This fall, the many fans of the Brooklyn Nets and NBA basketball will finally be able to exhale as we witness what many of us have been awaiting since that delicious and delirious moment we learned Kevin Durant was "...going with Brooklyn." In the interim, the team has experienced as much as any NBA franchise (really, more than most) has in this time of change. Arguably, the largest change has been the loss of Kenny Atkinson, the coach given (and deserving of) the lion's share of the credit for resuscitating and revivifying what was a moribund carcass of a team. Most of us are well aware of the swirling rumors regarding the deterioration of belief among the "new blood" and the new school coach who was thought to be a player's coach but was outed as simply an old school coach. This "internal review" was likely to have occurred in any set of circumstances. In other words, much like other coaching situations (think Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, Buck Showalter in New York and in the NBA all of Stan Van Gundy in Miami, Doug Collins in Chicago, David Blatt in Cleveland and Mark Jackson in Oakland) where one coach does his best imitation of Moses, the Nets would likely have changed coaches, no matter who was blamed for the change.
Now we ask ourselves, who will be our John Gruden, Joe Torre, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Ty Lue or Steve Kerr?
Let's start with Ty Lue - Currently an assistant with the Clippers, he declined the Lakers head coaching job and, along with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, led one of our great midwestern cities out of a 50 year championship drought. He's a players' coach who is attributed with big enough stones to stand up to the biggest superstar in the game and possibly the greatest to ever bounce a ball on the hardwoods. Lue is associated with the current opening in New Orleans with good reason.
Jason Kidd - To me, Jason Kidd is the greatest NBA Net to ever wear the jersey. He is also the most confounding of figures to be considered a legitimate contender for the job. Is he a basketball genius who sees the game faster and more clearly than others, an intriguer who forever seeks the next position of power or is he the reason Milwaukee is on its own threshold of success? One of three players to go directly from player to head coach in the NBA, Kidd has an impeachable track record of doing whatever he can think to do ("Tyshawn, knock my drink out of my hand!") to win. He also has courted controversy throughout his playing days and coaching days. Ultimately, to me he's the Pied Piper of Hamelin who leads us a merry dance until we discover he's led us astray.
Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson - I've paired the two of them because of their oh, so successful schtick as the lead NBA broadcasting team for ABC/ESPN. Each of them has been out of the coaching game for more than five years. One can argue that the game has changed into something that neither would be comfortable coaching. For Van Gundy's part, his best days were the grind-it-out '90s and for Jackson's, it was catching lightning in a bottle with a team that accumulated a great deal of young, cheap talent. Van Gundy is a true old school coach. It is easy to imagine a team's tuning him out as soon as the screaming started. For Jackson, his biggest weakness seems to be his inability to admit when he's wrong. I expect both will continue their legacy as legendary NBA telecasters.
Jacque Vaughn and Gregg Popovich - These two belong together because I think they are the two most likely to be named the Brooklyn Nets' next coach. Yes, this means I'm predicting Jacque Vaughn as the next Brooklyn coach. Like most of us, I would love to think it is a realistic chance that Pop would come to Brooklyn to lead us to the Holy Grail, but his entrenchment in San Antonio combined with his championing of giving younger candidates a chance to coach leads me to believe that Joe Tsai's wishes will not be realized. If Pop cannot be pried from San Antonio, it is hard to imagine another candidate's becoming available who would be more attractive than Vaughn. Vaughn was promised not only a chance to be seriously considered, but also that his record in the bubble would not be held against him. Of course, he has exceeded all expectations. His 5-3 record while coaching what was essentially a G-League roster for the balance of the eight games is the essence of overachieving.
Who do you think will be the 2020-2021 coach of the Nets?