The Brooklyn Nets pivoted amid reports that they intended to hire suspended Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, instead lifting the interim tag from Jacque Vaughn's title as their replacement for Steve Nash.
Vaughn's deal runs through the 2023-24 season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi.
The Nets and Nash "agreed to part ways" on Nov. 1, following a 2-5 start to the season, when the team tabbed Vaughn as acting head coach. Not an hour passed before multiple reports indicated the Nets would hire Udoka, Nash's former assistant, who led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his debut as a head coach.
Brooklyn came under heavy criticism for so quickly turning its attention to Udoka, who was six weeks removed from a season-long suspension for multiple violations of Boston's code of conduct, including allegations of "unwanted comments" and "crude language" towards a subordinate with whom he had an improper intimate relationship. Boston brass, by all accounts, was willing to let Udoka leave for Brooklyn.
Celtics players, meanwhile, were as confused as the rest of the league.
"Obviously, we wish he was here," Marcus Smart told The Boston Globe of Udoka last week. "We have no control over that. It definitely sucks. I guess it was deemed that whatever happened was enough for him not to be the coach here, but I guess not enough for him [not] to be a coach anywhere else, obviously."
As hours turned to days and days to a week without the Nets hiring Udoka, questions arose about whether Brooklyn would add Udoka to a list of internal controversies that includes Kevin Durant's trade request this past summer and Kyrie Irving's active suspension over his promotion of a film featuring antisemitic themes.
While Udoka remained the top choice of Durant and Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks, according to longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein, "strong voices" were urging Nets owner Joe Tsai to steer clear of Udoka. Whether those voices came internally, from around the NBA or inside the league office remains in question.
Whatever swayed Brooklyn's decision, the ordeal made for an awkward quote in the team's press release.
"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. "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, who played 12 seasons for five different NBA franchises, including the Nets, has led Brooklyn to a 2-2 record in four games since taking over for Nash. He also led a depleted Nets on an interim basis for the final 10 games of the 2019-20 season and a first-round playoff exit, following the firing of Kenny Atkinson. Vaughn logged a 58-158 record in three seasons as head coach of the Orlando Magic from 2012-15. He has otherwise served as an assistant for the Nets over the past eight years, spanning four head coaches.
Brooklyn is now tasking Vaughn with one of the league's most difficult jobs. Ben Simmons, Durant and Irving, assuming he eventually rejoins the Nets, are three of the most mercurial maximum-salaried players in the NBA. The misfit roster around them has yielded a bottom-10 defense and a middling offense through the season's first 11 games, despite the presence of Durant, one of the great scorers of his generation.
The Nets have fallen out of favor as a serious playoff threat, and Vaughn's primary job may be more focused on selling Durant and Irving on a future in a Brooklyn, rather than holding out hope for this season.
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