But the team’s top officials believe they have the right person in new head coach Jacque Vaughn to help turn the page on a year that almost everyone in the franchise wants to forget.
“We’re going to continue to try to build a culture here,” Hennigan said at the news conference introducing Vaughn. “A culture that our players represent. A culture that our fans can be proud of. A culture our team will rally around. We feel we took a step in the right direction in building that culture with Jacque here today.”
Vaughn becomes the 10th coach in franchise history after 12 years as an NBA player and two years as and assistant in San Antonio. He takes over for Stan Van Gundy, who was fired in May. He said he’s looking forward to working with whoever is on the roster when training camp opens in a few months.
Asked if there was any hesitation in taking his first head coaching job with so much uncertainly surrounding the team and particularly Howard, he said the opportunity outweighed it all.
“Faith. Faith in your abilities. Faith in the people around you,” Vaughn said about what drives him. “One of the great character-building attributes of the franchises I’ve been around _ the foundation and the basis _ is having good people around you. The DeVos family is about that. Alex Martins is about that. And I know Rob Hennigan is about that.
“And so for me, it was a no-brainer that with these gentlemen everything is OK. I’ll stick my neck out for them.”
Howard recently reissued a trade demand to the team and said he has no desire to play in Orlando for the final year of his contract.
Hennigan confirmed a second face-to-face meeting with the All-Star center, describing it mainly as a status meeting to check on his rehabilitation from back surgery, among other things.
Beyond that, he said he wants to keep their conversations private, refusing to say whether he has ruled out having Howard on the roster for training camp.
“One thing we’ll tell our fans is that we’ll continue look at all options to try and improve this team,” he said. “And we’ll continue to build piece by piece (and) brick by brick into something that is sustainable. At the end of the day it’s about putting a group of guys on the floor that want to be coached by Jacque, who want to be led by Jacque and represent the values and attributes that our fan base can really rally around.”
Vaughn singled out Roy Williams, his coach at Kansas, former Utah coach Jerry Sloan and Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich as the mentors who’ve had the most influence on his coaching pursuit. He considered the career after “my knees and ankles started hurting” toward the end of his playing days.
“You get a little smarter then,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn won a title with the Spurs as a player in 2007, when Hennigan was working in the Spurs’ front office. The two forged a relationship and landed him on Hennigan’s radar during the recent coaching search.