Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
On Friday afternoon, Mark Heisler tweeted that the Nets have made contact with coaching free agent and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy about their still-vacant head coaching position.
Reached later Friday afternoon, the former Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach responded to the report.
“I don’t just talk about jobs,” Van Gundy told SNY.tv via text message. “If [Nets General Manager] Billy [King] wants to talk about who he has talked to, then that’s up to him.”
Van Gundy didn’t exactly confirm that contact was made, but he certainly didn’t deny it either. In any case, Van Gundy, who owns a .575 regular season winning percentage in 12 seasons between the Knicks and Rockets, is widely considered one of the best coaches not currently coaching in the NBA.
He has not coached since the 2006-07 season. Despite leading the Rockets to a respectable 52-30 record, Van Gundy was fired after the Rockets were eliminated in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs, where they lost to the Utah Jazz after seven games. He has served as ESPN analyst since.
This Nets’ coaching search, technically ongoing since King announced on May 5 that then-interim head coach Carlesimo would not be retained, is being closely guarded and is still in something of a holding pattern, but should be picking up steam shortly.
King has already been turned down by Phil Jackson and Boston Celtics President Danny Ainge denied the Nets permission to speak to current Celtics head coach Doc Rivers about any potential interest.
At one point recently, current Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins was thought to be at the top of the list, but that notion has cooled in recent days.
Another name that has been mentioned is Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw. Pacers President Donnie Walsh has gone on the record as saying he believes that Shaw “is ready” to become a head coach in the NBA, but will not allow Shaw—who is still under contract with the club—to interview for any head coaching opportunities until the Pacers season is over.
NBA teams tend to prefer to fill head coaching vacancies prior to the draft and that trend seems to be continuing. The Charlotte Bobcats (Steve Clifford), Atlanta Hawks (Mike Budenholzer), Cleveland Cavaliers (Mike Brown), Phoenix Suns (Jeff Hornacek), Milwaukee Bucks (Larry Drew) and Sacramento Kings (Mike Malone) have all recently hired or are set to introduce new head coaches.
As it stands, the Nets are on the list of NBA teams in search of a head coach, along with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers.
And no, Van Gundy—who has reportedly been targeted by the Clippers—probably will not be talking about any of those jobs, either. But with the NBA’s offseason on the horizon and some candidates nearing the end of their contracts and end of their seasons, the Nets head coaching search is expected to pick up steam over the coming weeks.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA