Due to recent events, the Nets decided against conducting a thorough coaching search and instead hired an old hand.
Longtime Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn was promoted to the position of head coach on Wednesday, succeeding Steve Nash, who was let go from the franchise the previous week. In the four games since then, Vaughn has acted as temporary coach.
Vaughn took over the team after star point player Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to an antisemitic video in late October, creating a very tense environment. After Irving refused to publicly repudiate antisemitism, the Nets placed him on indefinite suspension. The club has already announced that he will miss at least two more games due to injury.
On Wednesday, before their game against the Knicks, Vaughn spoke with the press and radiated confidence. During a Q&A session, he hinted to the widespread speculation that the Nets had hired Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who is banned for the season, to replace Nash.
After the Nets dismissed Kenny Atkinson in 2020, Vaughn took over as interim head coach. He had been an assistant coach with the team since 2016. Before hiring Nash, the Nets explored hiring Vaughn to replace Atkinson, and Vaughn stayed on Nash’s staff thereafter.
Marks lauded Vaughn on Wednesday for returning to his temporary coaching role. Marks was impressed enough with his performance this time to offer him a longer-term opportunity.
At 2-2 coming into Wednesday’s game, Vaughn had the Nets playing with a renewed sense of purpose, according to Marks.
Marks said he hadn’t spoken to Irving since Thursday, but he didn’t say why they hadn’t been in touch.
On November 1st, the club announced that it had reached an agreement to release Nash. Reports in the national media soon after connected the Nets with Udoka, who had been banned by the Celtics in September for breaking specific club standards. Two anonymous sources with knowledge of the case have claimed that Udoka had an intimate connection with a female subordinate.
Marks declined to elaborate on the other candidates that were considered but did not get hired when questioned directly about why he did not choose Udoka. A source familiar with the situation but not permitted to speak publicly said that the Celtics have offered Udoka freedom to speak with other clubs and would not seek compensation if another team contracts him.
When Nash was hired in 2020 with no prior coaching experience, he received the early backing of Irving and forward Kevin Durant. But he oversaw a tumultuous period for the team, including Kyrie Irving missing the first two-thirds of the 2021-22 season because he refused to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons both suffering season-ending injuries, and James Harden being traded from the Rockets to the Nets, and then from the Nets to the 76ers in the midst of the team’s struggles in the previous year.
In the summer of 2018, it was reported by The Athletic that Durant had urged club owner Joe Tsai to choose between him and Marks and Nash. Nash, Marks, and Durant all expressed a desire to go forward as a unit during September’s media day.
Vaughn’s 12-year career in the NBA started on the court, where he spent the first two seasons of his time there with the Nets. During his time with the San Antonio Spurs, he earned a championship in 2007.
Upon retiring from playing, Vaughn started his coaching career in San Antonio. Before being appointed as the head coach of the Orlando Magic in July 2012, Vaughn worked as Gregg Popovich’s assistant for two seasons.
The Magic were getting ready to start again. After trading All-Star centre Dwight Howard that summer, they finished Vaughn’s first season with a 20-62 record. The following year wasn’t much better, with a record of 23-59, but it was still the worst in the NBA. Vaughn was let go by the Magic after their dismal 15-37 start to the 2014-2015 campaign.
In the summer of 2016, he became part of Atkinson’s staff with the Nets. Atkinson was let go by the Nets on March 7, 2020, less than a week before the season was halted due to the coronavirus outbreak. Vaughn led the club to a 5-3 record in playoff-seeding games when the NBA began its season in a bubble atmosphere at Walt Disney World in Florida that summer, but they were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in the first round.