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Brooklyn Nets Coach Jacque Vaughn Visits YES We're Here

Highlights from YES Network's Michael Grady in conversation with Jacque Vaughn

Just four days before the NBA season was suspended on March 11, Jacque Vaughn was appointed head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, replacing Kenny Atkinson.

As Atkinson’s top assistant over the past four seasons, Vaughn played in integral role in the franchise’s turnaround from a 20-win season in 2016-17 to a playoff berth in 2019 with a 42-40 record.

Previously the head coach in Orlando for two-plus seasons from 2012 to 2015, Vaughn had a 12-year NBA career, including two seasons with the Nets from 2004-06 before playing his final three seasons in San Antonio, where he won an NBA championship with the Spurs in 2007.

The Nets won their first two games under Vaughn before the season was halted, including a 104-102 win over the Lakers in what should have been the start of a four-game road trip, and instead turned out to be the last game the Nets played before the hiatus.

“I was ready to go play Golden State,” said Vaughn. “We were on that West Coast trip so we had a little bit of mojo and momentum, so wanted to capitalize on that, so thinking coach-ways. All of a sudden, you had to shift your thought process; how can we take care of your guys? We had families with us on the West Coast trip. How can we take care of families? What are we going to do when we get back to Brooklyn? The leadership had to really be instinctive, but also the combination of talking with management and having a prudent plan once we got back to Brooklyn, and a thought process of we have to take care of our guys and our families.”

Wednesday night on YES Network, Vaughn connected with Nets reporter Michael Grady to discuss a variety of topics, from social issues to the potential upcoming return to play for the Nets and the NBA.

These are some highlights from that conversation:

On taking over as Nets head coach:

“It’s the ultimate challenge of leadership; a position that was unexpected, situation, circumstances that were unexpected, unprecedented. It’s your time to make your mark and step up, so embrace that challenge, embrace the group.”

On how he has spent the last three months:

“Definitely formed some new habits. I was really diligent at quarantine, staying in my place, so spending that time to self-reflect, form new habits. I don’t watch TV as much as I used to. Picked up reading again. Love podcasts. I have some favorite TV shows, so that part, I was able to form some new habits. But also, the professional development, being able to reach out to people I hadn’t in a long time and discussing basketball, discussing life. Embracing that part of it as well.”

On recent protests:

“It’s an unveiling of a lot of our history. At the same time, it’s history being set into precedent. A lot of legislation, a lot of statutes, a lot of things that will change because of this time. Very interesting crossroads that we’re living in.”

On experiencing the current civil unrest with his family:

“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.”

On the Nets organization in the current environment:

“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, and to as well, condemn the actions of our society but also continue the dialogue of improving where we are as a society.”

On the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, where he grew up and was in high school at the time:

“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.”

On the NBA format for resumption of play in Orlando:

“I’m 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 you’re going to 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.”

On playing without fans as planned in Orlando:

“I think it’s important for us to embrace it. I think as a league it’s a great opportunity to educate the fans, involve the fans. There’s a tremendous amount of talk and communication and antics that go on throughout the course of the game. I think as a league we embrace that, present it to the fans, and let them enjoy that process.”

On prepping to play basketball again among the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement:

“it’s been a very intricate balance. I think the most important thing has been the mental health of not only the players, the staff, the organization, and keeping that to the forefront. So while you’re also trying to get better as a staff and you’re thinking about basketball, the preparation that goes along with that, you’re thinking about life as well and the mental health of people taking care of others, but also the self-care that goes along with the stress and anxiety at this time of life.”

On getting the team back in rhythm:

“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.”

On Nets guard Kyrie Irving:

“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.”

On speculation about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning to play this season:

“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.”

On what this opportunity means for his coaching career:

“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.”

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