Nets GM Sean Marks hasn’t talked to Kyrie Irving, does not address Ime Udoka’s candidacy for coaching job

NEW YORK — Six days after suspending Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said he has not spoken to Irving. “I have talked to his representatives,” Marks said at Barclays Center on Wednesday. Asked for an update on Irving, he said there is “nothing to share” on that front. 

“At the appropriate time, when we do talk and if there’s an update to share, I will certainly share it,” Marks said. 

Last Thursday, the team announced that Irving was “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets” after repeated failures “to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so” in the week that had passed since Irving publicized “a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate.” As such, they suspended him for a minimum of five games without pay, with his return contingent on him satisfying “objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.” 

Last Friday, ESPN reported that the Nets had not been communicating with Irving directly, only through his agent/stepmother Shetellia Riley — while team owner Joe Tsai was resisting calls to suspend him from Marks and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as he preferred to give Irving a chance to educate himself about antisemitism and apologize, Irving was ignoring Tsai’s text messages and refusing to speak with Anti-Defamation League.

Shortly after the suspension, Irving posted an apology on Instagram. On Tuesday, he met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, according to The Athletic

The morning after the suspension and the apology, Marks told reporters in D.C. that there hadn’t been enough dialogue between Irving and the team, adding that the length of the suspension will ultimately be up to Irving, via The Athletic.

Asked why Brooklyn did not hire Ime Udoka to coach the team, in light of multiple reports that the franchise was planning to do so, Marks said: “Like all other searches we’ve ever done, whether it’s front office of coaching staff, it’s never appropriate to talk about who may or may not have been a candidate for this job. All I can tell you is that there was an exhaustive search, we went through candidates and we’ll leave it at that.” 

Prior to the Nets hiring Jacque Vaughn as coach, Marc Stein reported that “strong voices” had urged Tsai to back away from Udoka, who is currently serving a one-year suspension from the Boston Celtics for “a volume of violations,” in the words of Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, including an inappropriate relationship with a woman who works for the team. NetsDaily reported that those “strong voices” came from the commissioner’s office.

The New York Post reported that several women who work for BSE Global, the Nets’ parent company, raised concerns about the potential hire at a staff meeting. Stein reported that Udoka was the favorite of Marks and franchise player Kevin Durant. 

Marks praised Vaughn’s competitive spirit and ability to connect with players, emphasizing that the team had responded well during his stint as acting head coach. (Brooklyn parted ways with Steve Nash last Tuesday.) Marks described Vaughn as “a very stable, poised-under-pressure gentleman.”

“Personally I like the way the team has been playing,” Marks said. “I mean, they’ve been competing at a high level. They’ve obviously rallied around each other. They’ve rallied around the coaching staff. They’ve rallied around JV. He’s been the catalyst for that, so I’ve gotta give him credit.”

Vaughn previously coached the Nets on an interim basis after they parted ways with Kenny Atkinson in 2020. He was a finalist for the full-time job after the NBA bubble, but the team went with Nash.

“JV is more than deserving of this,” Marks said. “He has shown, he’s proved it. So we factored in what we knew about JV and the person he is.”

Marks said that the “camaraderie has been great” in recent games, adding that the players are “having fun” and are “enjoying each other.”

Asked when the franchise moved toward the decision to hire Vaughn, Marks said: “Jacque has always been a candidate and somebody we have to look at. We’ve obviously got a lot of data points with JV. Over the course of this last week, these last sort of four games, it became evident that we didn’t need to look elsewhere.”

Marks continued: “In order for us not to pick JV, we had to find somebody that was going to be more impressive. And more of a fit for this group. And there wasn’t one.”

In Vaughn’s four-game stint as acting head coach, Brooklyn lost to the Bulls, beat the Wizards and Hornets and then lost to the Mavericks. He will make his debut in his new role on Wednesday against the New York Knicks. 

Vaughn joked that he was a “write-in candidate,” referencing Tuesday’s election. “But I’m OK with that,” he said. “I said to my wife, I might’ve not been her first choice and we’ve been together 20 years, so it can all work out.”

There has been an “ongoing conversation” with Marks, Vaughn said, on the possibility of adding to the coaching staff. None of the current staff will be leaving the team, he said. 

Like Marks, Vaughn said that he has not talked to Irving since the suspension. 

“I hadn’t talked to Ky,” Vaughn said. “And I still haven’t. I thought in the capacity that I was serving that it wasn’t my place to. I’ve always understood my boundaries as an assistant coach. That could change going forward in the position that I’m in now.”

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