Celtics deny Nets permission to speak with head coach Doc Rivers

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The Nets are looking to hire a big name with a strong track record to fill their vacant head coaching position, after parting ways with interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo following a season that ended with a first round playoff loss in seven games at the hands of the Bulls.

Brooklyn reached out to Phil Jackson early in its process, before learning that Jackson isn’t likely to return to coaching in the future. The team is also expected to pursue Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, once Memphis is finished with its season.

One name that the Nets can cross of their list of potentially available candidates is Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t at least take a shot at getting an opportunity to try to convince him to check out what Brooklyn has to offer.

From Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston:

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge denied the Brooklyn Nets permission to speak to Doc Rivers about their vacant coaching position, team and league sources confirmed to ESPNBoston.com.

Reached late Thursday, Ainge refused to comment on the Nets’ interest in Rivers and reiterated that he expects him back on the Celtics’ bench next season.

“Doc has told me he’s coming back,” Ainge said bluntly. “I talk to him almost every day about our team and what we are going to do moving forward.”

Rivers had hinted after the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs that he may not be back, but made it official last week that he would indeed be returning to coach the Celtics next season.

Boston’s unwillingness to allow Rivers to even speak with the Nets makes sense, considering that Rivers is under contract for three more years, and (along with Gregg Popovich of the Spurs) is one of the top two most highly paid coaches in the league.

It was a longshot at best, given Rivers’ relationship with the Celtics organization and the veteran players on that roster. But credit the Nets for exploring any and all options in order to find the person they believe will be the best fit for the job.