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Brooklyn starts coaching search, shadow of Gregg Popovich looms over process

Popovich Brooklyn

CLEVELAND, OHIO - MARCH 08: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs watches the scoreboard during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 08, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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I’d say that somewhere Gregg Popovich is rolling his eyes at all this speculation surrounding his future, except wherever Popovich is right now, he’s not thinking about the Nets or the Spurs. He’s thinking about the pinot noir grape harvest this fall.

But make no mistake, that speculation is out there.

The Brooklyn Nets have started their coaching search and interviewed interim coach Jacque Vaughn and he left a good impression, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. That Nets ownership was involved in the interview is a good sign for Vaughn. Even if the Nets don’t hire Vaughn as coach they hope to keep him in the organization in some role, according to the report.

Over the process looms the shadow of Popovich. He is the reported preference of Kevin Durant (and what he wants, he gets) and GM Sean Marks comes out of the Spurs organization. That in, however, means that while the rest of the world speculates Popovich and Marks have probably already talked. Via Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Irina Pavlova — who was entrusted by Prokhorov with both the 2016 GM search that landed Marks, and to some extent the coaching search that found Atkinson — has said as much on Twitter.

“If the Nets know they won’t be successful, they won’t pursue him at all. It’s a matter of one phone call to Pop to find out. Let’s not pretend like he and Sean haven’t spoken in 4 years,” Pavlova tweeted.

To clarify: “pursue” means formally ask the Spurs for permission to interview. If it gets that far, it means the deal is in the works. If Popovich informally indicates he is not leaving the Spurs, there won’t be a request to interview and therefore no “pursuit.”

Around the league, it is considered an incredible longshot Popovich, at age 71, would leave the Spurs for the Nets, no matter who is on the team or how much money they throw at him. But if Durant wants the Nets to ask, they ask. If he said yes, by the time the negotiations went public the process would be well down the road.

Vaughn and Tyronn Lue remain the frontrunners for the Brooklyn job, but Lue is still in the bubble as the lead assistant to Doc Rivers with the Clippers. All we know for sure is the process has started.