Jacque Vaughn learned from some of the best coaches in basketball. He played for Roy Williams, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich. He also apprenticed under Popovich as an assistant coach.
The Orlando Magic hope Vaughn produces the same results as his mentors.
Team officials hired the 37-year-old former NBA point guard as their new head coach Saturday. Vaughn likely will face a difficult challenge. The Magic are expected to trade superstar Dwight Howard eventually, and that move could launch a long, arduous rebuilding process with Vaughn at its center.
“We really wanted to find a coach who embodies the type of culture and identity that we’re trying to build here in Orlando,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan told the Orlando Sentinel.
“We feel that Jacque’s toughness, humility and attention to detail personifies the types of values that will help define our program. We were just really impressed throughout the interview process with his presence and his intellect and his passion for preparation.”
Most league insiders regard Vaughn as bright, hard-working and organized.
But, at the same time, those same insiders note that Vaughn brings just two seasons of coaching experience.
He ended his 12-year NBA playing career in 2009. A year later, the Spurs hired him as an assistant coach.
In San Antonio, Vaughn had the same duties as fellow assistant coaches Mike Budenholzer, Don Newman and Brett Brown. They scouted future opponents, helped run practices and had other responsibilities. Still, league rules allow only three assistant coaches on the bench during games, and Budenholzer, Newman and Brown — all longer-tenured — occupied those seats. Meanwhile, Vaughn sat directly behind the bench.
Hennigan conducted first-round interviews with five other candidates, including Golden State Warriors lead assistant coach Michael Malone and Indiana Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw.
Malone and Shaw have more experience than Vaughn. But Malone didn’t advance into the next round of interviews, and Shaw either was told he no longer was being considered or took himself out of the running.
That surprised many observers, including former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who was a teammate of Shaw’s and played one season for the Cleveland Cavaliers when Malone was a Cavaliers assistant coach.
On Twitter, O’Neal wrote: “Orlando magic is about to hire jock Vaugh over mike Malone or Brian shaw are u kidding me, wow, good luck winning wit Dat team Dwite howard.”
But Hennigan had confidence in Vaughn.
Hennigan was working in San Antonio’s basketball-operations department when the Spurs signed Vaughn as a free agent in July 2006.
“That was the first chance I got to know Jacque on a personal level, and I had always admired his character and his integrity and his attention to detail,” Hennigan said. “He’s really passionate about his preparation, and that really came through in everything that he did as a player and the way he interacted with teammates, interacted with coaches, interacted with management.”
Vaughn starred in high school and in college. In the pros, he mostly was a backup.
Vaughn earned McDonald’s All-America honors as a senior at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif.
At the University of Kansas, he was named the Big Eight Player of the Year after his junior season. During college, he twice was named a first-team GTE Academic All-American.
He played for the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, Magic and New Jersey Nets before he joined the Spurs. Vaughn appeared in all 20 of San Antonio’s playoff games in 2007 as the Spurs won the NBA title.
Vaughn’s career path mirrors that of Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson.
Johnson also played point guard and spent part of his career with the Spurs, playing for Popovich and winning a title with San Antonio in 1999.
After Johnson retired in 2004, he became an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks. When Don Nelson resigned during the 2004-05 season, Johnson became the head coach and was named the 2005-06 NBA Coach of the Year.
Popovich compared Vaughn to Johnson when Vaughn joined the Spurs’ coaching staff.
“Jacque Vaughn is a star,” Popovich said then, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “You can see the same qualities in him that you saw in Avery.”
The Magic hope so.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun