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Jacque Vaughn on race, return-to-play and Kyrie Irving

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In a wide ranging interview with Michael Grady on “YES, We’re Here,” Jacque Vaughn talks about a variety of topics in the news from how he and his family are reacting to civil unrest around the country —as well as the Nets response; his own experiences as a teenager during the Rodney King riots; the NBA’s return to play and his point guard, Kyrie Irving.

And he admitted he wants to stay on as head coach. “Brooklyn is home for me.”

The interview will air on the YES Network Wednesday at 7 p.m. The interview took place before the NBA player’s conference call late last week that caused so much controversy.

Asked about how he and his family, including two teenagers, have been dealing with what Grady described as “troubled times,” the Nets interim coach responded...

“It’s been interesting. I have two teenage young men who are seeing this atmosphere for the first time, so it’s been interesting having conversations with them, discussing language with them, discussing movies, terminology, things that we did not discuss at the dinner table earlier, but now we have been able to have those tough conversations.”

Vaughn, who grew up in Los Angeles, compared what’s going on now to when he was a teeenager during the Rodney King riots that swept L.A. in 1992 after the four police who assaulted King were found not guilty in a state court.

“Very vivid memories. I was a little older than my oldest son, still a teenager ... those memories are really still inside my head, of the Rodney King verdict. The week after that, me being in school, a lot of the places that I had grown up walking to — stores, establishments that were really native to my upbringing, weren’t there anymore, and (that) left a lasting impression on me. So, I am definitely in a position where a lot of memories have been kind of regurgitated ...”

The 45-year-old spoke as well about how the Nets and his point guard have reacted to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the larger Black Lives Matter movement. Vaughn said he was proud of the way Nets, as an organization...

“It’s been huge, to be associated with an organization that from day one stepped up and was willing to have a conversation, tough conversation about what’s going on in our society, as well as, condemn the actions of our society but also continue the dialogue of improving where we are as a society.”

Vaughn referred to Irving as a “special individual”...

“He’s a special individual, really processes the game in a different way, sees it more globally. Very intuitive to what’s going on at the moment but can make adjustments, and at the same time is a good listener. So that combination from the point guard position is a luxury, for sure.”

Irving, of course, won’t play in the Orlando “bubble,” but Vaughn likes his team’s chances and even the atmosphere...

“I am excited about it. I think it’s a combination of March Madness, so it takes me back to my college days. There’s a little bit of a Summer League element, so your gonna have to be very flexible in your thought process ... At the end of the day, though, we are getting back to competing, and so I am definitely looking forward to that.”

Keeping the team in rhythm is a big challenge, he admitted...

“That’s the holy grail right there. I think that balance of getting guys back in the gym; what becomes the most important thing is getting guys connected. So we will sacrifice maybe some conditioning just to get the guys back into a rhythm and understanding being around each other and appreciating being around each other. That will be the premium as we get back together.”

As for his future, Vaughn says it’s all about making his present work...

“I’ve just embraced this opportunity. Embrace it means leading a group of men, being able to care about their lives on and off the basketball court, being connected with an organization that I have an affinity for, a leadership team that’s been incredible throughout this process, really reinforced my connection and commitment. I want to take advantage of the opportunity. I do want to continue to be the head coach. I’ll say that. I enjoy being a part of Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s home for me.”

Finally, Vaughn admitted there were “continuing” conversations with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving about a possible return, but in the end...

“It was an ongoing conversation. At the end of the day, we want both those guys to feel comfortable when they return to the floor. That’s the premium for us, whether that’s short-term or long-term. That conversation of how workouts were going for them, their ability to ramp back up after the quarantine, all those were factors that the communication both ways was really good.”

Vaughn is one of two interviews on YES, We’re Here. The other will be a trip down “Onions Lane” as Ian Eagle interviews his old mic-mate Bill Raftery during the Jason Kidd era. Raftery recalls one instance that said everything you needed to know about Kidd’s leadership.

“I think you (Eagle) were standing there with me when Kenyon Martin (with Kidd) was leaving practice one day and he went through the tunnel (at the Meadowlands) ... and Kenyon was saying, ‘I’m not making my jumper’ or like ‘I’m off my game,’ and Jason Kidd said, ‘Well, you’re the first one to leave (practice).’ That’s all he said. And then Kenyon Martin started staying after (practice), working on his jump shot.”

Meanwhile, the YES crew won another accolade this week. After surveying League Pass users, The Athletic declared the Nets —and the Knicks— broadcasters the best.

As most League Pass obsessives would guess, the Brooklyn Nets (+147) and New York Knicks (106) had the two most loved broadcasts. These are a little bit of a cheat code for MSG (Knicks) and YES (Nets) because they attract arguably the two best play-by-play announcers in the NBA. The Nets have Ian Eagle doing the majority of the broadcasts for their local viewings, when he isn’t off filling in NBA games on TNT, college basketball and NFL on CBS, or The French Open for the Tennis Channel. The Knicks have Mike Breen doing the majority of their local broadcasts when ABC and ESPN don’t tear him away for nationally televised games.

No surprise there.