#Jacque Vaughn builds Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving bond with his Nets future at stake

#Jacque Vaughn builds Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving bond with his Nets future at stake

With stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster, the Nets’ coaching position might be the most plum landing spot available this summer. But the interim in the job doesn’t have any intentions of giving it up, and right now Jacque Vaughn is the perceived favorite.

Vaughn will get at least eight more games when the NBA restarts in Orlando, Fla., but he’s been evaluated for a while, for years by GM Sean Marks then by Durant and Irving.

“I’m going to be me, and I think that’s the best thing. Just be yourself: Do simple better. I’m not going to overcomplicate this thing,” Vaughn said Saturday in a Zoom call. “My relationship with guys on this roster [must] have some foundation, some standing.

“My approach is the same every day: I try to be as consistent as possible. Anxiety can be extremely contagious, but so can calm, and so my relationship with guys, I’ll lean on that. Nothing for me to prove. I’ve grown as a coach, love the challenge of coaching, and want the challenge of coaching going forward here.”

Vaughn has grown since being let go by the Magic in 2015. Now he heads back to Orlando as an older, wiser coach — one with a long-standing friendship with his boss and a very real shot to get the Brooklyn post.

“The evaluation is ongoing. It started quite some time ago,” said Marks, who brought in Vaughn as Kenny Atkinson’s lead assistant in 2016.

Jacque Vaughn
Jacque VaughnPaul J. Bereswill

“I’ve had plenty of great conversations with Jacque, probably too many for his liking since we’re on either Zoom or FaceTime five or six times a day. We have a very close relationship, and a very honest and open relationship, too.”

They go back a ways. Vaughn was already a Spurs assistant coach when Marks arrived in 2011 as a basketball operations assistant. Vaughn left for Orlando the next year, and when he returned as a pro scout in 2015, Marks had risen to assistant GM.

Vaughn’s relationships with Durant and Irving? Not as long-standing, but he’s working on it.

And it’s only wise, with Marks admitting what everybody knows: Durant and Irving will have input in the next coach.

“My conversations with those guys are generally based around me checking in to see how they’re doing,” said Vaughn, who worked closely with Irving this season and was essentially his position coach.

“Some of those conversations lead into basketball, some of those conversations lead into life conversations, some of those conversations might lead into, ‘I have a podcast for you to listen to.’ So it ranges. For me, it’s more of the connection knowing that I’m thinking about them.”

Vaughn recommended Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “1619” podcast to Durant. He’ll hope Durant recommends him for the job.

Marks will pick his stars’ brains on what they want in a coach and said they have been “brutally honest.”

Equal parts self-aware and self-assured, Vaughn put it out there that he has seen stars’ brutally honest input first-hand in a long playing career, and encourages it.

“You have to welcome those conversations,” Vaughn said. “I’ve seen them along my career — whether it was John Stockton and Karl Malone with Jerry Sloan, Jason Kidd with Lawrence Frank, Tracy McGrady with Doc Rivers, Tim Duncan with Gregg Popovich. It belongs in our league, and I think it’s more welcomed — the climate these days of being able to give guys autonomy, a sense of belonging, of competence.

“In a film session that included Ky and Kevin, there was a clip and Kevin was more than welcome to point out if we want to be a championship team going forward, there’s a standard you have to have on this type of defensive play. That input is welcomed for me as a coach. Completely comfortable with that conversation, and want that conversation.”

Right now, he has a good chance of getting those conversations.

“[Vaughn] knows a lot about the game, a lot about the league in general, knows a lot about winning and what it takes to win,” Caris LeVert said. “He’s played in the Finals, played on a really good Jazz team, so he knows what it takes to get there.

“It’s good to be around a winning type of coach every day. And definitely has my best interest on the court. He tells the truth every day, that’s all I ask for, so definitely a good goal to work with him every day.”


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