Whenever the coronavirus pandemic slows and the world regains some semblance of normalcy, the Nets will ostensibly have a season to play and eventually a coaching decision to make.
If interim coach Jacque Vaughn doesn’t get the full-time job, a prime candidate is expected to be Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue — who already has positive history with Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris.
The Nets parted ways with coach Kenny Atkinson because his voice stopped carrying weight in the locker room and Irving tuned him out. Whether this suspended season resumes or gets canceled, Vaughn doesn’t have much time to impress. But Lue and Lakers assistant Phil Handy both already have impressed Irving and Harris in Cleveland.
Lue coached both of them with the Cavaliers, first as the associate head coach before being elevated to head coach during the 2015-16 season. Irving capped that season by hitting the game-winner to seal the NBA title for Cleveland, and Lue coached him back to the Finals the next year, too.
Now Irving, according to a Yahoo report, would like to see Lue as the Nets’ next head coach. While that report has been disputed, Irving has won under Lue. And when The Post asked Harris about Lue and Handy, he praised his former coaches, singling out Lue.
“I had nothing but good and positive experiences in my time in Cleveland. It was an unbelievable coaching staff I learned a lot from,” Harris said. “Every time I see those guys — whether it’s at Summer League or when we play against them — good positive interactions with them, guys I had a lot of respect for.”
Handy, who was a developmental coach in Cleveland, is a Lakers assistant now thanks to LeBron James. Irving reportedly tried to get him to Brooklyn last July, and The Post spoke with Handy last week about Irving and the Nets job.
Handy hasn’t been a head coach, but Lue has a far more extensive résumé. The former guard has a 128-83 regular-season mark as a head coach, with three trips to the NBA Finals and a championship under his belt.
“They’re both excellent coaches, Ty Lue especially,” Harris said. “Playing in this league, being an assistant for a long time, just the way he was able to relate with the players, especially just day-to day was pretty unique in terms of a coaching perspective. I always liked that about him, just his ability to jell and mesh with everybody.
“He seemed like, to me, to be one of those guys when he did play he was probably close with everybody in the locker room, just the way he was able to interact with every single guy on the team.”
Considering Atkinson’s fate in Brooklyn — if not outright insurrection, certainly a lack of support from his stars — Lue could be a good fit. He has made The Finals, won titles and managed stars such as Irving, James and Kevin Love. That experience — especially managing in chaos — would be useful in handling Irving and Kevin Durant.
After the Cavaliers traded Irving in 2017, reports emerged about him not speaking to teammates for weeks, taking umbrage over Lue’s suggestion that he get his teammates more involved on offense, and chafing at James’ outsized control over the organization.
Still, Lue made it all work and navigated the choppy waters. If the Nets had reservations about Atkinson’s ability to do that, Lue has already proven he can. And Harris, who spent two years under Lue — the first with Lue as an assistant, the second with him as head coach — specifically praised his ability to relate to players.
Whether he’ll get a chance to do that in Brooklyn remains to be seen. But if he does, the skill will serve him well.