Nets' Jacque Vaughn Backs Kyrie Irving After Mavs Trade: 'I Want Him to Succeed'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 7, 2023

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 26: Jacque Vaughn and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets talk against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 26, 2022 at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images).
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving's tenure with the Brooklyn Nets ended in controversy, but there are no hard feelings on Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn's end.

Following the trade of Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for a package headlined by Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and a first-round pick, as well as the Nets' 124-116 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Vaughn told reporters:

"My interactions with Kai have always been positive. I enjoyed coaching him. I want him to succeed. I'll keep it that simple. We've had some ups and downs I guess along the way. I've also seen the young man score 60 points. I've also seen him bring his kids into the locker room.

"I've also seen him grow as an individual and be a better teammate than when I first met him. So for me, I'm going to always look at the good in people and want the good in people. And I want him to succeed. He's no longer with us, but I appreciate his time. But I'm looking forward to coaching Spencer and [Finney-Smith] for sure."

The Nets quickly fulfilled Irving's reported trade request and now appear focused on shaping the roster around superstar forward Kevin Durant ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.

Irving signed with the Nets in free agency in 2019 along with Durant in hopes of bringing a championship to Brooklyn, but things did not go according to plan.

In parts of four seasons with the Nets, both Irving and Durant have missed significant time due to injury, and the acquisition of James Harden during the 2020-21 season didn't work out, as he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers prior to last season's deadline.

Also, Irving has been a distraction at times due to non-basketball issues. His decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccine caused him to miss most of the Nets' home games last season due to the protocols in place, and he was suspended eight games this season for promoting a film that expressed anti-Jewish viewpoints.

However, when Irving was healthy and focused, he was a force on the court for Brooklyn, averaging 27.1 points, 5.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 three-pointers made and 1.3 steals in 143 regular-season games.

That didn't translate to great team success, though, as the Nets never advanced past the second round of the playoffs during his tenure.

Tumult on the sidelines played a role in the Nets' shortcomings, and Vaughn has twice been called upon to pick up the pieces.

Late in the 2019-20 season, he was elevated to interim head coach as the replacement for Kenny Atkinson. Vaughn went 7-3 down the stretch and got the Nets into the playoffs, but they were swept out of the first round.

Brooklyn then hired Steve Nash as head coach, but when he didn't yield the desired results in parts of three seasons, he was fired. As a result, Vaughn was again installed as head coach this season.

This time, the 47-year-old is the full-time head coach, and he has done an excellent job, posting a 30-16 mark.

Continuing to win consistently and enjoying playoff success will be difficult without Irving in the fold, but Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith are both quality pieces who can either complement KD or help bring in other bigger pieces in a subsequent trade.

As for Irving, he is the second star the Mavericks have been looking for to pair with MVP candidate Luka Dončić and potentially make the team championship contenders.