NBA rumors: Gregg Popovich on Nets' radar

The Brooklyn Nets, who were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, are interested in San Antonio Spurs icon Gregg Popovich as their next head coach and will explore that possibility, The Athletic has learned. With NBA postseason eliminations beginning to occur, several additional organizations are being thrown into offseason mode, joining the eight teams that were not invited to the bubble and the six teams that were eliminated in the seeding games. The Nets and 76ers joined those teams on Sunday.

More on Nets Coaching Search

The first priority of the Nets’ coaching search has become clear: They plan to seriously explore the possibilities with Popovich, sources tell The Athletic. Popovich expressed after the Spurs’ season ended in Orlando that he intends to continue coaching, and there is no indication right now that it would be anywhere but San Antonio. Still, sources said, the Nets will pursue the viability of Popovich.
He is a favorite of Nets star Kevin Durant, league sources say, even dating as far back as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s coaching search process in 2015 (which ultimately concluded with the hire of Billy Donovan). There is known to be tremendous mutual respect between Popovich and KD. Durant’s presence and voice is powerful within the Nets’ franchise, and Popovich represents a bonding candidate between the two-time Finals MVP and Brooklyn’s front office. ESPN reported on Sunday evening that Durant and Irving have shown an interest in Popovich. In addition, Popovich has several connections to the Nets, including general manager Sean Marks, assistant GM Andy Birdsong, Vaughn, and assistant coaches Bret Brielmaier and Tiago Splitter. Marks, Vaughn and Splitter all played for Popovich in San Antonio too, with Marks and Vaughn serving as assistants under him at different points.
Not coincidentally, in interim coach Jacque Vaughn's first game, he elevated Jordan into the starting lineup in Allen's place. Vaughn has earned the respect of both the players and the organization. In fact, sources say, Marks is seriously considering Vaughn for the permanent job. Yet, league sources say Durant and Irving are interested in a higher profile head coach, along the lines of Tyronn Lue or Gregg Popovich, who are among the candidates who have been linked to the opening.
Vaughn expressed confidence he’s the right person to handle the job — and the stars (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) who come with it. “What I am confident in is my skill set as a coach, my ability to communicate and have relationship with guys, my ability to adjust on the fly, adjust with individuals,” Vaughn said. “Those things I’m very comfortable with, comfortable at this stage of my career of having a voice and choice with my players.
But the Nets players who stayed enjoyed themselves, making memories that will surely last their lifetimes. “I think we’re forever linked,” Vaughn said. “Whether it is remembering a practice, whether it’s remembering a game, whether it’s remembering time spent together — meals, golfing, fishing, all of the above. “I think it’s been very special in the sense that I think a few of our guys that are able to continue this together in the future but at the same time be a part of something special.”
If the Nets get swept, Vaughn’s chances of returning would seem slim. Nets owner Joe Tsai wants a marquee coaching search that should include Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and maybe even Gregg Popovich.
This idea isn’t coming out of nowhere. There’s been speculation around the league about Nets owner Joe Tsai considering a huge offer to Popovich, who is already the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Whether it’s legitimate or not won’t be answered for some time since Popovich still has to coach the Spurs through the Orlando bubble, and the Nets have their own restart to navigate.
For Brooklyn, it’s close to a no-brainer (although there are reasons to pause that we’ll get into later). Tsai’s net worth has only risen during the global pandemic because he’s invested in Alibaba, the Chinese version of Amazon. He can afford an expensive coach. The roster is begging for a leader who can command respect from Kevin Durant and Irving. Popovich could own the room by simply throwing out his rings, but he’s too self-aware and self-deprecating for such a stunt. One of Popovich’s best traits is his understanding that the players won those championships. Phil Jackson didn’t get that.
The Brooklyn Nets are giving serious consideration to keeping Jacque Vaughn as head coach, but there has been an increase in speculation that Mark Jackson will be a strong candidate for the job with potential support from Kevin Durant. "There's been no discussion, very little discussion about the Nets' coach," said Brian Windhorst on his podcast. "And I'm going to be very interested, Jackie, who gets that job. But some interesting things... If you're paying close attention to social media. Rich Kleiman, who is Kevin Durant's business partner and very influential, has been Tweeting about Mark Jackson recently. "He hasn't Tweeted, 'I want Mark Jackson to coach the Nets', but there was a story in the New York Post just this last week where it was posited about Mark Jackson or Jason Kidd, who obviously was with the Nets before and left after one year.
And Marks won’t ask his stars to expose themselves to COVID-19 in Orlando to evaluate the work of interim coach and perceived frontrunner Jacque Vaughn, either. “It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far.
And Marks won’t ask his stars to expose themselves to COVID-19 in Orlando to evaluate the work of interim coach and perceived frontrunner Jacque Vaughn, either. “It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes Jacque Vaughn is under serious consideration to be the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in 2020-21. While the Nets are expected to conduct a coaching search, Woj is taking Vaughn “against the field.” “He’s the head coach. They didn’t make him interim coach. I think the Nets are considering the possibility of a search, but I would still give Jacque Vaughn — I would take Jacque Vaughn against the field right now,” Woj said on his podcast, via Real GM.
That coincides with what a number of NetsDaily sources have said, that other big names may be getting the headlines, Vaughn has head coaching experience (admittedly with a rebuilding team) in Orlando and was Kenny Aktinson’s No. 2 until Atkinson was dumped the week before the shutdown. Indeed, GM Sean Marks and Vaughn were teammates on the 2007 NBA champion Spurs and two years as head coach of the Magic, Vaughn returned to San Antonio as a scout when Marks was assistant GM. Both left the Spurs for the Nets in 2016, Marks as GM, Vaughn as lead assistant.
Shams said that the Nets opening was created because a number of Nets players —not just Kevin Durant and Irving— weren’t crazy about Atkinson’s offense. “There were a few things,” said The Athletic reporter. “Let’s start early in training camp. The offense he still wanted to go with was something that didn’t vibe with his best players, from Kyrie Irving to Kevin Durant to Spencer Dinwiddie on ... and so forth ... which was a free for all offense. It wasn’t like a set regime, a set style. He still wanted to play the way they were kind of playing with D’Angelo Russell. And I don’t think guys went with that.
Brooklyn Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn will reportedly get a "legitimate opportunity" to take over the coaching staff on a full-time basis, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. "This is a guy that comes from the Spurs background, has the same pedigree as [Nets general manager] Sean Marks," Charania said on Tuesday's edition of the Load Management podcast. "As far as I know, he does a good job at working with players, building that relationship."
Stackhouse is a good one and his ties to the organization don’t hurt. I’ll throw another Clippers assistant to maybe consider: Sam Cassell. He played for the Nets in the late ’90s and it appears he’s going to start getting looks as a head coach. He just helped the Clippers incorporate two new stars this season in Leonard and Paul George and won three NBA championships as a player. I don’t know if he’s a fit for this job, but I could see him getting an interview. I mentioned at the top that Vaughn is on the list, for now. Some have speculated that he’s on there as a courtesy given he’s the current interim coach, but I’ve been told there are some in the organization that would like to see him get a shot. I wrote about Vaugn recently with our colleague Josh Robbins. To keep it simple, give me a case for or against Vaughn.
Malika Andrews: Sean Marks says the Nets are not currently reaching out to head coach candidates for next season and beyond. “That would completely not be fair to our group.”
Atkinson could sense his voice wasn’t carrying the same weight in the locker room. If it hadn’t been apparent to him earlier, it became clear by February. And we’re not talking full-scale insurrection here, just a few powerful voices. If Atkinson saw the writing on the wall and knew a parting of ways was inevitable, why wait? Pardon the gory analogy, but better to fall on the sword now than take a knife in the back later — especially considering the timing.
The favorite, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, is Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue, who coached Irving and LeBron James with the Cavaliers, including their 2016 NBA title season.
The favorite, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, is Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue, who coached Irving and LeBron James with the Cavaliers, including their 2016 NBA title season.
One name that nobody has mentioned yet that would seem an obvious candidate, should he become free, is Brett Brown. Marks has drawn heavily from the Popovich-Budenholzer family tree in building out his staff in Brooklyn to date (including Atkinson and Vaughn, naturally), and Brown would be the most prominent available member from that tree should things go sideways in Philadelphia.
One name that nobody has mentioned yet that would seem an obvious candidate, should he become free, is Brett Brown. Marks has drawn heavily from the Popovich-Budenholzer family tree in building out his staff in Brooklyn to date (including Atkinson and Vaughn, naturally), and Brown would be the most prominent available member from that tree should things go sideways in Philadelphia.
Irving soured on Atkinson early, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and currently prefers Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue to be the team’s next head coach. Lue was the head coach in Cleveland when Irving hit the winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals and was in talks to take the Lakers job before discussions broke down.
Ian Begley: Nets’ Sean Marks says he and Kenny Atkinson had constant open dialogue about the state of the team over the last several weeks. He said Kenny, himself and owner Joe Tsai made the decision for Atkinson to leave BKN this morning.
Brian Lewis: Marks on how much input they took from players: “In this matter it didn’t involve the players. It was between Kenny and myself and brought in ownership when we needed to.” #nets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcRiYIyK358
Asked if he can envision Jackson coming back home to coach the Knicks, Kleiman said: “There’a few things in life that like would check certain boxes for me. If he ever had a chance to coach the Knicks, obviously I’d be over the moon. But more importantly he’d be a tremendous coach. Somebody who brings a certain amount of credibility to any room he walks into. He can’t help but infuse positivity into a culture. I’ve seen it.’’
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Spurs want Onyeka Okongwu?

Per LJ Ellis of Spurs Talk, the only player San Antonio actually wants from Atlanta is Onyeka Okongwu. Also, despite BR’s Jake Fischer reporting that the Spurs are looking for three first-rounders in a possible deal for Murray, that’s also false. Ellis notes Gregg Popovich’s squad would take no less than four unprotected first-round picks. There’s talk that the Spurs are looking to trade Murray for three first round draft picks. I’m told that is incorrect. San Antonio’s asking price for Murray is four first round draft picks with little to no protections. Alternatively, the Spurs want three minimally protected first rounders and two unprotected first round pick swaps.

Timberwolves interested in Dejounte Murray?

Interestingly, an insider close to the situation says that the Spurs have multiple teams making a strong push for Murray besides the Hawks. One Eastern Conference team, he says, is offering three first round draft picks and a desirable young player in a proposed swap. He also stated that the Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed serious interest in Murray.
Because he was voted third-team All-NBA this season, Towns is eligible for an extension of up to four years and roughly $211 million. “I can’t wait to sit down with him and his representation ASAP and keep this thing going,” Connelly told The Athletic in a conversation not long after he was hired away from the Denver Nuggets. “He’s special and deserves everything that is going to come his way.”
“I think our goal is to win enough games to put KAT’s jersey in the rafters,” Connelly said. “He’s a guy that’s been through so much, and he’s only getting better and better. We’re going to go as far as he takes us.” With contracts this big, the only question that remains is how much more Towns has to give. Over his career, he has averaged 23.2 points and 11.3 rebounds and has a .624 true shooting percentage. But the Wolves have only made the playoffs twice in his seven seasons, and his performance against Memphis in April had highs (29 points, 13 rebounds in Game 1, 33 points, 14 boards in Game 4) and lows (eight points on four shots in Game 3, 15 points on seven shots in Game 2).