NEW YORK (AP) — Jacque Vaughn was passed over the last time the Brooklyn Nets hired a coach. It appeared they had someone else in mind when the job came open again this season.
Vaughn just focused on his work, not worrying about whether he would ever have a real chance to lead the organization.
“I just kept doing my job,” Vaughn said.
Now he has the chance to keep doing it well into the future.
The Nets gave Vaughn a multiyear contact extension Tuesday, rewarding him for keeping the team in playoff position heading into the final stretch of a season that’s included the trades of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Brooklyn is 34-24, fifth in the Eastern Conference with 24 games to go. But there’s plenty of work to stay in the top six for a guaranteed postseason spot, with the Nets still integrating the four new starters they acquired in the trades with Dallas and Phoenix, and the season-long challenge of getting the most out of Ben Simmons.
“For me, I’m excited about the challenge ahead of growing with this group, getting the most out of this group and pushing this group,” Vaughn said Wednesday.
Vaughn had steadied the Nets three years ago after they fired Kenny Atkinson in March 2020, guiding them to a 7-3 finish and a playoff berth when the season restarted in a COVID-19 “bubble” environment, even though a number of key players didn’t join the team at Walt Disney World.
The Nets then hired Steve Nash as coach, despite him having no experience in the position. Vaughn stayed with the organization as one of Nash’s assistants.
Nash and the Nets split on Nov. 1 after the team started 2-5. By the time Vaughn coached them that night against Chicago, the Nets had already had discussions with Ime Udoka, their former assistant who had led the Boston Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals before being suspended by the organization for violating team rules by having a relationship with a female staffer within the organization.
The Nets decided about a week later to stick with Vaughn, who hopes his perseverance despite some disappointments with his job is a lesson for his kids.
“I’ve seen it all here, whether it’s multiple coaches, it’s the bubble, whether it’s a toenail over the 3-point line, whether it’s trade requests, whether it’s all of the above, and so to still be a part of this organization means a lot to me,” Vaughn said. “That means the way I carry myself on a daily basis, people appreciate it. So there’s something to that, but at the end of the day I just kept doing my job and showing up every single day and ready to rumble every single day.”
Vaughn was 58-158 with the Orlando Magic from 2012-15 in his lone previous coaching stint. He is 39-22 now with the Nets and didn’t fret about whether that would be good enough to earn a contract beyond this season.
“I knew there was some conversation behind the scenes going on, but for me I did not worry about it or get stressed about it or put any additional food on my plate at all,” Vaughn said. “Just did my job every day and being rewarded for doing that.”
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