The Brooklyn Nets are officially beginning their offseason coaching search this week and they could already have their sights set on San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
A year after Brooklyn made two big splashes by signing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the organization is now making a pursuit of one of the all-time coaching greats as its top priority this offseason.
Brooklyn Nets will make push to hire Gregg Popovich as head coach
San Antonio’s historic stretch of making the NBA Playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons finally came to an end this year in the bubble. While Popovich is taking a year-by-year approach to his future, the 71-year-old will be back next season. It’s only a question of which NBA team he’ll be coaching for.
The Spurs have every reason to keep Popovich. Even as the team approaches a pivotal offseason, which could lead to a rebuild, the five-time NBA champion and three-time NBA Coach of the Year deserves to stay in San Antonio for as long as he wishes.
If the Spurs decide to build for the future, though, things could change. San Antonio’s roster is depleted and the team might be better off selling off veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge to start a rebuilding process.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Nets’ priority this offseason is determining if Popovich is interested in coaching a team that will be a title contender next season.
Not only would taking over the Nets give Popovich a vastly better opportunity to win a sixth ring than he would have with the Spurs, but he could also still be around familiar faces.
Brooklyn’s general manager Sean Marks played for Popovich (2003-’06) then served as an assistant on his staff (2013-’16). Likewise, assistant general manager Andy Birdsong worked in San Antonio for several years.
Even more importantly, per The Athletic, Popovich is a favorite of Kevin Durant. The NBA star has admired Popovich for years and there’s a belief both he and Irving would enjoy being coached by one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
The Nets are obviously shooting for the moon with their top target, but crazier things have happened in the NBA. If Popovich isn’t interested, Jason Kidd is a strong candidate to take the job and interim coach Jacque Vaughn will draw serious consideration, too.
What would it cost to trade for Gregg Popovich?
The likeliest outcome is Popovich turns down the Nets and remains in San Antonio. If he expresses a desire to move on so he can contend for another ring, then the Spurs would likely accommodate his wish. Of course, that would come at a cost.
If San Antonio allowed Popovich to pursue a new coaching opportunity, the Nets would still need to trade for him. While coaching trades are rare in sports, a few examples in recent NBA history paint a potential cost to acquire a top coach.
According to ESPN, the Orlando Magic traded a 2007 second-round pick and cash considerations for the right to hire Stan Van Gundy. While Van Gundy was a respected coach at the time, his team never appeared in the NBA Finals during his tenure in Miami.
A greater comparison can be found in 2013. The Los Angeles Clippers traded an unprotected first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for the right to hire Doc Rivers, per The Los Angeles Times. The pick would wind up being No. 28 overall, which the Celtics used on R.J. Hunter.
The high cost reflected the value Rivers brought as one of the NBA’s best coaches. While his 416-305 regular-season record and an NBA championship with Boston was impressive, it still doesn’t compare to Popovich’s resume.
If the Nets can convince Popovich to leave San Antonio, then the real cost would come into play. Not only would Brooklyn likely need to sign him to an extension, but the Spurs would likely require multiple first-round picks in return. Because of NBA rules preventing consecutive picks in future years from being traded, San Antonio would likely break up the picks to time up with when the Nets’ contention window might close.
It would certainly be an expensive price for Brooklyn, but it could be worth it to land Popovich with the chance to potentially become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.