No stranger to drama recently, the Nets eschewed a protracted coaching search and made a rapid decision to rent someone familiar.
The team named the longtime Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn as head coach Wednesday to switch Steve Nash, who was fired last week. Vaughn has coached the team in an interim capability within the 4 games since then.
Vaughn took over at a very fraught time for the organization, whose star point guard Kyrie Irving posted a link to an antisemitic film on Twitter in late October. The Nets suspended Irving indefinitely for refusing to disavow antisemitism. He has missed 4 games, including Wednesday’s 112-85 win at home over the Knicks, and the team said he would miss at the least yet one more.
“Finding any individual with some stability, that’s J.V.,” Nets General Manager Sean Marks said. “Very stable, poised under pressure. Gentleman. That’s type of who he’s.”
Before Wednesday’s game, Vaughn met with reporters and smiled brightly. In answering one query, he nodded to the rampant rumors of the past week that the Nets had chosen Boston Celtics Coach Ime Udoka, who’s suspended for the season, to switch Nash.
“I assume I used to be the write-in candidate,” Vaughn said, laughing. He added: “I’m OK with that. I said to my wife, I might need not been her first selection and we’ve been together 20 years. So, , it could all work out. Off we go.”
Vaughn has been an assistant coach for the Nets since 2016 and served as an interim head coach in 2020 after Kenny Atkinson was fired as coach. The Nets considered him to switch Atkinson but ultimately hired Nash, and Vaughn remained on Nash’s staff.
On Wednesday, Marks praised Vaughn for stepping in, again, as an interim coach. This time, Marks saw enough out of him to provide him a shot on a more everlasting basis.
The Nets had a 2-2 record under Vaughn heading into Wednesday’s game, and Marks said he liked the energy across the team during those 4 games.
“We’re the large picture here and having a relationship with him for seven years, his relationship to players, his competitive spirit, lots of that goes a great distance,” Marks said. “We’re seeing how this team, to be quite frank, has responded to him recently.”
Vaughn said he had not reached out to Irving since he was suspended Thursday.
“I believed within the capability that I used to be serving that it wasn’t my place to,” Vaughn said. “I’ve all the time understood my boundaries as an assistant coach. That would change going forward within the position that I’m in now.”
Marks said he had not spoken to Irving since Thursday, either, but he didn’t explain why he hadn’t.
The team announced Nov. 1 that it had agreed to part ways with Nash. Not long afterward, news media reports began to link the Nets with Udoka, who was suspended by the Celtics in September for violating unspecified team policies. In accordance with two people conversant in the situation who weren’t authorized to talk about it publicly, Udoka had a relationship with a female subordinate.
When asked specifically about why he didn’t hire Udoka, Marks said it wouldn’t be appropriate to debate what candidates were considered. The Celtics have given Udoka permission to talk over with other teams and won’t demand compensation if one other team signs him, in accordance with an individual briefed on the matter who was not authorized to debate it publicly.
Nash initially had the support of Irving and forward Kevin Durant when he was hired in 2020 with no previous coaching experience. But he presided over a chaotic time for the franchise that included: Irving missing a lot of the 2021-22 season because he wouldn’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus; injuries to Durant and Ben Simmons; and James Harden being traded to the Nets from Houston — after which to Philadelphia from the Nets because the team struggled last season.
This summer, The Athletic reported that Durant had asked the team owner Joe Tsai to choose from him or Marks and Nash. Nash, Marks and Durant all said at media day in September that they were able to move on together.
Healthy again to begin this season, the Nets continued to struggle. They began the 12 months 2-5 before firing Nash. Marks said that players had “zero” input on the choice and that he and Nash “felt that it was time.”
“If I sat here and listed one after the other all of the things that he needed to undergo over his tenure here, I’d be doing him a disservice because he doesn’t want excuse,” Marks said. “That’s not who he’s. So he has definitely not had a fair playing field over two years here. And for that, I definitely feel definitely some responsibility because this doesn’t all fall on him.”
Vaughn began his N.B.A. journey as a player, with a 12-year profession that included two seasons with the Nets. He won a championship as a part of the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
San Antonio was where Vaughn’s playing profession ended and his coaching profession began. He was an assistant for Coach Gregg Popovich for 2 seasons before the Orlando Magic hired Vaughn as their head coach in July 2012.
The Magic were starting a rebuild. They traded the All-Star center Dwight Howard that summer, then went 20-62 in Vaughn’s first season. It was the worst record within the N.B.A., and the subsequent 12 months was only barely higher at 23-59. After a 15-37 begin to the 2014-15 season, the Magic fired Vaughn.
He joined Atkinson’s Nets staff in the summertime of 2016. The Nets fired Atkinson on March 7, 2020, lower than per week before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the N.B.A. resumed the season in a bubble environment at Walt Disney World in Florida that summer, Vaughn coached the team to a 5-3 record in playoff-seeding games after which lost to the Toronto Raptors in the primary round of the playoffs.
“I used to be a young coach,” Vaughn said. “I’m definitely glad I took that job. It made me a greater assistant coach.” He added: “I’ve just grown as a person. Way more secure in myself, as you possibly can see with this beard right here.”