“The old eye in the sky don’t lie.”
It’s a line Jacque Vaughn’s college coach used during his younger playing days, one Vaughn used to explain why he frequently uses an iPad to instruct his players during timeouts in-game.
One of the starkest differences between Vaughn and his predecessor Steve Nash as Nets head coach is the use of timeouts. Where Nash would often let one bungled play snowball into an extended run for the opponent, Vaughn calls a timeout immediately if the blunder is glaring enough.
And he’s using an iPad in those cases to show players exactly where they go wrong, giving them an opportunity to talk through plays and make adjustments before stepping back into the court.
“We didn’t have that previously,” said Vaughn. “So that communication, whether it was a clip guys wanted to see at halftime that we talked through, I think that’s where the trust is growing: to be able to communicate, to be able to ask questions, have a little psychological safety where you can ask and not be reprimanded and we try to figure this thing out together.”
The iPad has become one of Vaughn’s coaching quirks, a lot like Kenny Atkinson’s signs from the sidelines before the Nets dismissed him in Year 1 of the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving era. The device is helpful because, like his old coach said, “the old eye in the sky don’t lie,” and players can’t argue if Vaughn points out their mistakes in 4K.
“Guys obviously learn in different ways — and when they see it on the iPad, it’s the truth,” Vaughn said after the team’s 112-100 win over the Wizards on Monday, Brooklyn’s fourth win in a row and eighth in its last nine. “So we’ll actually huddle around, pull the clip, be able to visually see [the play], how we can get better from it, what actually happened [and] not what you thought happened, and not hurtful or harmful feelings. We’re all just trying to figure it out.”
The Nets have clearly responded to Vaughn’s coaching style. After starting 2-5 under Nash, the Nets are only a half-game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed. The Nets have won 11 of their last 13 games and are 15-7 since Vaughn stepped in as Nash’s replacement.
Much of the team’s success is credited to Vaughn demanding everyone who plays minutes plays them hard.
”Jacque’s made it very clear that if you’re not playing hard enough, he’s gonna let you know about it,” said Irving.
The Nets have a long way to go. Their wins have come mostly against middle of the pack competition and they have struggled against teams considered legitimate championship contenders. It’s all part of the process for a Nets team angling to play its best basketball at the end of the season.
“First of all we want to be a connected group on both ends of the floor, and a lot of these plays that you make, sometimes you just gotta be there to protect your teammates,” said Durant. “So once we had that in our minds that somebody gets beat we have to be there, somebody might have made a mistake on a switch or a back door cut, we still gotta be there and I think we been preaching that and the hustle plays come with that and everybody’s buying into it.
“That’s the toughest part of the game to be honest, is to continue to consistently do that every single night, and that’s what the great teams do: They dial it up every night. Even when the offense isn’t working, you can still be a connected group on the defensive side. So we’re building somethings, and we’ve gotta continue to keep fine tuning.”