The end of the Nets season inside the NBA’s restart bubble on Sunday was the official end of the plucky underdog, “building a winning culture” era of Nets basketball. That era really died when Kenny Atkinson was out as head coach, but with a depleted roster some of it carried over to Orlando.
No longer. Big-name stars — Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — have the Nets thinking title now.
Those big-name stars want a big-name next coach — such as Tyronn Lue or Gregg Popovich — but Brooklyn GM Sean Marks is leaning toward Jacque Vaughn.
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.
You can be sure both players will offer their opinions on who should be the next coach. Marks, who understands all too well how this works, will undoubtedly listen.
Marks — who was a player and assistant coach under Popovich — has denied trying to poach the Spurs legend to come to Brooklyn: “I will let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and he owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there.” Pop is not bolting the Spurs right now. That the rumor will not die suggests someone with sway in the Nets organization (maybe a player) wants it to happen, but that’s different from it actually happening.
Lue is the lead assistant on Doc Rivers’ Clippers staff, a group that has its hands full inside the bubble right now. He has been linked to multiple job openings — New Orleans, Houston if/when that job becomes available — and likely will have his pick of a couple of spots when this season ends.
Vaughn coached a slapped-together Nets roster in the bubble, got them to play hard and maximize what they can do. That would typically be enough to get someone to keep the job, but these are not typical times in Brooklyn.
If Brooklyn’s new stars want the team to go big game hunting in free agency, that very well may be what happens.