Just a week ago, NBA fans thought the Brooklyn Nets were going to take a swing and hire exiled Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, but in a new turn of events, the Nets have decided to make interim head coach Jacque Vaughn their full-time leader.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski originally reported that the Celtics were willing to part ways with their suspended coach and that his reunion with the Nets was imminent. But the fact that the Nets decided to go with Vaughn instead of Udoka is unsurprising, as it comes in the middle of a media firestorm as the team’s star guard, Kyrie Irving, is still facing backlash for sharing a film on Twitter that contains anti-Semitic messages.
Hiring Udoka would add more disarray, scrutiny and questions for a team that is already struggling with its media image and play on the court.
In his first season as head coach for the Celtics, Udoka led the team to their first NBA Finals in over a decade, with many crediting Udoka’s impact on the team for the Celtics’ impressive 2022 playoff run.
During the off-season, Udoka was suspended by the Celtics for the entirety of the 2022-2023 NBA season because of his role in a “consensual intimate relationship” with a woman who is a member of the Celtics organization. Few details have been released about the nature of the relationship and why the Celtics thought it was necessary to suspend him for the remainder of the season and not just fire him.
A story from The Athletic reported that the mystery woman accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her. But other than that, few specifics have been shared with the public.
Which brings to question, why did the Nets even consider him in the first place?
One is that the team has sucked this season, especially defensively. The Nets are currently one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA and as head coach for the Celtics, Udoka helped the team become the best defensive team in the league locking teams down night in and night out.
Another reason is that Udoka previously worked with the Nets as an assistant coach during the 2020-2021 NBA season, so he already has a relationship with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Furthermore, hiring him would take away a major piece of their Eastern Conference rival Celtics, who could stand in the team’s way for a possible Finals appearance.
But, would all of that be worth bringing in such a controversial figure? They already did it with Irving, are they willing to do it again with Udoka? Clearly not, which is why they played it safe and hired the guy who’s already with the team.
Now the question stands, can Vaughn pull the team out of their early season struggles to be a possible contender in the Eastern Conference? We’ll have to watch the Nets closely to see.