The Nets announced Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as their next head coach of a team that will feature Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant next season in what’s considered the most important year in franchise history.
Yes you read that right. Steve Nash, the Hall of Fame point guard, leader of the 7-seconds or less Phoenix Suns, and to the annoyance of Shaquille O’Neal, a 2x MVP, is the Nets head coach.
General Manager Sean Marks released a statement about the decision on Thursday morning.
“In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players,” Marks said in a statement. “I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I have witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league.”
“We are excited to welcome Steve to the Nets family and look forward to a successful and meaningful partnership,” Nets governor Joe Tsai said in a statement. “Steve shares our vision for the future of this franchise and his character exemplifies the core principles of our organization in working to serve our communities. I can’t wait for Steve to get started.”
The move came as a huge shocker to the NBA landscape.
Even some of Steve Nash’s closest associates in the NBA, yes, even his employer for the past five years, had no idea what was about to happen until the moment Nash called to break the news, person to person.
It does say something about the speed and discipline of Nash and the Brooklyn Nets that nobody — not the top reporters, not the gossiping agents, team executives or gadflies — saw this coming and the world didn’t get a glimmer of it until the Nets and Nash were ready to announce that he was signing on as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s new coach.
“I had no idea until yesterday afternoon and he called me just out of courtesy since he technically worked for us,” Steve Kerr said Thursday morning, about an hour after the Nash hire was announced. “He didn’t need to ask permission, obviously, but he just respectfully called me. And I think (Brooklyn GM) Sean Marks called Bob (Myers) last night, so he gave us the heads up. But I didn’t see it coming.
“I think it’s great, though. It’s an incredible hire. And Sean Marks and Steve and I were all in Phoenix together. I was GM and Sean and Steve were both on the team and they were really, really tight. So that part I think is really, really important. That connection. So I’m happy for both of them.”
Nash served as a player-development consultant with the Warriors for the past five seasons starting in 2015-16.
One of the most vivid scenes of Durant’s time with the Warriors always featured Nash working with Durant. Whether it was after a practice or before a game, going through intricate and fluid drills with full concentration, the two seemed joined at the hip.
Nash’s connection to Durant — which was initiated when Durant started working out with Nash at the end of Nash’s Suns tenure — clearly is a huge part of why he wanted this new job and why Brooklyn wanted him.
The Durant-Nash relationship is so strong that Nash, then working for the Warriors, was one of the last people Durant consulted with before he made his fateful decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and sign with the Warriors as a free agent in July 2016.
“I trust his judgment on stuff,” Durant said in January 2017. “He’s always kept it real with me. He wasn’t recruiting me or anything, he just let me know how it is here. …
“I asked him how the guys would feel if I came here. He just said everybody’s selfless, no egos. … Well, everybody has to have a ego, but you know what I mean. Guys don’t really take themselves too seriously. I wouldn’t say he made the decision for me, but he made me feel good about it.”
Also in 2017, Nash spoke about Durant and how the two understand each other.
“(Durant is) an incredible player and has great love for the game, great passion to prepare and train, always wide open to getting in the gym. So there was an easy common thread for both of us. I could relate to him and share with him some of the things you go through as an NBA player on this end of the spectrum, some things to avoid or to relate to certain scenarios in a way that might take him a few more years to understand. He’s just incredibly humble and receptive. I don’t know if I was any help, but he’s great to be around.”
Nash has no previous coaching experience but obviously has all those years playing at the highest level and a few years with the Warriors as a consultant.
This isn’t the exact copy of the Warriors blueprint of hiring Steve Kerr, as he was a GM for the Suns, and spent years under all time great coaches, but you can see what the Nets are going for.
Get a guy your star players like. Someone who can manage huge egos, while still getting the most out of the role players. Nash been doing that his entire playing career. Remember when he took a pay cut to ensure the Suns had enough money to keep role player Quentin Richardson? Nash knows the importance of a team, while understanding being the aloha dog.
The Nets also retained Jacque Vaughn, which will be a huge help to rookie head coach Steve Nash. Vaughn been at this coaching thing for a long time. He will assist Nash on rotations, X’s and O’s, and the little things like organizing practice and training camps.
The last time the Nets had a team expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference title, they hired a Hall of Fame point guard with no previous coaching experience. But this is different. It’s not old Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett leading the way, its Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the top 6 players in the Eastern Conference.
It still has to play out but this looks like it will turn out better than the past experience.