Hours after sitting down to breakfast at Gracie Mansion with the mayor, the new majority owner of the Nets addressed the New York media for the first time Wednesday – expressing his excitement about leading the team.
Bagels were on the menu for the morning breakfast meeting between Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, arena developer Bruce Ratner and Nets co-owner Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter.
Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, is in the city this week to take park in the NBA draft, after closing on a deal last week to buy 80 percent of the Nets and 40 percent of the arena, which will be called the Barclay Center. The arena is now under construction at the former site of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.
"What I like about Brooklyn is its absolute ethnic diversity," said Prokhorov today in his first New York City press conference. "It gives a lot of energy. It gives a lot of opportunity. For me, Brooklyn is a really exciting place. And I'm looking forward to having more opportunity to speak to the people and get to know this place better."
The Nets owner is making basketball history with his purchase of the team, as it is the first time there is an NBA team owner from outside of North America.
Prokhorov says he promises to build a championship team, going so far to predict that as soon as next year the poorly-performing Nets will have a playoff-caliber team by the 2012 season. He says the team will be able to win a championship title within the next five years.
"We need to add a little bit of team spirit. We need to add some players because the last season, the team was short-staffed," he said. "And, we'll add a little bit of luck, a little bit of money, and we'll go straight to the top."
Without naming names, Prokhorov said he will aggressively go after free agents this summer and get them to become Nets.
The Russian billionaire also announced that general manager and interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe will be let go when his contract expires this summer.
Vandeweghe took over as coach after the team started 0-18 under Lawrence Frank.
The former Knick has been the Nets General Manager for two years.
Team President Rod Thorn will be retained.
The Nets finished last season with a league worst 12-70 record.