As Kyrie Irving said the other night, there is “no cap” on Jacques Vaughan. All that is real and also predictable. you don’t know what he wants, you’re not accountable, he’ll make sure you know it… and not the next day, the next hour, the next minute. Now, right now.
It says a lot about how he’s coached the Nets, as Christian Winfield wrote Sunday, whether it’s a quick timeout even when he’s winning. allowing players to know how they are doing the most basic basketball duties, such as dribbling, or taking full advantage of coaching analytics, eye-in-the-sky video on the team’s iPad.
As a result, the Nets are on a roll. eight straight to tie the record for the franchise’s longest winning streak in Brooklyn, winning 12 of their last 13 and posting a 19-7 record under Vaughn. In each of those areas, the Nets’ record is the best in the NBA.
To be fair, Vaughn was traded twice during his Nets career, once when Kenny Atkinson was canned, and despite his work on the Bubble, Sean Marks went with Steve Nash, then after Nash was released, Marks; and Kevin Durant, the wanted Ime Udoka, then and now the Celtics head coach whose tenure was interrupted by allegations of inappropriate relationships with female staff. Wiser heads eventually prevailed, and eight days after Nash’s departure, a self-styled “write-in candidate” surprisingly won the election. Call it a recount.
Winfield spoke with Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks coach who worked with Vaughn (and Marks) back in their San Antonio days.
“As a player, his work ethic and attention to detail was just off the charts,” he said on Friday. “He’s as sharp as anyone I’ve ever been around as a player and his thirst for game plans and little moments where he can make a difference and impact a win has been top notch.
“And as a coach, it’s kind of the same.”
No one ever doubted the Pasadena, California native’s intelligence. Vaughn earned a 3.72 GPA at Kansas, was named an Academic All-American and the GTE 1997 Academic All-American of the Year. And not his enthusiasm. That was a given during his playing days, too, but just as he defended Hall of Famers John Stockton and Jason Kidd, as well as future Hall of Famer Tony Parker as a player, he was relegated to the permanent role of assistant. coach who took a disastrous turn as the Magic’s head coach during Orlando’s failed rebuild a decade ago.
His humility, perhaps in supporting roles, has helped. Speaking about how he realized he was not the organization’s first choice, he recounted a conversation he had with his wife.
“But I’m fine with it,” Vaughn said. “I told my wife that I might not have been her first choice, and we’ve been together for 20 years, so you know, anything can happen. So here we go.”
Putting aside the most obvious difference with Nash, the propensity to use the fast break, the most telling thing that has changed has been the underlying analytics and accountability. Winfield writes about the most recent example: box-out data. With a small team, often even smaller, that most basic of basketball moves becomes important. And what Vaughn found and shared with his players wasn’t pretty. For some it was shocking.
“Who compiles these statistics?” he jokingly recalled in his initial reaction. “You want to talk about holding people accountable?”
It worked. Irving is averaging 6.6 rebounds in December.
“When I can hold myself accountable and Jacques can hold me accountable and my teammates can hold me accountable, it makes it easier for us to hold each other accountable by doing the little things,” he said. “Those are things we have to do every night to win.”
Ben Simmons had a similar reaction, as Winfield notes.
“It wasn’t great,” Simmons admitted with a smile. “It’s in front of your eyes, it’s not made up. That’s a real statistic.”
“A lot of guys didn’t like where they were,” Durant said. “I think we’ve been making a conscious effort ever since.”
Vaughn is all about “real stats,” using the team’s coaching analytics team led by Logan McPhail and Rohan Jaitley, who often sit at arm’s length from Vaughn, armed with an iPad filled with real-time data and up-to-date data. date video that the coach uses to show his players what’s going on … and what’s not.
“We didn’t have that before,” Vaughn said. “So that part of the communication, whether it’s video, the guys wanted to see at halftime that we talked about, I think that’s where the confidence is growing. to be able to communicate, to be able to ask questions, to have a little bit of psychological safety where you can ask and not be reprimanded, and we’re trying to figure this thing out together.”
Kevin Durant, who had a strange relationship with Nash, who defended him in April after asking to be fired in August, has been the most supportive of Vaughn.
“He (Jacques Vaughan) is huge. Just keeping it simple. We have high expectations for our team, but the process is more important than the end result. Every day counts and Jacques has been preaching that since he got the job,” KD said a month ago.
“As a player you like to simplify the game and what you do and that’s what he’s been doing all this time. The guys were learning on the fly, but also picking it up and applying it quickly, so Jacques has done a great job for us.”
Contrast that with what Durant had to say about Nash’s final year at the helm and what he told Joe Tsai in an interview with Chris Haynes.
“I went to them and said: “Yeah, I don’t like the way we’re going. I do not like shooting. I love practice. I need more. I want to work more s–t. Hold me accountable. Look at my ass in the movie if it helps you get over other people’s heads. I want to do more closures. I want to work on more training in practice.”
Monday night will be the Nets’ next challenge, Cleveland against the surging Cavaliers. Expect a playoff atmosphere and, if things don’t go right, some accountability. It’s Vaughn Way.