Sometimes, common sense prevails.
That would be the case if the Nets are indeed considering Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy or Jason Kidd as their next head coach, as the New York Times' Marc Stein reported on Thursday. Stein also says that Brooklyn's current interim head coach, Jacque Vaughn, is still in the mix to retain his job, and mentions Warriors assistant Mike Brown as another name to watch.
If you're going to replace Kenny Atkinson, who played an integral role in digging the Nets out of the doldrums, any one of those names make the most sense. The Nets have shifted into the championship-or-bust phase of their life cycle after signing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last summer. Durant has been out the entire season. Irving played 20 games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
Lue has coached Irving in the past, having served as the head coach of the Cavaliers team that defeated the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. There are conflicting reports on whether Irving wants Lue as his next head coach, with one report citing Lakers assistant Phil Handy as his preferred choice. But there is a level of familiarity there and a championship history between the two that cannot be denied.
The Daily News first reported Monday that Lue is interested in the Nets coaching job.
Jackson has ties to the city, born and raised in Brooklyn having played high school basketball at Bishop Loughlin, just a 15-minute walk from Barclays Center. He was also the head coach the Warriors parted ways with in favor of Steve Kerr before rattling off three championships in a four-year span.
Kidd, of course, is a Nets legend, one of the greatest point guards of all-time who guided New Jersey to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances (and losses) in 2002 and 2003. Kidd coached the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett Nets team to a second-round playoff appearance in 2014, then took the head coaching job with the Bucks, where he played an integral role in helping develop Giannis Antetokounmpo into an MVP-caliber player.
Those Bucks, however, began trampling the league when Mike Budenholzer took over for Kidd and won Coach of the Year, leading Milwaukee to the best record in basketball last season and this year.
Van Gundy has not coached since 2007, but there are only 12 head coaches in NBA history who have coached as many games and have a better win percentage. Among them: Jerry Sloan, George Karl, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Rick Adelman, Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, Red Auerbach, Chuck Daly, Erik Spoelstra, Stan Van Gundy and K.C. Jones. Van Gundy has ties to New York and is revered among Knicks fans as the head coach during their 1999 NBA Finals run.
And there's Vaughn, who has not been considered a favorite to retain his job after replacing Atkinson midseason. Vaughn would have improved his chances to retain his job had he been able to win the majority of the remaining games after taking the helm as head coach, then pushing the team to a competitive playoff performance, possibly even an upset.
Vaughn remains the only undefeated coach in the NBA with a 2-0 record, his last win coming in Staples Center against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The season was suspended due to the coronavirus two days later.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said in an April 1 conference call that the team has effectively put its coaching search on hold until the coronavirus pandemic has resolved itself in the U.S.
"No, we are not reaching out to anybody right now," he said on that call. "That would completely be not be fair to our group."
That was then and this is now, with names surfacing left and right. While it's unclear what direction the front office is leaning, there is one certainty as it pertains to this decision: The Nets cannot afford to get this hire wrong.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a championship with two superstar players on board, and if the coach isn't going to be Kenny Atkinson, it had better be someone who brings a trophy to Barclays Center.