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Texas interviews Royal Ivey to replace Shaka Smart

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The Brooklyn Nets assistant is the first candidate known to interview for the job.

2020-21 Brooklyn Nets Content Day Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets assistant Royal Ivey interviewed for the Texas Longhorns head coaching job on Sunday, according to reports from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Texas outlets.

The news comes two days after Shaka Smart left to take the job at Marquette and former Texas star Kevin Durant, who plays for Ivey in Brooklyn, endorsed Ivey for the job. But there’s also institutional support for the idea of hiring Ivey, too.

Ivey played for Rick Barnes at Texas from 2000-04 and was part of the Final Four team in 2003. Signed by Barnes out of Queens, Ivey started 126 of the 133 games he played for the Longhorns, averaging 7.8 points per game. Most of Ivey’s contributions were on the defensive end — he was known as an excellent defender and got the assignment of Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony in the Final Four.

Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, Ivey spent 11 seasons in the NBA, including several years playing with Durant with the Oklahoma City Thunder — Durant once called Ivey his “best teammate” in the NBA — before joining the Oklahoma City Blue as an assistant following his retirement. From there, Ivey moved onto the bench under Billy Donovan for two seasons. In 2018, Ivey returned to New York to serve as an assistant for Tom Thidodeau with the New York Knicks, focusing on player development. This past offseason, Ivey reunited with Durant when he joined Steve Nash’s staff with the Brooklyn Nets.

With Ivey’s experience as an NBA assistant, the easy comparison is to Michigan’s Juwan Howard, who had a similar background before taking over for John Beilein at his alma mater.

Hiring Ivey would certainly represent a risk — he’s never been a head coach at any level and he’s never coached in college. But his hire would likely energize the fan base and if it worked, at 39, Ivey could be a longterm solution for the Longhorns.

According to Horns247, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard remains the leading candidate for the job.