It seems as if everyone on the Nets list --if indeed that single sheet of paper exists on Mikhail Prokhorov's desk or in note inside Billy King's iPad-- has pluses and minuses. With coaching vacancies being filled every day around the league and the draft approaching, we take a broad look at the candidates. It is not in the order we think the candidates stand. We don't know where they stand. It's more who's been getting the most publicity.
Lionel Hollins, 59, took the Grizzlies from an also-ran to a Western Conference finalist, winning 56 games this season, then beating the Clippers and Thunder in the playoffs before being swept by the Spurs. One of the smartest defensive coaches in the NBA, he is also a no-nonsense leader. But he's not renowned as an offensive "innovator", something King has said he wants. His player development record is generally good, with pluses for Mike Conley Jr., Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, but minuses for Ed Davis and Tony Wroten. He gets teams to play together but at what cost? He can be dictatorial, and that might not sit well with the Nets, as Peter Vecsey noted. And how many GMs and owners remember his public dispute with the Grizzlies over the Rudy Gay trade? Competition: Grizzlies and Clippers.
Brian Shaw, 47, was voted the best assistant coach in the league by NBA GM's before the season. He seems ready to move into the first chair. A Phil Jackson acolyte with rings as both a player and assistant coach, he has no head coaching experience at any level. Generally credited with helping develop Lance Stephenson, a problem child, and to a lesser degree Paul George. A blank slate. Is that what the Nets want? Competition: Pistons, 76ers, Clippers
Scott Skiles, 49, is again out of a job, reaching a mid-season agreement to part ways with the Bucks. A good candidate because of his toughness and defensive schemes, he has other issues, like not being an offensive innovator. He has also failed in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, leaving a trail of bitter players in his wake. Like Hollins, would he wear quickly on the team's veterans? Competition: ??
Jerry Sloan, 71, seems to want back in the game after quitting in mid-season back in 2010. A Hall of Famer who knows something about system coaching ... the flex offense, pick and roll, pick and roll. Deron Williams has let it be known that he's willing to work with Sloan again, but how does Sloan feel about D-WIll? That's the larger issue. They had a famous series of blow-ups just before Sloan quit and D-Will was traded in February 2010. But there were also other circumstances, like new ownership's unwillingness to go along with all of Sloan's roster whims, as the late Larry Miller had. He did say he would take the call if the Nets answered. Have they? As old school as they come in coaching circles. He would be the oldest coach in NBA history. How bad does he want back? He talked to the Bucks but both sides agreed to say thanks, but no thanks. There are reports he'd want to coach a title contender. Competition: none that we know of.
Larry Brown, 72, is under contract at SMU, but when has a contract ever stopped Brown from moving on and reports indicate he has an "NBA out" if a team came calling. Another Hall of Famer, Brown would also be the oldest head coach in NBA history. Brown is the only coach in basketball history to win NBA (Pistons) and NCAA (Kansas) championships, but his last two NBA coaching gigs in New York and Charlotte proved disastrous and his tenure at SMU while promising hasn't yet produced. Just Wednesday, he lost his top recruiter to Kansas. Why'd he leave? Other than his Hall of Fame credentials, Brown has a great relationship with King, which might temper his desire to fiddle with rosters ad infinitum. Oh yeah, he's a Brooklyn native. Competition: SMU.
Jeff Van Gundy, 51, was a month of so ago everyone's odds-on favorite to coach the Nets. Well everyone in the media. He even seemed to be lobbying for the job! Now, as he nears the end of his latest deal with ESPN, he doesn't seem to be anywhere near the mix. Why? Beats us, but he's not easy on GM's and can be a bit volatile. His record with player development has positive and negative aspects. He's always had the horses, and has done well with Patrick Ewing and Yao Ming, but he didn't win in either New York or Houston and quit in both places. Competition: Clippers.
Ettore Messina, 53, is the premier coach in Europe who spent 2011-12 on the Lakers bench with Mike Brown. Currently Messina is the coach of CSKA Moscow, where he is under contract for another two years. It was at CSKA, when it was owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, that Messina achieved his greatest success, winning the Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008 and being named coach of the year in Europe. He has won the Euroleague championship two other times. Would he be interested? Would it seem like ownership meddling if he was chosen? Proven coach yes; proven NBA coach no. Competition: CSKA Moscow.
Nate McMillan, 48, has been out of work for a year and a half after being dumped by Portland following a mediocre start to the season. His overall record is below .500, but he's won 50+ games three times, once in Seattle, twice in Portland. But of the five times he's made the playoffs, he lost in the first round four times, reaching the second round only once, back in 2005. A tough guy with a record of defensive success, McMillan has a reputation for coming into bad situations and calming the waters, which is not so much what the Nets need. Offensively, he's had his moments as well. Interviewed for the Hawks job but didn't get it. Competition: Clippers, Pistons.
The Mystery Man. This has been a very close-hold process with King and Prokhorov, along with Dmitry Razumov, sifting through the resumes'. Is it possible someone else is being considered? Sure. We don't know. Don't think anyone else does either.