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Jacque Vaughn: Who is the New Brooklyn Nets Coach?

Following the departure of Steve Nash and a swirl of unconfirmed reports, the Nets have a new boss. Let’s explain what you need to know about Jacque Vaughn.

On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets announced they removed the interim tag and named Jacque Vaughn head coach.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Steve Nash was fired and suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka quickly emerged as a reported “frontrunner” for the job. Vaughn, 47, has been an assistant coach for the Nets since 2016 — also when GM Sean Marks was hired.

“Jacque’s basketball acumen, competitiveness, and intimate knowledge of our team and organization make him the clear-cut best person to lead our group moving forward,” Marks said on the heels of the news. “He has a proven ability to get the best out of our players, hold them accountable, and play a cohesive, team-first style of basketball.”

Vaughn, the sixth different head coach since the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012, boasts a level of NBA experience that goes way beyond that of an assistant coach. He was a point guard in the NBA for 12 seasons, coached the Orlando Magic (2012-2015), and first served the Nets as an interim coach after Kenny Atkinson was fired in 2020. He has 13 total years as an NBA assistant and/or head coach to his name to date.

All told, perhaps someone so familiar with this team can be of great service given the challenges of the 2022-23 season so far.

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Vaughn’s Time In Brooklyn

When Steve Nash was hired in 2020, Vaughn was brought back as the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA. His relationship with the organization — and Sean Marks — stems back from his time coaching in San Antonio, and the longtime assistant made a legitimate case to become head coach after leading the Nets’ young players into the Orlando bubble without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or DeAndre Jordan.

Vaughn went 7-3 when he took over for Atkinson and became an integral voice during those early days of COVID-19, a man of equal parts philosophy and research dedicated to helping players get through a uniquely confusing time. Vaughn famously brought a bamboo plant to Orlando meant as a representation of the Nets’ position in an unprecedented situation — like bamboo, he said, that the team needed to be flexible, adaptable, and resilient.

That can certainly apply to the 4-7 Brooklyn Nets dealing with turmoil on and off the court.

Vaughn’s Orlando Magic head coaching record:

In three seasons as coach in Orlando, Vaughn finished 58-158. To be totally fair, he took over the team amid a rebuild immediately after Dwight Howard forced his way to Los Angeles in 2012.

  • 2012-13: 20-62
  • 2013-14: 23-59
  • 2014-15: 15-37

Jacque Vaughn’s NBA Career

The man is no stranger to the Nets’ organization. A first-round pick out of Kansas, he was a point guard in the Association from 1997-2009, carving out a career most notably in New Jersey as Jason Kidd’s backup from 2004-06. He finished with career averages of 4.5 points on 43% shooting in 16 minutes per game.

His modest numbers were not so much about Vaughn’s on-court performance as much as whom he played behind: For most of his career, he backed up John Stockton, Kidd, and Tony Parker. Receiving coaching from Jerry Sloan and later Gregg Popovich for a good portion of his career, however, helped him transition from bench player in San Antonio into an assistant coach alongside Pop following his retirement after the 2008-09 season.

Will it Work?

Yes, he has more losses on his resume than wins, but it’s quite conceivable that a forward-thinking, empathetic coach is what this team needs. In four games as interim head coach this season as of this writing, Vaughn is 2-2 and has incorporated some notable tactics, including small-ball looks with Ben Simmons at center. Perhaps most importantly, he has shown trust in the Nets’ younger guys, putting them on the fast track to becoming more-than-just-serviceable role players.

So, how sustainable is this project in its current form? Don’t worry, we’re gonna find out. But even though it’s not happening under the sort of circumstances he might have dreamt about, Vaughn finally gets a real chance to prove himself as a head coach in the NBA — something he probably should’ve gotten much earlier after such a meaningful run with the 2019-20 Nets in the bubble.

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