The common refrain after the Brooklyn Nets parted ways with former coach Kenny Atkinson was that a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving needed a higher-profile coach in order to earn the respect of the locker room. Yet according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast, the current frontrunner for Brooklyn's coaching job is one of Atkinson's former assistants: Jacque Vaughn, who took over the top job in March.
"He's the head coach," Wojnarowski said of Vaughn on The Woj Pod. "They didn't make him interim coach. I think the Nets are considering the possibility of a search, I would still give Jacque Vaughn, I would take Jacque Vaughn against the field right now." His guest, New York-based ESPN NBA reporter Malika Andrews, agreed with him.
Vaughn coached the Orlando Magic for three seasons and posted an underwhelming 58-158 record. However, the roster he would have to work with in Brooklyn is substantially better than the rebuilding Magic ever were during his tenure. If ingratiating himself to Brooklyn's superstars is a prerequisite of earning the job, Vaughn took an important first step when he moved DeAndre Jordan, a close friend of Durant's and Irving's, into the starting lineup over the younger Jarrett Allen.
While Vaughn has experience with this group of Nets, he'll face stiff competition for the Brooklyn job. The New York Times' Marc Stein reported that Jason Kidd, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Irving's former coach in Cleveland, Ty Lue, are candidates for the Nets job. Former Bulls and Timberwolves Tom Thibodeau is also reportedly in the running, and Mike D'Antoni will be highly coveted should the Houston Rockets let him go.
But Vaughn has the advantage of currently holding the job. He'll have at least eight games at Disney to prove himself as a head coach, and while he'll have a depleted roster there, expectations will likely be adjusted accordingly. That audition is a privilege no other candidate will have, and if he nails it, he appears to be right in the thick of the Nets' search for a full-time coach.