NBA Rumor: Nets Coaching Search

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Nash being hired Thursday by the Nets to coach a fully operational death star next season, one with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert and a bunch of excellent role players, did not produce harsh feelings from black coaches and executives around the league. Nash is universally liked and respected by everyone in the game, as a brilliant, consumed, affable guy who knows the game and is great with people. Steve’s always welcome at the cookout.

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“Yeah, he’ll be fine,” Kerr told The Athletic’s Tim Kawikami on Thursday. “He knows the drill. He’s been in the league forever and he knows the game as well as anybody and he understands people. And I think he’s very wise, so he’ll hire a good staff. And everything that he needs to learn, he’ll learn quickly. It’ll happen so quickly for him just to get the rhythm and the feel and I’m sure he’ll hire a great staff to help him along.”

“I like it,” an Eastern Conference general managertold HoopsHype. “I am not sure if Kyrie will respect Nash as a coach, but I think it’s a great hire. I think Steve displays a lot of the attributes, which are important to building a winning culture. He has a great basketball IQ. He’s been around Kerr the past couple of years, and he’ll assemble a great staff. Bird had never coached, and he was one of the best coaches the Pacers ever had. Larry created a winning culture, which resonated with the team.”

“The coaching itch was always there. In a way I kind of kept it to myself to give me the freedom of not being on the radar of coaching expectancy,” Nash said. “I’ve always known in the back of my mind that I’d love to do it. But what was holding me back in many ways was my family. I just really wanted to preserve that time with my kids that I’ve earned from the good fortunes of playing professional basketball and have as big of an impact on their lives as I can.

“We both love the game of basketball. We got a bond, over me in a sense being a teacher and a pupil through the years,” Nash said. “It dates back to when I was finishing my career and we would work out together, and working with him with the Warriors. … I think that there is a trust, a commonality and a language between us when it comes to the game that has developed over time. That definitely is important. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and to have his confidence is really important.”

“Ky and I have history, not only being two point guards, but he is one of my favorite players to watch,” Nash said. “He and I spent a couple days in the gym, I believe it was 2015, in New York City working out. There is a respect and admiration there for me. For me and Ky, our relationship is important. He is the point guard and I’m the coach, and I’m thrilled I get the opportunity to know him better and to understand him, how he plays and what he sees and be here to help him refine his gifts.”

Nash says he’s excited to “build together” with Durant and Irving and that he spoke to both players before taking the job. “Frankly, we’re just all excited. It’s that honeymoon period,” Nash said. “We are all thrilled we get a chance to do this and do this together. Shortly, we will get to get to work. Unfortunately, it won’t be necessarily on the court with the guys. But in terms of doing work behind the scenes, we will continue to build our culture.”

As a consultant in the Golden State Warriors organization since, Nash built a strong relationship and understanding of Durant and clearly played Kyrie Irving’s point guard position among the best to ever do it. Marks was a teammate of Nash’s with the Suns, and has kept a good relationship with him through the years. Nash has been pursued in several capacities since his retirement in 2015, including front office and head coaching opportunities, sources said.

The Brooklyn Nets have formally interviewed incumbent coach Jacque Vaughn for their head coaching position and Vaughn has impressed ownership, sources told The Athletic. Vaughn, who led the Nets to a 5-3 record in the Orlando NBA restart and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, remains a significant candidate in the Nets’ search process and has left a great impression on ownership. Brooklyn identified several targets for the search, and The Athletic reported last week that they had interest in pursuing San Antonio Spurs icon Gregg Popovich. The Nets are believed to be continuing to work through their process even after their interview with Vaughn.

Marks is expected to pick the brains of several Nets above and beyond his two superstars. Multiple sources have indicated he will likely touch base with other players Brooklyn has invested in long term, including DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie. One source suggested Caris LeVert as well. “Yeah, I would say it would totally be not incredibly smart of us if we did not involve some of these key players in this decision. And that not only goes for Kevin,” Marks said earlier. “Kevin, Kyrie; we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they want in a coach, what they need. The guys have been brutally honest so far.”

Lue was 128-83 with the Cavs, promoted to head coach on Jan. 22, 2016 and fired on Oct. 28, 2018. Between then he reached three NBA Finals, won a 2016 title on Irving’s iconic shot, and saw the guard average 25.2 points a year later, his best for a full season. There is believed to be mutual interest from both Irving and Lue in a reunion. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Lue is a candidate for the Sixers and Pelicans, seeking $7 million annually but possibly willing to accept $5 million or $6 million. Joe Harris also played under Lue in Cleveland, with Harris telling The Post that Lue was “an excellent coach.”

Alex Schiffer: New Nets coach odds per @betonline_ag: Jacque Vaughn-5/2 Ty Lue-11/4 Gregg Popovich-3/1 Mark Jackson-7/2 Jason Kidd-4/1 Jeff Van Gundy-15/2 Darvin Ham-10/1 Ime Udoka-10/1 Rick Pitino-15/1 John Calipari-18/1 Mike Krzyzewski-18/1 Tom Izzo-18/1 Adam Harrington-20/1 Jay Wright-20/1

Shams Charania: Pop said once the season ended for San Antonio that he intends to continue coaching, and I haven’t sensed an indication that it will be anywhere but San Antonio, but again, the fact remains that there are a lot of connection that the Nets will exercise and see the viability of a pursuit and it may just be a couple phone calls away between, you know, the parties involved and you get to the root idea. But, you know, I think there is some hope within the Nets that this could be a discussion that moves forward.

Nets GM Sean Marks was an assistant coach under Popovich, on the bench for the Spurs’ 2014 NBA title win, and became assistant general manager after that season. Marks joined the Nets in 2016. “Pop has a job. So I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach — and to be quite frank, an even better leader,” Marks told WFAN last month when asked about Popovhich. “So I’ll let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs. He owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there.”

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.

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.

Durant, Irving seeking high profile head coach?

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.”

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.

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.

Nets keeping Jacque Vaughn?

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.

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.

Kleiman gave his thoughts on Jackson Wednesday, three days before the Nets parted ways with Kenny Atkinson, jolting open another vacancy. “I talked to him about it all the time – that you should be coaching in the NBA,’’ Kleiman said. “He’s one of those magnetic personalities. When you get people who are that special and people follow, it’s not always the most conventional way of doing things. That disruptiveness is sometimes what you need to become great. He’s a very spiritual guy. The idea is his time will come but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.’’
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October 3, 2022 | 9:40 pm EDT Update