The Brooklyn Nets are interested in hiring Gregg Popovich away from the San Antonio Spurs as their next head coach, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. The injury-depleted Nets were just swept out of the first round of the postseason by the Toronto Raptors Sunday. Popovich has been the head coach of the Spurs since 1996, and has spent a total of 30 years with the organization across two stints and several different job titles. He has won five championships as a head coach, all with San Antonio.
But if he were ever going to leave the Spurs, the Nets would be a compelling destination on several levels. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks played for Popovich in San Antonio, and worked under him as both an assistant coach and assistant general manager. Additionally, Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn, assistant GM Andy Birdsong and assistant coaches Bret Brielmaier and Tiago Splitter are all Spurs alums.
The Spurs pursued Nets star Kevin Durant in free agency in 2016, meeting with him in the Hamptons before he ultimately signed with the Golden State Warriors. When Kyrie Irving asked for a trade in 2017, he listed the Spurs as one of his preferred destinations, and San Antonio pursued him aggressively. There is a strong mutual respect between Durant and Popovich, according to Charania.
But at this time, Popovich is not known to be interested in the Nets job. Should he decide to pursue it, the Nets would likely have to offer draft compensation to the Spurs for the right to hire away their coach under contract. When the Los Angeles Clippers hired Doc Rivers away from the Boston Celtics, they sent a first-round pick back to Boston as compensation. The Nets do not own their first-round pick this season, as they shipped it to Atlanta last offseason to create extra cap space. Therefore, any agreement would likely include future picks.
Popovich is far from the only name on Brooklyn's wish list. Vaughn, Jason Kidd, Ty Lue, Ime Udoka and Jeff Van Gundy are all in the running, per Charania. Still, Popovich is by far the biggest name in the running. He would almost certainly be Brooklyn's first choice should he choose to pursue the job, but until he makes any possible interest known, this should be considered wishful thinking on the Nets' part.