from the get-go with Keith and Steph. But I think in Minnesota with Kevin Garnett, I think that Steph may have looked at Van Horn from a distance and said, “You know what? He’s not Kevin Garnett, but he’s really a good All-Star type player. He’s not that far behind. He’s good.” and I think when he got to New Jersey and saw that Keith wasn’t as good as he thought. Whether that he thought that he was soft or whatever, he… I think — and again, this is my speculation… I think he felt like, “Man, this dude ain’t all that of what everybody thinks he is, what everybody sayin’ he is…” and with Steph it showed in his body language; which in just you know it became evident that he didn’t believe in Keith. I think that sapped some of the energy and the life out of Keith knowing his point guard who Keith really wanted to play with — Keith had said before the trade before he knew he really had the chance to play with him Stephon Marbury, “That would be the one point guard that he would love to play with.”. And so I think seeing that this guy don’t believe in you, you’re not — he doesnt think I’m as good as I thought as I was or whatever, it just took the life out of Keith. Now you can blame Keith for that because you shouldn’t let another player take your life like that but, that’s what I think happened. And then you know, [Jason] Kidd comes in and plays well but, never really became that 20+ you know, that star that they thought he might be.”