Meet the new Nets owner - Mikhail 'Mike' Prokhorov
New Jersey Nets new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, of Russia, speaks to reporters during a basketball news conference, Wednesday, May 19, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, new New Jersey Nets NBA basketball team majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, left, and Nets co-owner Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, right, have breakfast at Gracie Mansion in New York.
NEW YORK (AP) — An NBA owner for just a week, Mikhail Prokhorov is ready to dominate the league.
"My goal is to create a dynasty team," Prokhorov said Wednesday during a nearly 90-minute brunch with reporters.
First, he needs a winning team, and Prokhorov's confident he'll have one.
He predicts the Nets, who had a league-worst 12-70 record this past season, will make the playoffs next season and be a contender in five years.
That five-year timeframe illustrates Prokhorov's approach to success in any business venture.
"I usually step back and let the people do their job," Prokhorov said. "It's very important. What is also important in my business style is that I give staff the right to make mistakes."
Take the mistakes part for what it's worth. He didn't become the richest man in Russia by making a ton of them.
The NBA's first non-North American owner, Prokhorov — he prefers Mikhail or Mike — will continue to do things his way.
His work days will last up to 15 hours and won't be interrupted. He doesn't own a cell phone or have a computer in his office. He writes all correspondence and the material for his blog, then gives it to his secretary to type or post.
When he plays, he plays hard. About every third week he throws a party with friends just to unwind, and it's not surprising to see him with a variety of girlfriends.
They change, just like the name of the team might change, Prokhorov said.
"I'm a foreigner, you know," he said. "I need your piece of advice. I can put Russian name and nobody knows what it is. I can put the name of a girlfriend and every time I change, I need to change the name of the team."
What must change is the Nets' constant losing. They have missed the playoffs the last three years.
The passionate Prokhorov believes in hiring the best and letting them do their jobs. That won't include general manager Kiki Vandeweghe. Prokhorov said he will be let go when his contract expires this summer.
"I wish him well," said Prokhorov, who added he intends to retain team president Rod Thorn. Whoever gets the Nets' coaching job will have NBA coaching experience, Prokhorov said, so rule out Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
Prokhorov believes there is no set way to do things and the more options or models the better. Spending money is fine, but do it wisely. He is not afraid to say 'no' to friends and colleagues.
The 45-year-old is as competitive as they come, although once he masters something — such as kickboxing or basketball — he admits it's time to move on to another challenge. He now plays soccer, jet skies, windsurfs and works on a trampoline.
But he insisted he intends to be an NBA owner for a long time.
Prokhorov saw his first NBA game in the mid-1980s on a videotape recorder, a luxury item at the time in Russia. He played basketball in college and traveled to the United States for the first time in 1993 with then president Boris Yeltsin to attend the opening of the new Russian embassy in Washington.
His interest in owning an NBA team started roughly five years ago. His initial thought was to buy the New York Knicks, but he did not want to purchase all of James Dolan's assets.
About six months later, an investment adviser told him the Nets were available. Those negotiations moved quickly with Prokhorov buying an 80 percent share of the franchise and a 45 percent interest in the Nets' new Brooklyn arena.
Why the Nets?
"They had the best record in the league," Prokhorov said.
When his audience seemed stunned, he added: "I'm misinformed!"
Fans should expect more of that wicked sense of humor.
In keeping with NBA rules, he says he's never heard of the name LeBron James. But Prokhorov will be in the United States the first week of July when free agency starts, and he will play a part in the Nets' efforts to sign free agents from a list that might include James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others.
And Prokhorov's willing to spend — if the circumstances are right.
"You could have all the money in the world, but you have to be smart enough knowing how to spend it," Prokhorov said. "I really try to be on that smart money side. I mentioned already once you make a serious mistake you can suffer five or six years and I do my best to avoid serious mistakes."
If that means Prokhorov has to wait another year to get the right free agent, so be it, he said.
"If you have Plan B and Plan C, you are all the time relaxed," he said. "You are ready."