Mark Jackson, Doc Rivers and Kevin McHale. Three star players from the 80s and 90s. Three NBA lifers who have watched the game from different view points.
McHale is widely-regarded as the most polished, post big men in the game. When he tried to manage the Minnesota Timberwolves he struggled. Now he has a group that can play with pace and they do, and the result is one of the biggest early surprises in the Western Conference. He let's them loose.
Rivers has had the Celtics as a 50 plus win team since 07-08. He's one of the game's great coaches and he never served as an assistant coach. Ditto with Jackson, who has the Warriors full of action. They play fast and they play with an edge and that combination has tallied 19 wins in the ledger.
With the Nets showing Avery Johnson the door they've put themselves in an impossible spot. They have a strange roster, and it's something we've talked about all year. Deron Williams grew tired, obviously, of Johnson's antiquated late 90s San Antonio Spurs offense. Brook Lopez isn't Tim Duncan. They were slow, plodding and for Williams it had to drive him crazy that the offense was primed for his center and his shooting guard Joe Johnson. Look at the tempo that the Hawks played at during JJs tenure.
The Nets next coach has to up the tempo. He has to make Williams, a much more egregious coach killer than Carmelo Anthony, play faster. He must run pick and roll with a mix of post entry to get the most out of Brook Lopez and he has to hold players accountable for defensive lapses. But it all starts with the franchise guard.
Enter Jeff Van Gundy.
Van Gundy has been on the sideline monitoring and analyzing the game like the coaches mentioned above. He's been waiting to get back into coaching albeit in the right situation. People I trust told me he really wanted the Knicks job, so it's no surprise they are telling me he'd jump at the chance in Brooklyn. If I'm the Nets I'd make him prove how he can make Williams and Johnson click, and what you know about the former Knicks coach is that he's been taking notes. One may have thought he was lobbying for attention when he screamed for the league to punish Jason Kidd for what he deemed to be a leg kick against the Nets in Brooklyn on his game winner a few weeks back.
Either way the Nets need to get this one right, and they'd be silly not to seriously consider the man who once led the Knicks to the Finals in 1999.