The Nets announced Thursday they hired Nash as their next coach. The move came as a shock given how Brooklyn, a team with title ambitions in 2020-21, is banking on somebody completely unproven in the role.
Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears
New Nets head coach Steve Nash has the "confidence" of Kevin Durant and the backing of Kyrie Irving after having a relationship with both for years. On KD, Nash told @TheUndefeated: "He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and to have his confidence is really important.”
There's a certain level of irony in the Nets making this bet after a similar gambit backfired spectacularly.
Brooklyn went all-in ahead of the 2013-14 season, making the famously lopsided trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Rather than entrusting an experienced coach to run things, the team turned to a recently retired Jason Kidd.
The Nets went 44-38 and lost in the second round of the playoffs. Kidd was gone that offseason, and the franchise embarked on a long, painful rebuild that culminated with the additions of Durant and Irving.
It isn't hard to see why Brooklyn is banking on Nash.
The 46-year-old should immediately command the respect of Irving, who heaped praise upon him in March 2015, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
"He revolutionized the point guard role. ... The things I got from him, I utilize in my game now—just little nuances that he did to cope. He didn't have the athleticism and may not be that quick, but he was unbelievably smart and he could shoot the piss out of the ball, and it’s just great to watch him.
"It's a joy to even talk about him, because I watch highlights of a lot of guys that came before me, guys that play now, and I've learned so much just from watching him and also him being able to teach me this past summer, getting a few workouts with him; he showed up to Chelsea Pier riding a goddamn skateboard, man. Stuff like that—he thinks outside the box, and he's proven himself on the court."
The NBA is a star-driven league, and it's almost impossible for a coach to succeed without getting buy-in from his key players.
Kenny Atkinson presided over the Nets as they went from moribund to the postseason within three years. He didn't make it a full season with Durant and Irving, though, and his relationship with the two played a role in his departure.
The Athletic's Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer reported in March that Durant and Irving "never connected with Atkinson, and there was a growing belief that they did not have interest in playing for him when this team is whole again next season."
The Nets clearly wouldn't have hired Nash without first consulting Durant and Irving. Their endorsement will help him right out of the gate, but the team's performance on the court will likely determine whether he can continue to count on the support of his squad.