November 27, 2022

For a while there, it certainly seemed like suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was going to be named as the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets following the departure of Steve Nash earlier this month. It was reported that Udoka had emerged as a “strong frontrunner” to land the job, and he was reportedly the top choice of both star forward Kevin Durant and general manager Sean Marks. 

However, the Nets ultimately decided to go in a different direction, as they officially promoted interim head coach Jacque Vaughn to the role full time on Wednesday. Nets owner Joe Tsai was urged by some to avoid hiring Udoka, according to Marc Stein. That likely played into Brooklyn’s decision to go with Vaughn, as did several other factors, including an extended investigation and the negative feedback — both public and private — after its interest in Udoka became known, according to The Athletic. 

Udoka is currently serving a season-long suspension handed down by the Celtics for violating team policies after an improper relationship with a team staff member. 

From The Athletic: 

The Nets changed course from their initial plan to hire Udoka due to several factors, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making told The Athletic. These factors include an investigation and due diligence process by the Nets into the suspended coach taking longer than initially expected, the outcry after word of their plan became known to people outside and inside the organization and the short- and long-term question marks around the team’s ability to contend in the Eastern Conference as a result of the indefinite suspension of Irving.  

Once it became clear to the team that they could not proceed with their plan to hire Udoka, the decision to hire Vaughn was made largely in part due to the buy-in from Nets players under Vaughn, according to sources close to the situation. Vaughn is said to have created positive energy inside a Nets locker room dealing with external stress.  

While Vaughn is deserving of the opportunity, Brooklyn’s decision not to hire Udoka seems like it was made largely to avoid additional drama, as opposed to for basketball reasons. Brooklyn has been steeped in drama for what feels like years now, and hiring a coach who is currently suspended from his own team would only add to the drama, from a media perspective, at least. It certainly wouldn’t be a good look for any franchise, let alone the Nets. 

Now that they have their coach in place, the Nets will look to turn their season around after a 4-7 start. The good news for them is that there’s still plenty of time to do so, and perhaps Vaughn will be able to lead them in the right direction. Udoka, meanwhile, will have to wait a while longer for an opportunity to coach again. 

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