Nets name former UConn coach Kevin Ollie as interim head coach

Then-Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn.,(AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks hasn’t given up on his team making the playoffs this season, and now Kevin Ollie will be tasked with leading it there.

Ollie was named Tuesday as Brooklyn’s interim coach, replacing Jacque Vaughn, who was fired a day earlier.

The Nets are 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the final play-in spot with 28 games remaining. Marks said the decision to replace Vaughn with Ollie during the All-Star break was based on “the direction of the team and where it’s potentially trending.”

Marks spoke with reporters for almost 20 minutes prior to the team’s practice Tuesday night, its first under Ollie, who joined the Nets’ staff as an assistant ahead of this season.

“He’s always carried a great voice in there. He’s very direct with the players. He does hold them accountable,” Marks said. “I think what makes a good coach is to be able to put yourself in those players’ shoes, be able to tell great stories and be brutally honest with guys and I think those are attributes that Kevin absolutely has.”

The 51-year-old Ollie played 13 NBA seasons and led UConn to an NCAA title a decade ago. Ollie coached UConn from 2012-18. The Los Angeles native then spent two years (2021-23) as head of coaching and basketball development for Overtime Elite, a developmental league for young players, before joining the Nets.

“I played 15 years professionally, 13 years in this league,” Ollie said. “Never once did (a) coach call a play for me. I had to get it with grit, I had to get it with determination, I had to get it with a mindset that we’re gonna get better each and every day. That’s how I coach, that’s what I’m going to demand. I want them to demand that from me, and that’s from day one. We can’t be 30th in loose balls, we can’t have five charges on the season. We can’t have those things. That’s losing basketball with me.”

Vaughn went 71-68 in two stints with the Nets, including a brief stretch as interim coach at the end of the 2009-10 season, and led Brooklyn to the playoffs twice. He was seen as a stabilizing force after replacing Steve Nash seven games into last season.

This season, the Nets are 21-33 and have dropped five of six, including a 50-point loss to Boston in their last game before the All-Star break.

Marks was asked whether that ugly defeat factored into his decision.

“I think that’s one thing,” Marks said. “When you get to a juncture here and you’ve had the last two months, as I’ve said before, we have not had the results that we wanted to have. … This was an opportunity to make a change at this particular juncture. There was no one (thing) you could look back on and say it was then or then or this. You look at it globally.”

When asked whether owner Joe Tsai gave him a mandate to make the playoffs, Marks said no but added, “that is a goal, without a doubt.”

Leading scorer Mikal Bridges said the Nets need to be unified to make up ground in the standings.

“You got to be ready,” Bridges said. “Obviously, it’s tough but you know, (the) main goal is to win. So we (have) to keep going, keep the main goal the main goal. … It’s gonna be tough and all that but the main thing is winning. Do whatever it takes, you know, to win.”

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