Jacque Vaughn joining the coaching staff may be bigger than expected
The question came casually enough. One reporter in the gathered Media Day scrum asked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich his choice for biggest offseason acquisition, between Manu Ginobili’s twins, Tiago Splitter and James Anderson.
Coach Pop’s response was anything but casual.
Why would Jacque Vaughn, a career backup point guard who couldn’t shoot, joining the Spurs’ coaching staff as an assistant, be the biggest offseason pickup for San Antonio?
“Jacque Vaughn is a star,” Popovich said. “You can see the same qualities in him that you saw in Avery [Johnson].”
Hearing Coach Pop talk about him, you wonder if Vaughn was priority number one this summer, not Tiago Splitter. When the Spurs officially announced Vaughn as a member of the coaching staff, Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
“We didn’t really have a spot for him, I just made it up,” Popovich said. “That’s how badly we wanted him. We didn’t want to lose him to someone else.”
During Vaughn’s playing career, Popovich often described him as a coach in the making.
“It was evident everyone on the team looked up to him and respected him, even though he wasn’t the most talented player,” Popovich said. “He was always on my list as someone we wanted back when he was done playing.”
When Vaughn decided this summer he was ready to return to the NBA workforce, Popovich and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford had one question for him: “What do you want to do?”
“He could have done anything, in management or coaching,” Popovich said. “If he had wanted to go into management, we would have created a spot in management.”
When Gregg Popovich tells the assembled media that an assistant coach who averaged 4.5 points and 2.5 assists during a 12-year NBA playing career is the team’s biggest offseason addition — over the reigning Spanish League regular season and Finals MVP, and the current 20th overall pick in the draft — it sticks with you.
Who knows if Vaughn’s impact will be apparent immediately or over the long term. But if Coach Pop, a man who has proven to know personnel, is this excited, you can’t help but think there’s a reason.