The Brooklyn Nets are going to explore all avenues in search of a new head coach, as they should. The list of candidates rumored to be on the list is very impressive, but there is one who stands out above the rest.
According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York, Van Gundy and Phil Jackson, the two most high-profile candidates for the job, don't appear ready to make a decision about accepting any job right now.
Another league source, however, told ESPNNewYork.com that Van Gundy, an ESPN NBA analyst, needs to learn more about Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the inner workings of the organization before determining his level of interest.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that Van Gundy doesn't want to meet with the Nets unless there is an actual vacancy.
While Jeff Van Gundy may ultimately have interest in the Brooklyn Nets opening, he will be unwilling to meet with team officials while an interim coach is in place, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported that the Nets' first choice is going to be Jackson, though there is no indication he wants the job now.
Undaunted by Phil Jackson's reported reluctance to coach their team, Brooklyn Nets officials have established Jackson as their top target in the wake of Avery Johnson's dismissal, according to NBA coaching sources.
With all that madness out of the way, the Nets need to focus on what is best for the franchise now and in the future.
Jackson is the only coach on the planet who can help sell tickets at the box office. There is an aura and mystique around him like no coach in any other sport in this country.
If the Nets knew they could get Phil Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy, which one should they hire?
But Jackson is well aware of that fact and uses it to his advantage every chance he gets. Not only is he going to command a salary greater than that of any other coach in sports, but he is going to come with plenty of unique requests.
Perhaps Jackson has certain dates in his schedule that he would prefer not to coach. Maybe his knees start flaring up again, preventing him from making long road trips with the team. Thus the Nets need to have the proper assistant waiting in the wings to lead the team at a moment's notice.
Van Gundy doesn't have the same prestige that Jackson does, but he is one of the sharpest basketball minds and would be a great fit for a team that is in desperate need of some direction after Avery Johnson lost control of things in less than one month.
Coaching in New York for seven years, Van Gundy understands the market as well as anyone available. He has had success with underachieving teams, leading the Knicks to the postseason six straight seasons and to the NBA Finals in 1999.
The Nets need to hire someone with enough clout to get through to Deron Williams, to whom the team has basically given complete and total autonomy.
Plus, Van Gundy isn't going to cost the same amount of money or stipulations that Jackson will cost. The trade-off for Van Gundy or Jackson really is minimal, and the Nets would have more long-term stability at the head coaching spot with Van Gundy.
I know the Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov don't really have a cap on their spending, so perhaps that is the wrong argument to make. But at some point a team has to know who will be on the bench for the foreseeable future.