Kansas City Star
I always thought had Roy Williams remained at Kansas, Jacque Vaughn would have succeeded him as the Jayhawks’ coach.
My scenario: Williams would have retired at KU, and Vaughn, who would have joined the staff after his NBA career, would have risen to the role of right-hand-man. Williams would have seen to it that Vaughn, one of his favorite players, if not his all-timer, got the job.
Vaughn will become a head coach but not in college. The Orlando Magic will introduce him on Monday.
Vaughn will have plenty to deal with, starting with the impending trade of Dwight Howard.
Already there are naysayers, who question Vaughn’s coaching experience, two years with San Antonio. Shaquille O’Neal, who tweeted, “Orlando magic is about to hire jock Vaugh over mike Malone or Brian shaw are u kidding me, wow, good luck winning wit Dat team Dwite howard.”
But Vaughn was the ultimate student of the game, and he soaked up wisdom from the likes of Williams, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. Popovich has likened Vaughn’s career arc to that of Avery Johnson, who played point guard for the Spurs and went on to become an NBA coach of the year.
Vaughn wasn’t the best player Williams coached. That would be Paul Pierce. But I suspect nobody meant more to Williams on a personal level than Vaughn, who was one of the most cerebral point guards in the college game.
Those smarts helped Vaughn become a two-time academic All-America, and in 1997 he and senior Jerod Haase were an academic All-America backcourt and both are now first-time head coaches with Haase having taken over at Alabama-Birmingham.
Vaughn left KU as the school’s career assist leader. Aaron Miles, the Jayhawks’ next four-year starting point guard, passed him, but Vaughn missed the first 10 games of his senior year after tearing wrist ligaments in a practice collision. At the time, he had to have serious second thoughts about not jumping to the NBA a year before.
Vaughn’s KU career ended without a Final Four appearance, and the 1997 Jayhawks that rolled out a lineup of Vaughn, Pierce, Haase, Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard had to be one of the best teams in the game’s history that didn’t advance to the final weekend. It spent 15 weeks at No. 1.
Vaughn’s greatest moment in a KU uniform? Two stood out. As a freshman, he beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to beat Indiana. The next year, his spin layup against UCLA capped a KU comeback from 19 down. Until last season’s Missouri game, I never heard a louder Allen Fieldhouse.
Vaughn used to tell a funny story about Indiana and Coach Bob Knight. When Knight came to Vaughn’s house in Pasadena, Calif., on a recruit visit, he made himself at home, propping his feet on the family’s coffee table. The Vaughns didn’t take kindly to Knight’s comfort.
Vaughn told me this story after he had signed with Kansas. He was a senior at John Muir High and his high school team was playing in Honolulu at the same time the Jayhawks were playing in the Rainbow Classic.
He came to the interview almost an hour late. He had been studying for a test, his priorities clearly established.
NBA/ABA head coaches who attended Kansas
Wilt Chamberlain, San Diego (ABA), 1973-74, 84 games
Kevin Pritchard, Portland, 2004-05, 37 games
Jacque Vaughn, Orlando, 2012-