After a week of speculation, the Nets have finally named Steve Nash’s replacement, and it’s not Ime Udoka. Instead, the Nets elected to stay in-house, removing Jacque Vaughn’s “interim” status and promoting him to head coach.
Given his ties to Brooklyn (he was an assistant on Nash’s staff in 2021) and his previous experience coaching Kevin Durant on the United States Olympic team, Udoka’s ascension to head coach was treated as a foregone conclusion, his vetting process seen as a mere formality. But apparently the Nets got cold feet, ultimately deciding Udoka, currently serving a yearlong suspension for violating Celtics “team policy” (specifically engaging in an improper workplace relationship with a subordinate), wasn’t worth the headache.
Taking on Udoka’s baggage would have been a serious misstep, another unwanted distraction for an organization already embroiled in controversy. For that, the Nets have Kyrie Irving to thank, inviting a PR firestorm with his galaxy-brained Twitter musings, offending an entire religion in one fell swoop.
According to league insider Shams Charania, the Nets sought and subsequently received permission from the Celtics to negotiate, beginning “direct communication” with Udoka somewhere in the window of 24-48 hours after relieving Nash of his duties. However, the Nets didn’t get much further than their “initial discussions,” abandoning their pursuit of Udoka when their “due diligence” took longer than expected. Media backlash also played a role in Brooklyn’s decision with “public outcry” against Udoka landing a job so soon after facing serious allegations of workplace and sexual misconduct (not to mention flagrantly cheating on his partner of a dozen years, actress Nia Long) seen as a determining factor.
It’s unclear if the Nets explored other alternatives, though once Udoka’s name was eliminated from consideration, pivoting to Vaughn became inevitable. While Vaughn won’t be viewed as a “sexy” hire, he was arguably the best man for the job given his rapport with players, commitment to improving Brooklyn’s anemic defense and his past head-coaching experience with Orlando from 2012-15. Whether Udoka gets another head-coaching position remains to be seen, though the Celtics’ Laissez-faire attitude toward Brooklyn’s whirlwind courtship last week, barely batting an eye at the prospect of losing him to a division rival, would suggest his time in Boston has run its course.
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