No matter the vantage point, the Nets most definitely made the right decision in backing away from the seemingly inevitable hiring of disgraced Ime Udoka as head coach. While there can be no doubting his capacity to pace the sidelines with confidence, he eroded any value he accumulated in leading the Celtics to the 2022 National Basketball Association Finals by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. There’s a reason his subsequent suspension was for a full season, and while his current employers are said to have no qualms releasing him from his contract sans any recompense.
If reports are to be believed, the Nets were dissuaded from their initial plans to bring Udoka into the fold by quarters who figured — and rightly so — that they would do well not to court more controversy following seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving’s ill-advised endorsement of an antisemitic film. He was certainly better suited for the hot seat than the dismissed Steve Nash, but the baggage he carried would have discounted his worth from the outset. After waffling their way through crisis after crisis, the last thing they needed was another one that cements their reputation as amoral at best and concerned only with the bottom line.
The good news is that the Nets’ decision to tap erstwhile assistant Jacque Vaughn for the job has reaped immediate dividends. Not for nothing have they claimed four of their last six matches, including five without Irving. Clearly, the fact that change — any change — was made served to positively shake up the status quo. If insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result, then they appeared to be engaging in it to the point of self-destruction. By all accounts, he has had a beneficial impact, with his charges, too dog Kevin Durant included, lauding his appointment.
Are the Nets contenders now that they’re courting with stability? The answer remains murky, and not simply because Irving remains banned from action and still in the process of making up for his transgression. That said, they’re at least moving where they should be. And if they keep at it, they may yet spring a surprise heading into the playoffs. After all, they have Durant, who is such a prodigious talent that he tends to overcome even systemic infirmities when he’s engaged. Whether he will be for good is another matter altogether.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.