Nets promote Kevin Ollie to interim head coach

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat
Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat

Kevin Ollie, who played 13 years in the NBA and then coached his alma mater, UConn, to a national title, will take over as the interim head coach in Brooklyn, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the team.

Ollie steps in for Jacque Vaughn, who was let go on Monday. Ollie will run a practice on Tuesday and have his coaching debut on Thursday when the Nets face the Raptors, Wojnarowski reports.

Ollie had been one of the finalists last summer to become head coach of the Pistons before the owner of that team, Tom Gores, threw so much money at Monty Williams that he couldn’t say no. Ollie coached at UConn until an NCAA investigation into potential recruiting violations saw him step aside. He was also the head coach at Overtime Elite from 2021-2023, leaving that job last year and jumping to Vaughn's staff in Brooklyn.

Whether Ollie will be a candidate to keep the Nets job beyond this season is up in the air. There is a lot of speculation around the league that Nets GM Sean Marks will want a more experienced coach, and as Marks is out of the Spurs system he could turn to another person out of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, Mike Budenholzer. Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports mentions another name out of the Spurs family, former Hornets head coach James Borrego.

If Ollie wants to keep the job, he'll have to turn around a Nets team that started this season 15-15 but has fallen off since, going 6-18. The fair question is, did Vaughn ever really have the talent of a 15-15 team, or did they just overperform for a stretch and then come back to reality? This is a team where their second-best player was either Cam Thomas or Nic Claxton.

The Nets want to rebuild on the fly around Mikal Bridges — they turned down a lot of trade offers for him at the deadline — but to do that the team has to win enough to be attractive to potential free agents. Nets management in Marks (as well as owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai) know they need to make the postseason to be attractive to potential free agents, and Vaughn was both losing on the court and reportedly had lost key parts of the locker room (Bridges). Vaughn had built an offense where Ben Simmons' playmaking was supposed to be the hub, but he has played just 12 games this season due to injury. Vaughn's system beyond that was a lot of one-on-one without the players to really pull that style off, such as the traded Spencer Dinwiddie.

Ollie takes over a Nets team sitting 11th in the East and if he wants to keep the job and have the interim tag removed — which is what Vaughn did after he took over when Steve Nash was let go — he's going to have to get wins and take a team currently 2.5 games back of the final play-in spot into the postseason. And even that may not be enough.

But Ollie is going to get his chance.