In a Saturday surprise, the Nets fired wildly popular head coach Kenny Atkinson after the point-guard whisperer helped rebuild the organization in three-plus seasons.
For now, Brooklyn is turning to assistant Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach as the Nets battle for a second straight trip to the postseason.
Barring they win it all, expect the Nets to conduct a full coaching search this offseason. It should be coveted job with injured superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving expected to be leading the way next season. Here’s an early look at candidates who could intrigue GM Sean Marks and the front-office:
Mark Jackson: The former Knicks point guard mostly has been linked to his former team’s coaching vacancy. Many in the NBA have been surprised the 54-year-old ABC/ESPN analyst hasn’t landed another coaching gig since being fired by the pre-dynasty Warriors in 2014. Even if the Knicks interview him again after talking with him in 2018, perhaps the Nets will as well.
Jeff Van Gundy: What is a potential coaching list without Jackson and his ESPN colleague Van Gundy? Like Jackson, the 58-year-old Van Gundy has mostly been talked about as a Knicks candidate, having coached the team through its last stretch of dominant basketball. Van Gundy has stayed active on the sidelines outside the NBA, coaching various U.S. national teams.
Jacque Vaughn: Don’t count Vaughn out of becoming the Nets’ head coach full-time. Though he was fired after two-plus seasons by the rebuilding Magic in 2015 during his first head-coaching stop, the 45-year-old former point guard has developed a strong connection with Irving and was assigned to work with him before games and at practice. Before his stints with the Magic and Nets, Vaughn worked as an assistant under NBA legend Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, where he won an NBA championship as a player in 2007.
Tom Thibodeau: Most recently the coach and president of the Timberwolves, the old-school Thibodeau has spent this season with different basketball circles across the country as he prepares for his next opportunity. But the Knicks, who are not as close to contending as Brooklyn, could be the frontrunner after one confidant of the 62-year-old told The Post in February, “He really wants the Knick job.”
Adam Harrington: Harrington, a Nets assistant coach, worked with Durant in Oklahoma City and the two have a strong relationship. It hardly would be a surprise if the superstar Durant has Marks’ ear during the coaching search, and that could bode well for the 39-year-old.
Jason Kidd: The greatest Net in their NBA history spent one season as head coach of Brooklyn in 2014 after his All-Star playing days ended, and then saw his coaching rights shipped to Milwaukee amid a power struggle with the since-revamped Nets front-office. The 46-year-old was fired after two-plus seasons in Milwaukee, but has helped rebuild his reputation as an assistant with LeBron’s Lakers this season. Kidd likely is a wild-card candidate at this point.