Steve Nash, Nets Part Ways after 2-5 Start to Season; Jacque Vaughn to Be Interim HC

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 1, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 27: Head Coach Steve Nash looks on from the bench against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center on March 27, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets and head coach Steve Nash have parted ways after a 2-5 start to the season.

"Since becoming head coach, Steve was faced with a number of unprecedented challenges, and we are sincerely grateful for his leadership, patience and humility throughout his tenure," Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said in a statement, per ESPN's Malika Andrews.

Nash thanked the Nets for the "amazing experience" in a statement:

Steve Nash @SteveNash

<a href="https://t.co/GUGhBtHKUL">pic.twitter.com/GUGhBtHKUL</a>

Jacque Vaughn will be the acting head coach for Tuesday's game against the Chicago Bulls.

The Hall of Fame point guard finishes with a 94-67 record at the first stop in his coaching career. He helped guide the Nets to the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals, and they may have reached the NBA Finals that year if Kevin Durant's shoes were one size smaller.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Aug. 8 that the 34-year-old "reiterated his trade request and informed [Nets governor Joe] Tsai that he needs to choose between Durant or the pairing of general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash."

Although the Nets stuck by the head coach to open the season, the team has gotten off to a disappointing 2-5 start. Something needed to change, and firing the head coach is often the easiest lever to pull whenever a team is failing to meet expectations.

In the case of Brooklyn, though, fans are left to wonder whether the battle has already been lost.

Since signing Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019, the Nets have never been too far away from their next crisis.

Kenny Atkinson, who led the team to the 2019 playoffs and helped establish the culture that made the organization attractive for Durant and Irving in the first place, was fired midway through the 2019-20 season.

Then Marks sacrificed what was left of a young, exciting core to acquire James Harden, the effects of which are still being felt.

Then came Irving's decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the 2021-22 season. Harden reportedly grew frustrated with Irving out of the lineup and eventually sulked his way out of Brooklyn.

A first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the 2022 playoffs was a sobering outcome that showed how far the Nets were from a championship level. As they were trying to recover from that disappointment, they had to face constant speculation surrounding Durant and Irving.

While everybody attempted to put up a united front before the 2022-23 season tipped off, it only took two weeks before they were dealing with another problem created by Irving.

The 30-year-old, who in September reposted a video from Infowars' Alex Jones about a conspiracy theory tied to the New World Order, shared on Twitter a link to the movie Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. The film and the book upon which it's based utilize antisemitic themes and tropes.

Nets majority governor Joe Tsai addressed the situation on Oct. 28 and said he was "disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation."

Joe Tsai @joetsai1999

I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.

Irving responded to say he "meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs" and that "the 'Anti-Semitic' label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday."

Hélà @KyrieIrving

I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The “Anti-Semitic” label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.<br><br>Hélà🤞🏾♾

Following a 125-116 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 29, Irving had a tense exchange with ESPN's Nick Friedell, who asked him about the Alex Jones video and Hebrews to Negroes.

𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 @_Talkin_NBA

Kyrie Irving going back and forth with <a href="https://twitter.com/NickFriedell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NickFriedell</a> during the Nets postgame presser 😳<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBATwitter?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBATwitter</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NetsWorld?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NetsWorld</a> <a href="https://t.co/Mn2dSsirSN">pic.twitter.com/Mn2dSsirSN</a>

While distancing himself from the falsehoods Jones has espoused about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, he told reporters he believes the conspiracy theorist was speaking the truth about the "secret societies in America of occults."

He added he's "not going to stand down on anything that I believe in."

In the immediate aftermath, some thought Irving—and by extension the Nets—reached a point of no return.

Alec Sturm @Alec_Sturm

Well, that was quite the press conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyrie is done with the Nets or maybe even the league.

bomani @bomani_jones

nets might as well start burning it down today. waive — yes — kyrie, trade durant and go from there. there is zero cause for optimism, and it’s not like this experiment is making them money. it’s a wrap.

Purely in terms of its on-court outlook, there's little reason to believe things will get better from here for Brooklyn.

The Nets are 29th in defensive rating (119.1), per NBA.com, and a new head coach can only do so much to compensate for the fact that the roster simply doesn't have many good defenders.

Their issues on that end of the floor also stem partially from the fact that Ben Simmons looks like a shell of the player who was a three-time All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6'10" guard is averaging 6.2 points, 7.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds this season. He's not performing like a first-team All-Defensive player, and his even more limited range on offense is dragging down what value he is providing on defense.

In effect, all of the worst fears about the Nets have been confirmed so far. They're a top-heavy roster without the necessary depth to be an elite team, and the troubling actions of players like Irving outside of games will inevitably create further tension on the court.

Perhaps a coach with more experience on the sideline than Nash can produce different results, but the odds of that happening are slim if recent history is any indicator.