Jerod Haase, the 38-year-old, first-year head coach at UAB, was out recruiting Saturday when news broke that former Kansas University backcourt-mate Jacque Vaughn had been hired to coach the NBA’s Orlando Magic at the even younger age of 37.
“I said, ‘Wow,’” Haase said in a phone interview Sunday night, asked his reaction to the San Antonio Spurs assistant’s being named Stan Van Gundy’s replacement in Orlando.
“I’m not surprised,” Haase quickly added. “Jacque is destined for greatness. No doubt he has the whole package. He’s a great guy. He is intelligent. He gets along with people. He’ll be great.”
Haase, who like Vaughn is a 1997 KU graduate, worked on Roy Williams’ North Carolina staff for nine years prior to accepting the UAB post. Vaughn, meanwhile, played in the NBA for 12 years before retiring in 2009 and entering coaching under the tutelage of former KU volunteer assistant/Spurs legend Gregg Popovich.
“Jacque was a leader on our team. He could lead by example or lead by saying the right things,” Haase said of Vaughn, floor general on the star-studded 1996-97 team that went 34-2. “Jacque could talk to people and get the best out of them.
“We talk every once in a while, not a ton,” Haase added of his current relationship with Vaughn. “The bond we had as players is pretty strong. Our paths will cross from here on out.”
It seems fitting that Haase and Vaughn both earned their first head-coaching posts just a few months apart, considering the two were often mentioned in the same sentence during their KU days by then-Jayhawk coach Williams.
“Hopefully five, 10, 20 years from now you’ll be saying the same thing,” Haase said, responding to a reporter’s comment that, back in college, the two seemed like coaches in the making.
“The best thing is, I don’t have to go against him. He’s in the NBA ... The best part is he and I have never lost a game,” Haase added with a laugh.
Haase and UAB assistants Robert Ehsan, Richie Riley and Jeff Wulbrun have just completed their first July recruiting evaluation period.
“It was just awesome,” Haase said of a couple weeks of July on the road. “I am totally worn out, but the progress we’re making as a staff is unreal.”
It was recently announced that UAB had signed a three-year agreement to play Williams’ Tar Heels.
The first and third games will be played in Chapel Hill, N.C., the second in Birmingham, Ala., home of UAB.
“For my position now, it’s a great deal,” Haase said. “Our fans are excited. I think it’s important for us to play big games.”
Haase said it would be a thrill to be able to work out a game or series of games against his beloved alma mater.
“I would love to do it,” Haase said. “I don’t know what it’d take, but I’ll try to work on that.”
Vaughn, by the way, will be introduced as Magic coach at a news conference today in Orlando.
Kaun’s team wins: Former KU center Sasha Kaun scored five points off 2-of-5 shooting and grabbed two rebounds in Russia’s 95-75 victory over Great Britain in Sunday’s Olympic basketball opener in London. Kaun started and played 19 minutes. Russia will meet China on Tuesday morning.