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As Nets head into real games, Jacque Vaughn gets his shot

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As we noted at the end of Tuesday night’s scrimmage...

Yes, they finished 1-2 in the three scrimmages and one of the losses was a 31-point blowout at the hands of a Zion-less Pelicans, but Vaughn did well. Well enough to be the lead guy in the Nets head coaching search, scheduled to begin after the Nets final game this season?

Although there’s been no publicity about Sean Marks presence in the “bubble,” it sure appears he has a good view. We isolated this image of him (or a body double) in a larger image posted on Nets social media over the weekend.

It’s possible, of course, he’s texting with the agent for Tyronn Lue or Mark Jackson or any one of a number of coaches who would want what has to be the best coaching gig in the NBA next season. With two superstars, a budding star and a stable roster, plus a generous owner and New York, New York, what other team can offer more?

Vaughn, in a profile written by Athletic writers Alex Schiffer and Joe Vardon talked about two watchwords he believes can win him the job. Flexibility and resilience.

“You don’t always get the chance to pick your terrain,” Vaughn said. “And this is the terrain that I’ve been thrust in, right now, and still take advantage of it. There is an extreme amount of gratitude that you get a chance to lead a team as a head coach. I’ll never forget that, haven’t forgotten that, and really enjoy that responsibility.

“I say easy is overrated.”

Of course, Vaughn is working now with an ad hoc group of players, a team devastated by the coronavirus —nine positive tests since March— and injury. But come December, everything changes. The superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can be demanding. They are not afraid to speak their mind and as Marks has noted in a “very loud voice.”

As Schiffer and Vardon write, “Coaches don’t lead players like Irving and Durant. At best, they find a way to work with them, as partners.”

And while Vaughn must concentrate on the job at hand, he has been connections with “Kevin and Ky,” as they’re known. He was Irving’s position coach before the hiatus, working with him on the court before the game and he’s noted since that he and KD have spoken about race in light of George Floyd’s killing, sending Durant the New York Times’ 1619 podcast, which discusses slavery’s impact on America, to further the conversation and connection. And none of the candidates have a connection with Marks. They worked together twice in San Antonio.

“Those relationships were trying to be established when we were all healthy,” Vaughn told Vardon. “Now it’s just continuing those relationships. It’s a little harder now, because of the distance and us not being in the same place, but that doesn’t keep me from FaceTime or text or a phone call, or all of the above.

“Sometimes those conversations are basketball. Sometimes those are checking on your family, checking on you, but those will continue and hopefully they’ve been authentic and they’ll continue to be authentic.”

Once the search is on, there will be other names mentioned. Brian Lewis pinpoints the most likely competitor, Clippers assistant coach Tyronne Lue, who was Cavaliers coach when he, LeBron James and Irving got to The Finals three times, returning with the O’Brien Trophy in 2016.

The Clippers head coach wouldn’t speculate on Lue joining the Nets but he said he’s mystified that Lue isn’t the lead guy rather the first assistant somewhere.

“It’s shocking that he doesn’t have a [head coaching] job. I mean, how many guys who’ve won titles are not coaching? So he clearly should be a head coach,” Rivers said of Lue.

“For me, the fact that I’ve coached Ty, that he’s been on my bench and watched him now, the difference is absolutely stunning. It’s amazing when you go from an assistant to a head coach how much you grow, how [much] better you get. This version of Ty has been absolutely wonderful for me personally. He’s just such a smart, smart mind, and he has amazing people skills. For us, it’s been invaluable.”

Jalen Rose believes that Lue is a no-brainer as Nets coach and has said as much but no one seems to have a bad word about Vaughn. Even Mark Jackson suggested that Vaughn might be an ideal candidate.

Jacque Vaughn is a guy [who] played in this league and had success on every level,” Jackson said on an ESPN conference call. “He’s been a leader, so that’ll come easy. The adjustment, obviously, is not having some of his best talent. But as a coach, as a leader, you make the proper adjustments.

“You want your guys to play hard. You see that he has them doing just that. And then let the chips fall where they may. There are challenges, but it’s a great time to put on full display just what he brings to the table. And he’s done an outstanding job since he’s taken over.”

Jackson’s TNT mic-mate Jeff Van Gundy said that Vaughn’s anxiety as an interim (despite the Nets pointing out that he is the head coach, not interim) will not be easily overcome.

“Having been an interim coach, [there’s] anxiety, day-to-day not knowing what your future is,” Van Gundy said. “But because Jacque’s been a head coach in Orlando, he understands that while you control some things, you certainly don’t control everything. [The] only thing you do control is how well you do your job. Now he’s bringing a very decimated team to this bubble, and most likely they’re going to really struggle [in] the playoffs because of just being out-talented.

“But it’s important that he knows that he can’t be judged by winning and losing in this. Sean Marks and their management, ownership are going to make a decision based on what they see in totality, because it’d just be foolish to try to judge him off of an eight-game [span] and most likely one playoff series with a decimated roster.”

it’s interesting to note that the Knicks now-complete coaching search didn’t include Lue or Jackson. They went with another veteran, Tom Thibodeau. after interviewing 11 candidates, mostly young assistants. That’s unlikely to be the case with the Nets. First time coaches need not apply with all their expectations. The Nets didn’t seem interested in Thibs.

The Nets vets in Orlando have not been afraid to state their preferences. Among those who liked our tweet about Vaughn posted at the top of this story was Jamal Crawford. And Garrett Temple told Vardon how he feels about “JV.”

“I think we kind of subconsciously put pressure on ourselves to play as hard as we can to try to win games because we know JV is fighting for a job,” said Temple who like Crawford has played for nine teams and seen coaches come and go.

“We know these circumstances are out of his control. We enjoy his coaching and we like him as a coach, so we do think about that and we understand that he’s in a tough spot.”