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Is Tyronn Lue the front-runner for Nets job? Has search even begun?

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Los Angeles Clippers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In three recent interviews, one a conference call with beat writers, the others with broadcasters Ian Eagle and Chris Carrino, Sean Marks has indicated that the team’s search for Kenny Atkinson’s replacement was on hold. The first reason of course is the NBA’s continuing shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the other is his desire to give Jacque Vaughn and staff an opportunity to show what they can do.

“I think what I’m seeing so far from how our group — with Jacque and his assistants — how they’re working through this and how they’re reaching out to players and their collaborative approach within the organization has been great,” he told the beat writers back on April 1.

With a resumption of play less and less likely or at least questionable, Marks will at some point have to begin the search and use Vaughn’s two games as interim coach and communication with players during the quarantine as his yardstick.

So, the speculation about the Nets most important off-season decision has begun.

Following Stefan Bondy’s report in the Daily News that Tyronn Lue is interested in the Nets’ coaching job, three former Nets who know Lue, Richard Jefferson, Paul Pierce and Jared Dudley all gave their endorsement to the Clippers assistant coach.

“Ty Lue, definitely — I think he would be a great fit,” Pierce told ESPN’s ‘The Jump.’ “Are they going to be a championship caliber team if you put Ty Lue in there and add (Kevin Durant) with Kyrie Irving? Yes. Can they do it? We have yet to see. Or it has yet to happen. But a great fit all across the board, I believe.”

Lue was an assistant with the Celtics from 2011 through 2013 before joining the Cavaliers, first as an assistant, then as head coach, winning his third ring and first as a coach in 2016, when Jefferson was a key reserve in Cleveland.

He didn’t address whether Irving wants a reunion with Lue — “I can’t speak for Kyrie,” Jefferson said — but as Bondy noted, he wasn’t reluctant to push for the 42-year-old.

“There are so many great young coaches out there who deserve an opportunity. T-Lue, to me, is the No. 1 young coach. He can coach,” said Jefferson. “He can do all that stuff. He has a proven track record. So do I think T-Lue can coach this team? Do I think he can be successful? Yes.”

He also dismissed concerns that Lue wasn’t a good x’s and o’s guy.

“That’s stupid. That’s a dumb statement,” Jefferson said. “T-Lue and Gregg Popovich are the two best X’s and O’s coaches that I’ve played for in my entire basketball career. From high school all the way up until I retired.”

Dudley, in a tweet, agreed with RJ.

“Ty Lue very underrated X’s and O’s.. Doc Rivers help develop that with him letting him draw up play after play in critical situations in practices all the time.. Ex Cav players will tell you similar things, I’m sure of it.”

Marks has declined to speculate on specific candidates, but in talking to Carrino 12 days ago, he provided a blueprint of Brooklyn’s next coach.

“As we move into this next stage, we’ll be looking for a leader, a leader of men, someone who can take this group and continue what we’ve already built, having relationships with the players, understand what the organization is at the precipice of and who the key players are —and I don’t just mean the players on the court but who the players are in the organization,” said Marks. “They need to have an understanding of the performance team, the ownership group and so forth and all of the things that go into taking the Brooklyn Nets to another level.

Marks told the beat writers that he will take a collaborative approach and speak to players during the process, noting as well that he’s used players as a sounding board on other big issues, inviting them to draft workouts for example.

“Ultimately, I’m not going to put that decision on any one, two, four or five players. It’s going to come down to myself, the front office and our ownership, but it’ll be a collaborative approach.”

Thus, it’s likely both Irving and Kevin Durant will have a say, but Marks noted as well the final choice will be up to him and Joe Tsai.

That Lue would be a top choice should come as no surprise. In addition to winning it all in 2016, he got the Cavs to the Finals in 2017 and 2018, being fired early the next season after both his superstars had moved on. He also has two rings as a player in 2001 and 2002, teaming up with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

In Alex Schiffer’s conversation with John Hollinger in recent days, Lue’s name also came up.

“One obvious candidate will be Tyronn Lue, given that he already helped take Irving to a championship once,” Hollinger told Schiffer, adding, “Lue has been out of the game for an unusually long time for a coach who captured a championship by defeating a 73-win team, and Brooklyn could be a great landing spot for him.

“An unknown is where the relationship with Irving stands, however. Depending on the day, you will either read that Kyrie wants Lue as the coach, or that the two never got along in Cleveland.”

Hollinger in fact suggested another Kyrie coach, Mike Brown, could be a sleeper. Both Lue and Brown have winning percentages of better than 60 percent in their careers. Brown is currently associate head coach with Golden State, where he earned two rings working with Durant. He may already have a relationship with a third Nets player, Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie presumably didn’t decide to join the Nigerian national team without speaking to Brown, Nigeris’s new head coach.

Other names have been thrown around, but most of them are in their 50’s or 60’s with career records nowhere near as good as, say, Tom Thibodeau, Mike D’Antoni, Jeff and Stan Van Gundy, etc. Pierce thinks it’s time to end the recycling.

“Ty Lue is an absolute great fit for anybody in the league,” Pierce told ESPN. “I’m tired of the NBA recycling all these old coaches that’s been in the league for 20, 30 years. This new generation needs this new blood, guys that have been in the NBA. You talk about a guy who has won as a player and a coach, a guy who is well-known and well-liked throughout the league, a guy who relates to the players.”

Of course, Marks may have someone else in mind entirely. How long will we have to wait. Like everything else nowadays, who knows?