Nets name assistant Jacque Vaughn head coach: Why Brooklyn moved on from potential Ime Udoka hire


The Brooklyn Nets are hiring assistant Jacque Vaughn as head coach after parting with Steve Nash, the team announced Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Vaughn was named interim coach after Nash’s departure on Nov. 1.
  • The 47-year-old has been on Brooklyn’s staff since 2016 and was previously interim head coach after the Nets let Kenny Atkinson go in 2020.
  • The Athletic previously reported that the Nets planned to hire suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

Backstory

Nash was 94-67 in two-plus seasons and off to a 2-5 start this year before the team made a change. The decision to move on from Nash came amid months of turmoil in the organization, including a still ongoing off-court controversy with star guard Kyrie Irving that resulted in his suspension for at least five games.

Nash led Brooklyn to the Eastern Conference semifinals in his first year before it lost to the eventual NBA champion Bucks. Last season the Nets were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

The Nets’ reported plan to hire Udoka drew criticism because in September, Boston suspended the coach for the 2022-23 season due to his intimate relationship with a female member of the Celtics organization, The Athletic reported.

Vaughn went 7-3 as interim coach of the Nets during the 2020 bubble season. The Athletic reported at the time that he had some internal support to shed the interim tag and that the Nets planned to give him every chance to win the job. Brooklyn ultimately went with the Hall of Famer Nash and Vaughn stayed on as the lead assistant.

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Vaughn was previously head coach of the Orlando Magic from 2012-15, going 58-158. Before that, he was an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

Prior to coaching, Vaughn had a 12-year NBA playing career as a guard. He was the No. 27 pick in the 1997 draft, recording 123 starts in 776 career games.

Why the Nets didn’t hire Udoka

The Nets changed course from their initial plan to hire Udoka due to several factors, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making told The Athletic. These factors include an investigation and due diligence process by the Nets into the suspended coach taking longer than initially expected, the outcry after word of their plan became known to people outside and inside the organization and the short- and long-term question marks around the team’s ability to contend in the Eastern Conference as a result of the indefinite suspension of Irving.

The Nets began direct communication on the potential to hire Udoka 24 to 48 hours before the franchise fired Nash last Tuesday, including receiving permission from the Celtics and engaging in initial discussions, multiple sources with knowledge of the talks told The Athletic.

Once it became clear to the team that they could not proceed with the plan to hire Udoka, the decision to hire Vaughn was made largely in part due to the buy-in from Nets players under Vaughn, according to sources close to the situation. Vaughn is said to have created positive energy inside a Nets locker room dealing with external stress. He has also elevated the team’s defense through a 2-2 start as their interim head coach, during which the Nets have gone from the league-worst defense up 10 spots to No. 20 in defensive rating.

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Required reading

(Photo: Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)





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