Self: Jayhawks disappointed to see former fan favorite fired

Former KU basketball player Jacque Vaughn, who was signed to a contract extension a year ago for taking the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets to the NBA playoffs, has been fired amid an up-and-down 2023-24 season. Jayhawks head coach Bill Self said he and others in Lawrence were disappointed to hear the news.

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February 23, 2024 - 2:56 PM

On Dec. 20, 2023, Brooklyn Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn reacts during action against the New York Knicks at Barclays Center in New York. Brooklyn fired Vaughn, who played collegiately at Kansas, earlier this week. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS

Jacque Vaughn, who led the Brooklyn Nets to a 43-32 record and NBA playoff berth after taking over for Steve Nash as interim coach in November of 2022, was fired by the NBA team Monday despite his receiving a four-year contract extension to continue on head coach in February of ’23.

The Nets decided to replace former University of Kansas point guard Vaughn after this year’s 21-33 start despite the Nets (according to Yahoo Sports) owing him between $16 million and $20 million with payments to be made through the 2026-27 season.

“I know everybody is disappointed today because Jacque got let go in a next-to-impossible situation,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday on his Hawk Talk radio show.

The impossible situation ostensibly concerned the Nets’ roster.

Vaughn, whose Nets started the 2023-24 season at 15-15, had one of its top players, Ben Simmons, available for just 12 games because of injury.

Even with its current record, Brooklyn entered all-Star break just 2.5 games out of the postseason play-in tourney. It didn’t help Vaughn’s job status that the squad’s last game before the break was a 50-point loss at Boston.

“We all love Jacque,” Self said Thursday at a news conference held in advance of Saturday’s KU-Texas game, set for a 5 p.m., tip at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I am not in Brooklyn. I don’t know what happened firsthand or anything like that. We want what’s best. I hope he had a good contract, so that way he’ll be fine regardless, which I’m sure he did.

“At that level,” Self noted, “when somebody buys the franchise and pays $3 billion for it you would think they probably have a little bit more clout in what they think needs to be done. When somebody has an investment like that I’d think the patience would probably be not quite as much if somebody didn’t have near as much equity in your business.”

Joseph Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai bought 49% of the team for $1 billion in 2018 then paid $2.35 billion in 2019 to buy the rest of the team from Mikhail Prokhorov.

“I think those guys (NBA coaches) understand that there’s two types of coaches — and it’s that way for the most part in college too — but there’s the ones that have been fired and the ones that haven’t been fired yet,” Self said Thursday. “I think most of those guys in the NBA probably understand that.”

VAUGHN, WHO turned 49 in February, had been with Brooklyn since the 2016-17 season as an assistant or head coach. He became interim coach when the Nets fired Nash on Nov. 1, 2022. He was elevated to head coach a week later and signed a contract extension with the team on Feb. 21, 2023. He was a true supporter of the front office, never criticizing last season’s trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“The consistent positivity and passion he poured into our team daily will remain with the players and staff he interacted with throughout his tenure,” GM Sean Marks told brooklyneagle.com. Marks, by the way, has hired and fired three head coaches in his tenure as Nets GM.

Mikal Bridges of the Nets expressed frustration with the Nets’ offense after the Boston game.

“You can’t just let this one (loss) go, just let it drop. Maybe if you lost (a close game) towards the end, but you got beat by 50,” Bridges told sny.tv. “A lot of (bleep) is not right and you’ve got to fix it.”

Ian Begley of sny.tv offered his take on the firing.

“In the weeks leading up to Monday’s decision, several Nets players had privately questioned Vaughn’s in-game decisions. Several had also expressed a lack of confidence in the head coach,” Begley wrote.

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