Why Brooklyn Nets Can't Afford to Gamble On Jason Kidd As Head Coach
Now that Jason Kidd has pulled the plug on his NBA career, he's ready to move on to his next venture. At the moment, that happens to be joining the Brooklyn Nets as a head coach and wrecking their chances at advancing deep into the playoffs.
The legendary point guard, one who may as well be sharpied into the ranks of Hall of Famers, has already met with Brooklyn, and things went well. There's mutual interest between the point guard and the front office, making it all the more likely that Kidd will end up pacing the sidelines of the Barclays Center with a clipboard in his hand.
According to the New York Post's Fred Kerber, Kidd isn't just a candidate for the job anymore; he's the favorite:
"Jason Kidd badly wants the Nets’ head-coaching job, and multiple sources insist the attraction is mutual and the team’s search for a replacement to P.J. Carlesimo is strongly pointing toward the future Hall of Famer. Kidd is viewed as the leading candidate for the job and met with GM Billy King yesterday to pitch his position."
If the Nets hire Kidd and attempt to build an experienced coaching staff around him, they may as well accept another first-round exit next season. Assuming they make it that far in the first place.
The point guard's history with the Nets franchise, albeit during the New Jersey portion of its history, should not come into play here. He'd be popular, but the Nets aren't in a position where they can afford to chase names and headlines at the expense of wins.
The #Nets have gone from contacting Phil Jackson to giving serious consideration to hiring Jason Kidd, who has been retired for one week.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) June 11, 2013
The main argument in favor of Kidd centers around the success Mark Jackson has experienced with the Golden State Warriors. Jackson, a former player in his own right, had no coaching experience and took just two years to steer the Dubs into the second round of the playoffs.
However, Kidd is not Jackson. This experiment is quite different, and it's one bound to have an unhappy ending.
Jackson Had Other Experience
While Kidd retired in 2013 and decided to submit his name as a head-coaching candidate in...2013, Jackson had much more of a gap between the two career decisions.
The former All-Star, who interestingly enough was born and raised in Brooklyn, called it quits in 2004 and spent seven years out of the league before he was hired in 2011. Those seven years weren't just spent fishing and relaxing on a couch, either.
Jackson worked in the television industry for a number of years, learning to separate his playing career from his ability to analyze the game. Even though he wasn't gaining legitimate coaching experience, he was still focusing on strategy and personnel by constantly surrounding himself with the sport.
There's a major difference between what happens on the court and what happens behind the scenes. When the players leave practice is when the true work begins for a head coach.
Kidd hasn't experienced anything of the sort, as his sole focus has been maximizing his own ability to contribute to the success of his teams. He has tons of experience in that regard, but it's of a different sort.
I have no doubt that the longtime Net can be a head coach one day—a great one even—but that day has not yet arrived. Before he's ready to jump right onto the sidelines, he needs to spend a bit of time doing something else and learning to differentiate his playing career from his future coaching career.
Instant gratification is a tempting entity.
Every child who has ever wanted a cookie understands that, even if they aren't familiar with the technical term. But as we get older, we're supposed to be able to defer that gratification when it best suits us.
Let's stick with cookies for a second.
If I told you that you could have a delicious, warm, melt-in-your mouth, chocolate-chip cookie right now, you'd almost certainly want it. But if I informed you that by turning it down now, you could have two of them tomorrow, that's a much more appealing notion.
You'd be able to defer that gratification and maximize the satisfaction experienced by your taste buds. A younger child wouldn't be able to make that decision and would likely succumb to the temptation of the first—and only—cookie.
That's the dilemma Kidd faces now.
This Nets coaching job seems like a heavenly cookie, but he'd experience more success if he deferred that gratification and waited until he was in a better position to succeed, ideally by building some experience coaching elsewhere or analyzing the game as a media figure.
Kidd is Relatively Soft-Spoken
The second reason that Kidd's situation differs from Jackson's is that he doesn't have the same ability to command a huddle.
The future Hall of Famer has incredible leadership abilities, but he's still a relatively soft-spoken guy. How many times have you seen Kidd yelling at his teammates in the huddle, or making a passionate speech that inspires them to find success?
I can't give you a specific number, but in his entire career, Kidd has probably delivered fewer inspirational speeches than Jackson has in his first two seasons as a head coach. That just comes with the territory for a coach who's also a licensed minister.
It takes some work to become a motivational figure on the sideline, and incredible basketball intelligence doesn't necessarily lead to that status. No matter how well Kidd understands the X's and O's of the game, he still has to be able to motivate his players.
Here's an NBA secret for you: Players understand strategy and could devise some pretty stellar gameplans on their own. While coaches certainly draw up plays, when you have an experienced team like the Nets, the motivation and ability to manage situations and rotations is just as important as playing with the X's and O's.
In fact, it may be more important.
Can you see Kidd commanding a huddle, yelling out inspirational messages and motivating his players to go out there and steal a game away?
I'm not sure I can, and I certainly can't see him doing so with less than a calendar year between retiring and permanently donning a suit.
The Deron Williams Factor
Although Brook Lopez can occasionally look like the best player in Brooklyn, that title belongs to Deron Williams more often than not. The floor general is one of the best at his position, and he showed that over and over after getting healthy over the All-Star break.
D-Will is also one of the true leaders in Brooklyn, and it's tough to imagine him forming a positive, player-coach relationship right off the bat with such a young leader. And while Kidd was ancient for an NBA player, he's quite young for the coaching ranks.
Williams just finished playing against Kidd. The two went head to head in January, and Williams recorded 14 points and 11 assists to Kidd's 11 points and single dime.
Throughout their careers, the two point guards have squared off 20 times, and while Kidd has the 11-9 advantage in wins, he's clearly lost the individual battle.
Coaches need the respect of their players to thrive. Williams has traditionally clashed with coaches, butting heads with Jerry Sloan while on the Utah Jazz and aiding the decision Brooklyn made when letting Avery Johnson go.
Can he give Kidd the proper respect after not just playing directly against him, but outshining him on a consistent basis?
Maybe the answer is yes, but it's still a concern that the Nets must seriously consider.
Again, this is different than the situation Jackson landed in when he was hired by the Golden State Warriors. That point guard retired after the 2003-04 season, and in the two seasons he's coached the Dubs, he's only been in charge of three players who were in the league during that final season of his playing career: Richard Jefferson, Kwame Brown and Mikki Moore.
None of those guys were major contributors for the Warriors under Jackson, and there was a large gap between the 2003-04 campaign and the 2011-12 one.
It would be quite different for Kidd.
The Nets Aren't in the Same Position the Warriors Were
Most importantly, the Warriors were in a different position heading into the 2011-12 season than the Nets are in before diving into 2013-14.
When Jackson was hired, Golden State was coming off a 36-46 season that left the Dubs finishing 12th in the Western Conference—a full 10 games outside the playoff picture. The same can't be said for Brooklyn, as the Nets just earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Golden State could afford to take a risk. A spark was needed, and there wasn't too much to lose. In a worst-case scenario, the Warriors would take a step backward and miss the playoffs again.
The Nets can't afford to make a similar gamble by hiring Kidd. The potential loss is too great since Brooklyn is actually in a position to compete. And that window is closing as Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and other key contributors continue aging.
One lost season—or, worse yet, multiple lost seasons—would allow that title window to shut firmly in the Barclays Center, whereas one more down year was relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things for the Warriors.
Brooklyn should be taking steps to remain in the thick of things, not making a move that could potentially force the team to fall back in the Eastern Conference. Given the gaudy contracts of Lopez, Williams, Johnson and Wallace, the Nets don't have the cap space to significantly upgrade the roster, forcing them to make their improvements on the sideline.
Is it worth taking the risk here?
For a team like the Warriors, one hoping to make the leap from the lottery into the playoffs, the answer can be yes. But for a team already in contention, the potential loss is too great.
Should the Nets hire Kidd?
As is the case with most situations, Brooklyn has to weight the risks against the rewards, and while the reward of having a fan favorite pacing the sideline is certainly great, especially if he turns out to be a natural fit as a coach, the risk of failing to remain in contention is greater still.
For the Nets, that analysis should be enough to sway them away from hiring Kidd. Again, he'll be a great coach one day, although Brooklyn can't afford to take that chance yet.
There are just too many risks to make this a positive move, even if a significant decline in Kidd's scoring average isn't really one of them.
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