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Monday, June 30, 2014
Five potential Nets coaching candidates

By Mike Mazzeo and Ohm Youngmisuk

Jason Kidd is gone to Milwaukee. The Nets now need a new coach for the second time in a year.

Who will be the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets? Let’s take a look at five potential candidates:

1. LIONEL HOLLINS

Lionel HollinsSkinny: The former Grizzlies coach led Memphis to three consecutive playoff appearances in his last three years there. In 2012-13, they won 56 games and advanced to the Western Conference finals before being swept by San Antonio. Hollins’ contract was ultimately not renewed reportedly due to “philosophical differences” he had with management.

Why it could be him: A league source told ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor that Hollins has emerged as a “very serious candidate.”

“In a lot of ways, he makes the most sense,” the source said. “He represents stability, and stability is very important right now. He rules with an iron fist and gets a lot out of his players, so he’d be very high on the list right now, and likely the leader.”

One potential downside to this hire is that it’s a safe but not sexy pick. Hollins isn’t a marquee name to draw fans to Brooklyn. Ownership may want to make more of a splashy move like they did last year by hiring Jason Kidd.

2. ETTORE MESSINA

Skinny: The Nets could take a look at European coaches and Messina is regarded as one of the best coaches in Europe, having won four Euroleague championships. He also served as an assistant coach/consultant to the Lakers in 2011-12. There were recent reports that Messina was leaving CSKA Moscow to join the San Antonio Spurs' coaching staff. Spurs GM R.C. Buford denied it.

Why it could be him: Messina is a contender, sources told ESPN.com. He has a strong relationship with Mikhail Prokhorov, having coached CSKA Moscow while Prokhorov owned the Russian team. But would Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce want to play for someone who hasn’t been a head coach in the NBA?

3. MARK JACKSON

Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson was very successful with Golden State; would that translate to Brooklyn?
Skinny: Brooklyn’s own Mark Jackson attended Bishop Loughlin and starred at St. John’s before successfully enjoying a long and successful NBA career, including time with the Knicks. He was a TV color commentator for the Nets and ESPN before becoming the coach of the Golden State Warriors. Jackson, who is currently an NBA analyst for ESPN, was there for three seasons, making the playoffs in the last two. However, he had a messy split from Golden State after reportedly clashing with ownership.

Why it could be him: All indications are Jackson was beloved by his players and he could command the respect of veterans like Garnett and Pierce, should both return. However, he’s strong-willed, opinionated and was a staunch supporter of Kidd which all could make the Nets shy away after their divorce with Kidd. If Jackson gets a sit-down with the Nets, though, he has the charisma and personality to dazzle and win an interview.

4. GEORGE KARL

Skinny: Karl has 25 years of head-coaching experience in the NBA. He recently guided the Denver Nuggets to a 57-win season and was named Coach of the Year in 2012-13. He led the Nuggets to the playoffs in all nine of his seasons there, but only once got past the first round. The two sides ultimately parted ways. Karl currently works as a TV analyst for ESPN.

Why it could be him: He’s respected throughout the league, and fits the bill as an experienced, win-now coach for a veteran, win-now team, if the Nets decide to go in that direction. He’s great with the media, but also not shy about expressing his opinions.

5. THE COLLEGE RANKS

Skinny: The Nets will likely take a look at what possibilities exist on the college level, where the big names include Florida’s Billy Donovan and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie.

Why it could be one of them: Donovan has been a hot name for years whenever there’s a pro opening. Ollie's stock is on the rise and he’s one of the hottest coaching prospects there is. Ollie is a former Net, as well. Both won NCAA titles. But luring a championship college coach away from school is a difficult and challenging prospect and this may be an unlikely avenue for the Nets. Also, veterans like Pierce and Garnett may not want to play for a coach who will be coaching on the pro level for the first time.