“Jacques’ basketball acumen, competitiveness and intimate knowledge of our team and organization make him the best person to lead our group going forward,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. . “He has a proven ability to get the most out of our players, empower them and play a consistent, team-oriented style of basketball.”
The hiring provides a measure of consistency for the Nets, who have been embroiled in controversy following Kyrie Irving’s sharing of an anti-Semitic book and film on his social media account. Brooklyn suspended Irving for at least five games last week. The all-star guard met with commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday to discuss the situation, according to multiple people who confirmed the meeting, which was first reported by The Athletic. Irving’s first comeback is Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Reeling nets are facing significant pressure to win following Kevin Durant’s trade requests during the offseason, and they explored the possibility of signing Udoka in hopes of turning things around after a disappointing 4-7 start. Udoka was suspended for the season by the Celtics in September for having an inappropriate relationship with a team employee. Because Udoka was suspended by the Celtics and not the NBA, he was free to join the Nets’ bench immediately, although his potential return was almost certain to generate backlash given the findings of the investigation.
Despite Udoka’s suspension and subsequent exile from the Celtics, the Nets pursued the former NBA player, who spent the 2020-21 season as Nash’s staff assistant coach in Brooklyn, before switching direction. Udoka, 45, served as an assistant coach for USA basketball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where Durant led a gold medal run. He was also an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20, when Ben Simmons, who was traded to the Nets in February, made the all-star team.
The Nets entered Wednesday with the 22nd-ranked defense in the NBA after ranking 20th or worse in each of the past two seasons. Irving initially refused to apologize for his social media post and has drawn criticism from the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and Nets owner Joe Tsai, and it is still unclear when he will return to the court. Simmons, meanwhile, is averaging career lows in goals and shot attempts, and he’s yet to find a functional fit alongside Durant and Irving.
Marks said last week that the organization remains focused on winning rather than continuing a rebuilding effort, despite Durant’s slow start and trade demands in the offseason. Brooklyn has good reason to try to salvage its season given its major payroll commitments and lack of future asset projects.
“We have a window here and when we have this group of players and this salary cap, and where we are, we hope to reach [a title chase],” he said.