The New Orleans Pelicans are in search of a new head coach to replace Stan Van Gundy after the two sides agreed to part ways last week after one season into his coaching tenure. One of the reported reasons was partly due to Van Gundy's personality and coaching style not meshing with the players, something that is just as important as the on-court X's and O's. As New Orleans begins its search, the team has reportedly received permission to interview Brooklyn Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee for the role, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Vaughn briefly served as head coach of the Nets last season when the team fired Kenny Atkinson during the regular season, and led an injury-riddled team to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth before being swept in the first round. He was considered a candidate for a permanent head-coaching job with the Nets before the start of the season. However, the team ultimately went with Steve Nash, and Vaughn remained an assistant on the staff. He's previously served as a head coach for the Orlando Magic for three seasons, where he saw minimal success on a rebuilding Magic team. However, he comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, as his first job in the league was an assistant on the San Antonio Spurs.
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Lee doesn't have head-coaching experience, but he's been an assistant under Mike Budenholzer since his days with the Atlanta Hawks. It's clear Budenholzer values Lee's insight and presence, as he brought him to the Bucks when he took the head-coaching gig in 2018. With Lee, who hasn't been a head coach before, the Pelicans would need to give him time to build something in New Orleans and not put immediate pressure on him to compete. His experience working with Giannis Antetokounmpo would be beneficial in the development of Zion Williamson, and around the league he's been touted as a "five-tool coach who is every bit as comfortable having meaningful conversations with a backup point guard as he is dining with a team owner," per ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz. That could go a long way in fostering strong relationships with his players and in turn getting the best results out of them on the floor.
With Williamson set to experience his third coach in as many years, it's crucial GM David Griffin and the Pelicans get this next hire right. Especially considering the recent reports that his family hasn't been pleased with the direction of the team. While New Orleans doesn't have championship expectations on it right now, there's still a certain level of pressure that comes with having a young superstar in the making in Williamson on the roster, and also keeping him content.