After having breakfast with Mayor Bloomberg (and Jay-Z and Bruce Ratner) on Wednesday, Russian billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met the NYC media, joking, "America, I come in peace," demurring, "I don't want to put on the table all of my secrets," and challenging, "We are going to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans, it's that simple."
He announced that coach Kiki Vandeweghe was not going to be re-signed and said he'd let Nets president Rod Thorn run the show, “I give staff the right to make mistakes. It’s very important. Because I am making mistakes all the time." Prokhorov also noted that his future coach needed time in the pros, "Coach K, he’s a great coach, but I’m looking for the N.B.A.-experienced coach.”
But perhaps his most charming interview was not with a major daily, but with Brooklyn blogger Vinnie Rotondaro. Apparently Prokhorov's people handpicked Rotondaro to be the billionaire's Brooklyn interview and they met at the Clover Club in Carroll Gardens. Here's part of their exchange, which covers the billionaire's upbringing ("For more than 30 years, maybe 35 years, I lived in 500 square feet" with his family), the Atlantic Yards, and more, from The Brooklyn Ink:
Is this your first time in Brooklyn?
When were you here?
The first time was maybe 15 years ago. We were in Brighton Beach, and we tasted the local food. It was great fun because we tasted the Soviet cuisine. Like the Soviet cuisine of the 70s. And even at that time it was quite a problem to find such quality of food and such taste in Russia. Now it’s completely vanished.
What brought you there?
A lot of people from the Soviet Union came to visit Brighton Beach. You can’t even imagine. When the Berlin Wall was broken, all these people with a great fear in their hearts, they feel liberty and democracy inside them. And can you imagine coming to America? “Look, there is a Brighton Beach. You need to visit. It’s very special.” A lot of people came who had relatives there. “You need to visit this restaurant. You need to visit that restaurant.” It was very popular in the 90s to visit Brighton Beach.
Prokhorov isn't sure if he'll be buying a place in Brooklyn yet, because his "first priority now is to build a championship team" and he needs to "spend a few months to invite all the best free agents." He confesses that he loves good food and is a "slave" to his stomach, prompting Rotondaro to asked if he likes pizza. Prokhorov answered, "It depends on the pizza. If it’s great, I like it," and then said, "Next time I come we will have a pizza together."