The Pelicans are expected to hire Suns assistant Willie Green as head coach.
But Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn was once considered favorite for the New Orleans job.
Apparently, that got derailed as Pelicans lead executive David Griffin detailed a plan of heavy front-office involvement in coaching moves – including starting Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis at guard.
And while the appeal of keeping one’s kids in the same location plays a factor in many NBA parents’ career planning, league sources told B/R it was Vaughn’s negotiations with Griffin that derailed the Nets coach from joining the Pelicans.
In those talks, which included a dinner in Chicago, Griffin previewed the same level of influence he has utilized throughout the executive’s tenure in New Orleans, where members of Van Gundy’s coaching staff and Alvin Gentry’s before his often mentioned Griffin’s preferred involvement in areas such as minutes, rotations and skill development, primarily for the players he has drafted since 2019. With Vaughn, sources said, Griffin had specific ideas to fill out the coach’s entire assistant group, envisioning Bucks assistant Charles Lee as the associate head coach, plus a starting backcourt of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis.
Presumably, Green accepted those terms. Front offices increasingly offer input, or even directives, on coaching moves. As long as Griffin and Green are on the same page, this can work well.
It’s not totally clear how quickly Griffin envisions Alexander-Walker (22) and Lewis (20) starting at guard. But if it’s next season, that’d put major pressure on those young players to help a team ostensibly trying to win now around Zion Williamson.
New Orleans started Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe at guard last season. If they return, a coached tasked with winning quickly might be inclined to lean on those veterans over less-polished young players.
Of course, Griffin could force the coach’s hand by not retaining Ball in restricted free agency and trading or even waiving Bledsoe.