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Gregg Popovich to the Nets? That’s a stretch

San Antonio Spurs v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

Let the (wild) speculation begin!

With the Nets back on the court, for what’s likely a short stay, pundits both on this site and elsewhere are turning their focus to what will be the big question of the postponed off-season: who will be the Nets next coach. Likely and unlikely candidates are being examined. And speculation has run wild.

Gregg Popovich as Nets coach? It started when an obscure pundit —the name escapes me— suggested the Nets were preparing a “Godfather offer” — you know an offer you can’t refuse— for Pop.

Speculation was also driven by the obvious: Pop’s reign in San Antonio seems to nearing an end. After a run blessed by the winningest trio in NBA history, then by the NBA’s best two-way player, the Spurs are barely in the post-season and let’s face it, attracting free agents to San Antonio has never been easy.

Moreover, there’s the connections between Popovich and Sean Marks, who served as both an assistant coach and assistant GM in the Alamo City. In fact, when Marks rebuilt the Nets staff four years ago, it seemed that a San Antonio connection on your resume was gold. At one point, 10 staffers had previously worked for the Spurs.

Our own Glue Guys and now Stefan Bondy have joined the discussion in the past few days. Forget Jacque Vaughn or Tyronn Lue! Go for the 71-year-old grand master! Who better to handle superstar egos than the guy with five, count ‘em five, NBA titles.

Marks addressed the speculation a couple of weeks back on WFAN ... as he often does in an elliptical manner. When the Nets GM doesn’t want to be pinned down, he can find a number of ways to do it.

“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. 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.”

Bondy thinks otherwise. Sure, he runs the show in San Antone, but how can he be happy when things on the court are falling part?

The franchise, for the first time since the start of Bill Clinton’s second term, could miss the playoffs with its 27-36 record. The leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, might bolt in free agency and its top frontcourt player, LaMarcus Aldridge, is 35 years old and coming off shoulder surgery. Buford’s miracles have dried up. There’s no Leonard or Duncan or Parker or Ginobili waiting to emerge. Ownership shifted from Peter Holt to his son, and the family is selling off a minority share.

Of course, he could also retire or move into a lesser role. And yes, Pop loves New York and there are more great restaurants on any street in Brooklyn or Manhattan than there are in Bexar County, Texas, etc., etc. But there have been questions about Pop’s all-in culture, whether it still works in an era of player empowerment. As Marks noted in that WFAN appearance...

“Kevin and Kyrie, we’re gonna pick their brains on what they are looking for in a leader, what they want in a coach, what they need. I think these guys have been brutally honest so far.”

So, at the end of the day, the chances that Pop would accept any offer, even one named after a New York mob boss and made by a protege, are slim. What’s far more likely is that Sean Marks will be looking for the best of Pop-like qualities in the next coach he hires. And that’s fine, too.