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Woike: Sources say Nets will pursue Gregg Popovich but likely won’t be successful

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

The Nets coaching search, at least officially, won’t begin until the Nets final loss in the playoffs, but Dan Woike, the Los Angeles Times reporter inside the “bubble,” reports that the Nets are “expected” to make a run at Gregg Popovich, but ultimately he believes the pursuit will be “unsuccessful.”

Reporting from Orlando, Woike writes...

The lovable underdog days of the Nets are numbered, with league sources, including those familiar with the Nets and the Spurs, expecting Brooklyn to explore bringing the NBA’s biggest coaching name — Gregg Popovich — to the Nets’ sidelines.

Brooklyn, according to sources, almost certainly will be unsuccessful because the Spurs coach’s legacy is so closely tied to San Antonio, where he’s built a life and a legacy over the past two decades. Plus he’s under contract. There’s a “never say never” element according to one NBA executive, but it’ll probably never happen.

Woike didn’t provide the only news about a possible pursuit of Popovich. Stefan Bondy pointed to his earlier reporting on Popovich-to-the-Nets speculating and added a new item: Joe Tsai wants the front office to be aggressive.

Of course, the obvious connection is Sean Marks —and a coterie of former Spurs personnel which has to include the current coach, Jacque Vaughn. Marks and Popovich have both been asked about it in recent weeks, but neither gave pundits any confirmation.

“Pop has a job. So, I will say that,” Marks told WFAN. “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.”

Asked Thursday whether or not he’d be back to coach the Spurs next season, Popovich said, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Of course, the answer to that rhetorical question is that the Spurs, after 22 straight years in the post-season, are now in a rebuilding program and Pop is 71 years old. Moreover, the Nets job ... in New York, with a cast of stars and superstars might be more appealing.

Whether the pursuit will be serious or the stuff of rumor, there will be other questions. Would the Spurs permit the Nets to talk with Popovich who is under contract? Would Pop, a frequent critic of coaching changes, want to torpedo Vaughn’s chances? Vaughn played for. coached with and scouted on behalf of Pop.

There’s also the issue of player empowerment and whether Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would want to play for Popovich who in addition to his five title rings has a reputation as being a tough taskmaster. Ask Kawhi Leonard ... and maybe others who played recently for the Spurs. And as Marks has said, he will be talking to the two as well as other players adding KD has a “very loud voice” in the team’s future.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans have fired Alvin Gentry, meaning there will be another alluring opening for candidates who the Nets might talk with ... and Vaughn if the Nets don’t keep him. Adrian Wojnarowski reported later Saturday...

Among those coaches expected to be part of the Pelicans search: Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, sources said. The Pelicans are also expected to have an interest in Brooklyn interim coach Jacque Vaughn, should the Nets decide not to retain him, sources said.

Lue, according to more than one report, prefers the Nets as his next destination but he will be the leading candidate on any remaining open jobs.