Gregg Popovich to Brooklyn? Not likely, but neither was KD and Kyrie

The Brooklyn Nets, who were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, are actively looking for their next head coach, and the list is long.

The incumbent Jacque Vaughn, Jason Kidd, Ty Lue, Ime Udoka and Jeff Van Gundy are all on the list of coaching candidates to meet with the Nets for the vacancy at head coach. However, there is another dream candidate, one that would usurp all of the other candidates.

Gregg Popovich, 71 years old, leaving the franchise he has overseen for 26 years and taking a new opportunity is deemed a pipe dream for now. The Nets would need permission to speak to Popovich, and compensation could become necessary if talks advance.

It all seems highly unlikely, and realistically won’t happen. But the connections of Popovich to Brooklyn are stronger than any that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had.

Popovich has several connections to the Nets, including general manager Sean Marks, assistant GM Andy Birdsong, Vaughn, and assistant coaches Bret Brielmaier and Tiago Splitter. Marks, Vaughn and Splitter all played for Popovich in San Antonio too, with Marks and Vaughn serving as assistants under him at different points.

There is known to be tremendous mutual respect between Popovich and KD. Durant’s presence and voice is powerful within the Nets’ franchise, and Popovich represents a bonding candidate between the two-time Finals MVP and Brooklyn’s front office.

Popovich has long been a favorite of both Durant and Irving, both who were once linked to wanting to play for Popovich’s Spurs. Even dating as far back as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s coaching search process in 2015, Durant wanted the Thunder to throw the world at Popovich for him to become his coach.

Popovich has made it clear that he plans on coaching for years to come. It is expected that the job in San Antonio is his until he willingly walks away. Popovich hasn’t worried about job security since the turn of the century. But in that same breath, it could be a reason Popovich decides to leave the franchise.

Popovich has groomed many assistant coaches during his tenure, with the most recent being Becky Hammon and Tim Duncan. He has been vocal about Hammon getting a real chance to be a head coach, and San Antonio may be the best spot for that to play out.

Does he move on to open the door for Hammon to snag a well deserved opportunity? I don’t expect that to happen this year, but it is a storyline to follow in the coming years if Hammon isn’t recruited for another head coaching job.

Another thing to look at is the Spurs situation. They are in the middle of the pack, a place you never want to be. There is some good young talent like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, their last two first-round picks in Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl on roster. But none of them appear to be a superstar in the making. With the Spurs hovering in the middle of the pack they won’t have the chance to draft that next superstar with a high draft pick.

Does Popovich want to engage in a rebuild that he might not be around to reap the benefits of?

The answer to that question appears to be a resounding yes.

All throughout the bubble seeding games Popovich prioritized development over winning. It might have costed him his 23 year playoff streak, but he did what he thought was right. He focused on making his youngsters better players day in and day out.

Giving back to the next generation might be the next phase of his career and life. He’s won at a consistent clip nobody has ever seen. Popovich won in different eras, with different systems and styles. He’s literally done it all. But never really faced a challenge like this. The new challenge may be what keeps Popovich young, fresh and involved, especially since his wife is no longer around.

Do I expect Popovich to be anywhere other than on the Spurs huddle next season? No. But I also understand why reports are coming out that the Nets have strong interest in the legendary coach.

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