LOS ANGELES — If this wasn't the right opportunity, even the perfect one, Lawrence Frank wouldn't be here.
Not in Southern California, 3,000 miles away from his family in New Jersey. Not frequently separated from his wife and two daughters.
Few jobs would make that sacrifice worthwhile.
But Frank has one of them.
As the president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Clippers, the former New Jersey Nets head coach is playing a significant role in the transformation of the NBA landscape in Los Angeles, working for an owner he reveres in Steve Ballmer and alongside close friend and head coach Doc Rivers.
Together they guided the Clippers out of a dark period and into a run of sustained success. Now the Clippers, after a summer that included signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, are one of the top teams in the Western Conference and a contender for the franchise's first NBA championship.
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"This is such a special, unique opportunity, this is why my family has totally supported me," Frank said in an interview with the USA TODAY Network at Staples Center.
"If it was a different opportunity and just a job, I’d be back home. This is really, really unique."
Life on the sidelines
Growing up in Teaneck, N.J., all Frank wanted to do was coach.
His hometown provided a crucial foundation.
"We had such racial diversity, ethnic diversity," said Frank, who graduated from Teaneck High School. "Just socially, you were exposed to everything."
Frank reached his coaching dream, spending 18 years on NBA sidelines, including six-plus seasons as the head coach of the then-New Jersey Nets and two leading the Detroit Pistons.
By the time he was let go from the Pistons, Frank had experienced the basketball life with various organizations. He saw why some franchises worked and why some didn't, why some have constant turnover and why others have continuity and stability.
So when his time in Detroit ended, Frank decided he wanted to use that experience and knowledge in a front-office role.
Lawrence Frank, far left, and the Clippers revamped the roster this offseason with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. (Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP)
But when Jason Kidd was hired as the Brooklyn Nets head coach in June 2013 and asked him to join his coaching staff, it gave Frank the chance to come home to Demarest and be with his family.
He signed a six-year contract, which stipulated that he could move into a front-office position after three years on the bench.
But things didn't work out. Early in the season, Kidd reassigned Frank from his coaching role because of "different philosophies."
As it turned out, Kidd only lasted one season before a reported attempt to gain more power in the Nets organization failed.
"The great thing about Brooklyn was, I did it for family reasons. I was home," Frank said. "The fact that the basketball part didn’t work out, it was very disappointing, but what was even more disappointing to know was, if I’m going to keep on working, I was going to have to leave home. Which was very hard to do."
Professionally, though, it opened up a new door.
When Frank's situation with the Nets didn't work out, Rivers called and asked him to join his staff with the Clippers and run the team's defense. Frank told him he really wanted to be in a front office, but Rivers persuaded him to come to L.A.
The Clippers had just been purchased by Ballmer after the previous owner, Donald Sterling, was banned from the NBA by commissioner Adam Silver for making racist remarks during a recorded conversation.
Under Sterling, the Clippers were a perennially losing franchise with a toxic culture.
Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft who paid $2 billion for the team, wanted to revamp the entire organization.
While it meant that he had to leave his family in Demarest, Frank had a chance to rejoin Rivers, who he worked for with the Boston Celtics during the 2010-11 season.
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