Jacque Vaughn

Nets Looking For Veteran Assistant Coaches

The Nets will try to add experienced coaches to Steve Nash’s staff, Shams Charania of The Athletic said in an appearance on Stadium (video tweeted by Billy Reinhardt of NetsDaily). Charania mentioned ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Lakers assistant Phil Handy as two possibilities.

Brooklyn considered Van Gundy as a potential head coach before hiring Nash last week, Charania adds. The 58-year-old hasn’t coached in the NBA since the 2006/07 season with Houston and has built a successful career in television. However, he did lead Team USA at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup tournament and the qualifiers for last year’s World Cup and he may be tempted to join a team that figures to be in title contention when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both healthy next season.

Handy, 49, has been in the league for the past decade, breaking in as a player development coach with the Lakers. He also served as an assistant with the Cavaliers and Raptors before coming back to L.A. when Frank Vogel was hired last summer.

The Nets filled one spot on Nash’s staff when they retained interim coach Jacque Vaughn as lead assistant. Keeping Vaughn was “critical,” according to Charania, who says Vaughn’s relationship with Durant has improved over the past few weeks. He adds that Vaughn likely would have become the head coach if Nash hadn’t agreed to take the job.

Atlantic Notes: Nash, Nets, Celtics, Sixers

On Wednesday, the Nets officially introduced Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as their new head coach. The 46-year-old, who has no prior coaching experience, will try to get Brooklyn to the NBA Finals with a healthy roster next season.

The Nets’ new head coach spoke about his lack of experience and the criticism he’s received at his introductory press conference. “Well, I did skip the line, frankly,” Nash said (h/t Tim Bontemps of ESPN). “But at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.”

It will be interesting to see how the 46-year-old Nash leads a Nets team that features Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving next season at the Barclays Center.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Jacque Vaughn, who was the Nets’ interim coach after the team fired Kenny Atkinson in March, will be staying with the organization as Nash’s lead assistant. Despite missing many notable players down in the bubble, Vaughn had the Nets playing hard in the seeding games and playoffs. That effort did not go unnoticed by Nash, who is excited to work with Vaughn. “I think Jacque’s qualities speak for themselves,” Nash said (h/t Nets Daily). “He is an incredibly high character individual, extremely hard-working, prepared, and he is an all-around top human being so to have people like that to work with every day is incredible.”
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has returned to the bubble in Orlando and is in quarantine until Friday, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Hayward suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round of the playoffs last month against the Sixers. While the veteran forward’s return timeline is unclear and his quarantine period isn’t over, he’s allowed to leave his room once per day for exercise and rehab, according to Washburn.
  • Before the Sixers hire a new head coach, they need to address their front office issues, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. As previously reported, multiple league sources do not expect Alex Rucker, who is the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, to return next season. Pompey adds that Rucker played a role behind-the-scenes in decision-making as the team leaned heavily on analytics. In addition to Rucker, assistant general manager Ned Cohen and VP of strategy Sergi Oliva were reportedly also involved in decision-making. There has been nothing as of yet on the futures of Cohen and Oliva.

Pacers Identify 14 Head Coaching Candidates

The Pacers are set to begin a wide-ranging search for a head coach that will include more than a dozen candidates, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski details, Indiana is looking to interview the following candidates as the team seeks a replacement for Nate McMillan:

  • Former Kings and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger
  • Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool
  • Nets associate head coach Jacque Vaughn
  • Trail Blazers associate head coach Nate Tibbetts
  • Spurs assistants Becky Hammon and Will Hardy
  • Heat assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn
  • Mavericks assistants Jamahl Mosley and Stephen Silas
  • Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee
  • Sixers assistant Ime Udoka
  • Magic assistant Pat Delany

It remains to be seen whether the Pacers will be granted permission to speak with all of their potential targets. If they do, the team’s first round of virtual meetings would feature at least 14 interviews.

Many of the Pacers’ coaching candidates identified by Wojnarowski have been linked to other vacancies around the league. Vanterpool, Craig, Mosley, Silas, Ham, and Udoka, for example, are all believed to be interviewing for the Bulls’ job. Udoka and Ham have also been mentioned as potential 76ers candidates, as has Joerger. Vaughn was seriously considered for the Nets job before the team hired Steve Nash, while Hardy and Delany interviewed with the Knicks before they hired Tom Thibodeau.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Others on Indiana’s list, such as Tibbetts and Hammon, have interviewed in past years for various NBA head coaching openings. Only a couple candidates – Quinn and Lee – haven’t received head coaching consideration in the past, as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, Joerger and Vaughn are the only names on the list with previous head coaching experience.

Mike D’Antoni has also been mentioned as a potential target for the Pacers, but he remains active in the postseason with the Rockets and there’s no guarantee he’ll leave Houston when his contract expires.

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has spoken about wanting to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game and has the ability to connect with younger players. McMillan’s old-school approach to offense was believed to be one reason why Indiana made a change.

Nets Hire Steve Nash As Head Coach

The Nets have hired former two-time MVP Steve Nash as their new head coach, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). Nash has signed a four-year contract from the club, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The team has confirmed the hire in a press release.

“After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players.

“I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I have witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league.”

Former head coach Jacque Vaughn, who took the reins from Kenny Atkinson in March and received consideration for the permanent job, will remain with the franchise as the lead assistant on Nash’s staff, as reported by Wojnarowski and confirmed by the club. He’ll become the highest-paid assistant in the NBA, according to Woj, who says that Vaughn likely would’ve earned the permanent job if Nash hadn’t been available.

The hiring of Nash comes as a major surprise — not only was he not previously mentioned as a potential candidate for Brooklyn, but it wasn’t clear he was even interested in an NBA head coaching job. He has worked in recent years as a consultant for the Warriors, where he developed a relationship with Kevin Durant, who had a voice in the Nets’ search process.

As Wojnarowski explains, Nets owner Joseph Tsai and Marks were “aggressive” in their efforts to recruit Nash. The Hall-of-Fame point guard has received overtures in recent years from teams interested in hiring him to a coaching or front office role, per Woj. Nash said today in a statement that coaching was something he always wanted to pursue “when the time was right.”

Nash, who has no previous coaching experience, will assume control of a Nets team that will enter the 2020/21 season with a healthy Durant and Kyrie Irving and has championship aspirations. As a former MVP who played in an NBA All-Star game as recently as 2012, Nash will presumably command the respect of Brooklyn’s stars and other veterans.

With Nash installed as their head coach, the Nets will no longer move forward with their rumored pursuit of Gregg Popovich, so it looks like a safe bet that Popovich will continue coaching the Spurs. The Nets’ decision also takes one potential suitor off the table for Tyronn Lue, who is expected to be one of the year’s hottest coaching candidates and has reportedly drawn interest from the Pelicans and Sixers in addition to Brooklyn.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nets Formally Interview Jacque Vaughn

The Nets have conducted a formal interview with interim head coach Jacque Vaughn for their permanent position, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports that Vaughn impressed team ownership.

Having taken the reins in Brooklyn following Kenny Atkinson‘s ouster in March, Vaughn won his first two games before the season was suspended, then went 5-3 in the seeding games this summer, despite being without most of the Nets’ regular contributors.

The Nets were swept out of the postseason in short order by the defending-champion Raptors, but opposing coaches were impressed with the job Vaughn did with the depleted roster, according to Charania. Sources tell The Athletic that Vaughn remains a “significant” candidate for Brooklyn’s permanent head coaching job and that the team would like him back in some capacity even if it’s not as head coach.

Vaughn’s interview is the first one reported so far in the Nets’ coaching search. The club is said to covet Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, but it remains to be seen whether that interest will be reciprocated. Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, and Ime Udoka are among the other coaches who have been linked to the vacancy.

The Nets plan to consult a number of their players during the search process, with stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving among those expected to have a say in the hire.

Nets Will Consult Numerous Players in Coaching Search

The Nets plan to get input from several players as they look for their next head coach, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. As expected, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be consulted during the process, but sources tell Lewis that general manager Sean Marks plans to talk with DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and possibly Caris LeVert as well.

“Yeah, I would say it would totally be not incredibly smart of us if we did not involve some of these key players in this decision. And that not only goes for Kevin,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie; we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they want in a coach, what they need. The guys have been brutally honest so far.”

The additions of Durant and Irving in free agency last summer make the Brooklyn job one of the most attractive in the league. Kenny Atkinson appeared to be the coach of the future, but his surprising dismissal in March created an opening amid rumors that the two stars weren’t enamored with Atkinson’s style of play.

Jacque Vaughn was successful in an interim role, leading the Nets to two wins before the hiatus, followed by a 5-3 record in reseeding games even though half the roster wasn’t available. Vaughn has been promised consideration as the team looks for a permanent coach, and he has the advantage of working with Marks on three separate occasions in the past decade. However, he may be overshadowed by some bigger names on the market.

Vaughn and Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue are viewed as the early favorites for the job, Lewis notes, as Irving has interest in reuniting with his former coach in Cleveland. Joe Harris was also a Cavalier under Lue and called him “an excellent coach.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who served as a mentor to Marks in San Antonio, has been mentioned as a possibility, along with Jason Kidd, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Ime Udoka. Durant and his representatives reportedly have an interest in Jackson, Lewis adds.

Nets Rumors: Popovich, KD, Kyrie, Vaughn, TLC

Now that the Nets‘ season is over, the team’s long-anticipated search for a permanent new head coach can get underway. And as we learned earlier this month, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is expected to be atop Brooklyn’s wish list.

Popovich has given no indication that he wants to continue his career anywhere besides San Antonio, but the Nets will explore the possibility of luring the Spurs legend to Brooklyn, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As Charania details, the Nets have a number of connections to Popovich and the Spurs, with general manager Sean Marks, assistant GM Andy Birdsong, and assistant coach Tiago Splitter among those who previously worked with or played for Popovich. Additionally, sources tell The Athletic that Popovich has long been a favorite of Kevin Durant, dating back to Oklahoma City’s 2015 head coaching search.

According to Charania, the Nets’ interest in Popovich is widely considered a pipe dream, but the team will still exhaust the possibility. They’d need to be granted permission to speak to him and would almost certainly need to send the Spurs some sort of compensation if talks became serious.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • While Jacque Vaughn continues to receive consideration for the Nets’ permanent head coaching position, Durant and Kyrie Irving are interested in a “higher profile head coach,” according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who cites Popovich and Tyronn Lue as possibilities in that vein.
  • Vaughn expressed confidence following the end of the Nets’ season that he’s the right person for the club’s permanent head coaching role, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “What I am confident in is my skill set as a coach, my ability to communicate and have relationship with guys, my ability to adjust on the fly, adjust with individuals,” Vaughn said. “Those things I’m very comfortable with, comfortable at this stage of my career of having a voice and choice with my players.”
  • Veteran swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who emerged as one of the Nets’ more reliable contributors during the summer restart, told a French outlet that he enjoys playing in Brooklyn and wants to remain with the team, as NetsDaily relays. The former first-round pick has a non-guaranteed $1.82MM salary for 2020/21, which looks like a pretty solid value based on TLC’s play this summer.
  • In an Insider-only ESPN.com article, Bobby Marks previews the Nets’ offseason, exploring Joe Harris‘ potential cost in free agency, what it would take to trade for a third star, and much more.

NBA Announces All-Bubble Awards

The NBA announced today that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Seeding Games, earning de facto MVP honors for the league’s restart.

Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 shooting in eight seeding games, led the Blazers to a 6-2 record, allowing the team to surpass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Portland will earn the conference’s final playoff spot if it picks up a win over Memphis today or tomorrow.

Lillard was the unanimous selection among 22 media voters for the bubble’s MVP award. Devin Booker (Suns) received 19 second-place votes, with T.J. Warren (Pacers) picking up two and Luka Doncic (Mavericks) getting the other one. Booker, Warren, Doncic, James Harden (Rockets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) all received third-place votes.

Meanwhile, Suns head coach Monty Williams was named the Coach of the Seeding Games, per today’s announcement. The selection comes as no surprise after Williams led Phoenix to an 8-0 record this summer. The Suns narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-in tournament, but were the only club that went undefeated during the seeding games, despite initially being ranked 21st of the 22 teams invited to Orlando.

Williams was a near-unanimous choice, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts receiving one first-place vote and finishing second overall in voting. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were among the other top vote-getters.

The NBA also announced All-Seeding Games First and Second Teams, as follows:

First Team:

  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  • Devin Booker (Suns)
  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • James Harden (Rockets)
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers)

Second Team:

Lillard, Booker, and Doncic were unanimous First Team selections, with Harden and Warren each receiving 18 of 22 First Team votes. Antetokounmpo received the other eight First Team votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Fire Head Coach Alvin Gentry

The Pelicans have parted ways with head coach Alvin Gentry, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez and Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The team has made it official, confirming the news in a press release.

“I’m grateful for and appreciative of Alvin’s commitment to the organization and, most importantly, the local community,” Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said in a statement. “The City of New Orleans is richer because of his presence here. These types of moves are often about fit and timing, and we believe now is the right time to make this change and bring in a new voice.”

Gentry’s dismissal comes on the heels of a disappointing showing for New Orleans at the NBA’s restart in Orlando. The Pelicans entered the summer tied with the Trail Blazers and Kings at No. 9 in the West, 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Grizzlies. However, while Portland surpassed Memphis for the No. 8 seed with a strong showing at Walt Disney World, the Pelicans struggled — despite a favorable schedule, they lost six of their eight seeding games.

In total, Gentry spent five seasons as the head coach in New Orleans, compiling a 175-225 (.438) record and making the playoffs just once. As Lopez observes (via Twitter), the Pelicans were hit hard by injuries in recent years, but the team still had loftier expectations, especially considering Anthony Davis anchored the roster for the first four years of Gentry’s tenure.

A report earlier this week suggested there were strong signals that Griffin wanted to make a head coaching change, so today’s news doesn’t come as a major surprise. Gentry still had one year worth $5MM+ left on his contract, but it appears team ownership gave its approval to hire a new head coach while paying off the rest of that deal.

The Pelicans will now join the Bulls and Nets as teams seeking a new head coach. They’ll have a head start on Brooklyn, which won’t formally launch a search until its season is over.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

As Wojnarowski reported last weekend, Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue and Lakers assistant Jason Kidd are expected to be among New Orleans’ top head coaching candidates. Lue, in particular, has a strong connection to Griffin, having coached the Cavaliers when Griffin was running the front office in Cleveland.

In their full ESPN.com story today on Gentry’s dismissal, Wojnarowski and Lopez suggest former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson will also receive consideration from the Pelicans, as will Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn if Brooklyn doesn’t retain him. As Woj and Lopez note, New Orleans’ general manager, Trajan Langdon, was previously a member of the Nets’ front office, so he’s very familiar with both Atkinson and Vaughn.

Sam Amick of The Athletic also recently identified Mike D’Antoni as a dark-horse candidate to replace Gentry if the Rockets don’t retain him, noting that D’Antoni and Griffin previously worked together for several years in Phoenix.

The Pelicans’ job figures to be an appealing one, considering the roster is anchored by rising stars like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, as well as veteran guard Jrue Holiday. While Holiday could become an unrestricted free agent as early as 2021, New Orleans should control Williamson and Ingram for years to come — Zion is entering the second year of his rookie contract, while Ingram is eligible for restricted free agency this fall.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: NBA Finals, Coaching Award, Draft, Goudelock

The NBA has established dates for each game of the 2020 Finals, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The tentative dates could potentially be moved up if both the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals end early, but for now the plan is tip off this year’s Finals on Wednesday, September 30, with Game 7 landing on Tuesday, October 13.

As Charania details, there would be one day off between every pair of games except for Games 4 and 5, which would take place on Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, giving teams one extra day of rest.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • After announcing earlier this week that it will name an All-Bubble Team and the Player of the Bubble, the NBA said on Wednesday night that there will also be an award for Coach of the Bubble, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. Monty Williams (Suns) and Jacque Vaughn (Nets) are among the top contenders for that honor, which will be announced on Saturday.
  • Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, Kevin Pelton, and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) provide an update on the draft, examining the challenges facing teams evaluating talent and how clubs’ philosophies may be altered as a result of the unusual pre-draft process. According to Givony, due to uncertainty about finances and the G League, some executives say they’ve been seeking out potential second-rounders who would be willing to play overseas rather than signing in the NBA right away.
  • David Aldridge and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore the challenges facing the NBA as it plans its 2020/21 season. We’ve previously touched on some of those logistical and coronavirus-related issues here and here.
  • Former NBA guard Andrew Goudelock, who appeared in 49 games for the Lakers and Rockets between 2011-16, has signed a new contract with Rytas Vilnius in Lithuania, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Goudelock has also spent time with teams in Israel, China, and Italy since last playing in the NBA.