Nets sidestep Ime Udoka and another PR disaster, but that doesn't absolve them of much | Opinion
One public relations disaster – the Kyrie Irving debacle – was more than enough for the Brooklyn Nets.
They couldn’t afford another and when news emerged that they had focused on suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka as their replacement for Steve Nash, the backlash was immediate.
How could a team ensnared in dysfunction hire a coach who was banned by the Celtics for an entire season because he violated team rules?
In the end, the Nets could not do that. No matter how they came to that conclusion – Pressure externally? Internally? From NBA Commissioner Adam Silver? All of the above? None of the above? – they got there. It would have been an avoidable and unnecessary season-long storyline had they hired Udoka, and that’s not what they need right now.
Instead, they went with the personable, hard-working Jacque Vaughn, an NBA lifer as a player and coach and a person who gives the Nets stability amid volatility.
That doesn’t absolve the Nets of much.
The news that Udoka was on their radar didn’t materialize like magic. The Nets identified him as a top candidate. But it happened so fast after Nash was dismissed Nov. 1 that it gave general manager Sean Marks enough time to say no decision had been made on the hire, that they would do their due diligence and conduct an appropriate search for their next coach.
It also gave the Nets time to figure out if they really wanted to hire Udoka at this time, and Marks offered no reason why they didn’t. But we know why. Whether Udoka, who led the Celtics to the Finals last season, was the right coach or wrong coach for the Nets, it was definitely the wrong time.
“Like all other searches we’ve ever done, whether it’s front office or coaching staff, it’s never appropriate to talk about who may or may not have been a candidate for this job," Marks said. "All I can tell you is there was an exhaustive search. We went through the candidates, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Marks also said, “At this particular time to be honest, we were going to have to find somebody better than Jacque Vaughn in order for it not to be Jacque Vaughn.”
In the NBA, you often have to read between the lines or decipher what was truly said, and “at this particular time” is a key phrase.
Perhaps at another time – no Kyrie controversy, firing Nash deeper into the season – Udoka would have been the choice.
Another revealing comment from someone inside the building came from Vaughn:
“I said to my wife I might not have been her first choice, and we’ve been together 20 years.”
It’s a temporary reprieve for the Nets. Starting the season with championship aspirations, they are 4-7 after firing Nash at 2-5. Kevin Durant wanted a trade in the offseason, and Irving’s decision to traffic in antisemitic content remains a problem. He is suspended and cannot return until he meets a list of requirements established by the team.
The Nets are far from out of their mess, but at least they didn’t add to it.
Follow NBA columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nets avoid another PR disaster, but that doesn't absolve them of much