No two NBA coaching jobs are the same. But, generally, coaches need a strong working relationship with their star player(s) to succeed in the league.
Fortunately for the Nets, new head coach Steve Nash already has a strong bond with Kevin Durant. He also has a connection – and healthy respect – for Kyrie Irving.
“Kyrie’s one of my favorite players of all time. He’s brilliant; (his) skill level, historically, (is) off the charts. Creative. Guts. Competitiveness. For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure,” Nash said during his introductory press conference on Wednesday. “We have a relationship going back to when he was a rookie, playing against him. Got a chance to train with him for a couple days in New York City after I retired. Must have been five, six years ago. And I got a chance to speak to him since taking the job.
“I’m excited to develop that relationship, watching him continue to show greatness on the floor and to continue to get to know him in a really meaningful way, because he’s an incredible person.
“The gestures and the things he’s done around the WNBA or social justice, these are the things I really admire,” Nash added. “For him to put himself in that position with his platform, to help people, shows there’s a really deep person there that I’ve gotten to know but look forward to getting to really know and understand and learn from.”
If Nash can connect with – and coach – Durant and Irving, he should have success in his first season as head coach. It’s logical to think that all others in the Nets locker room will follow the lead of Durant and Irving.
It’s unknown if Irving and ex-Nets coach Kenny Atkinson ever developed a strong working relationship. Nash brings a Hall of Fame resume to his first coaching job, which is important. People who know Irving say that he has an appreciation for coaches who have played at a high level. The Nets certainly checked that box off when they hired Nash.
Watching his working relationship with Durant and Irving develop over the 2020-21 season will be one many storylines in Brooklyn.
Nash and GM Sean Marks addressed several topics in their introductory press conference on Wednesday, including the idea that white privilege played a role in his hiring and how he’s prepared for his new job.
Here’s Nash on the idea that he was chosen ahead of other coaches who have more experience:
“Well, I did skip the line, frankly, but at the same time I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that. To lead a team is such a unique position. To be the head of a team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people and skill sets and bring people together, collaborating with a coach and a coaching staff for almost two decades, it’s not like I was in a vacuum. I learned a tremendous amount during my career.”
Nash first approached Marks about the possibility of coaching the Nets at some point over the summer. He’d been approached by other teams – including the Suns – about coaching or front office opportunities in the past. The opportunity to coach this Nets team is something that drew him to the job.
Marks was asked about Nash’s lack of experience during Wednesday’s press conference.
“There’s nobody that I’ve been around that hasn’t wanted to be pressure-tested on the spot like Steve,” said Marks, who played with Nash in Phoenix. “He’s never shied away from a moment, so when you say first time head coach, we’ve seen that been done before. This guy has never run from anything. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of games and his career spoke for itself. He’s made the right decision more times than not, and the experience he’ll bring here speaks volumes.”
Nash will have Jacque Vaughn on his bench as an associate head coach. Both he and Marks talked about the idea of adding other experienced coaches to his staff. It’s safe to assume that Nets assistant Adam Harrington will be on Nash’s staff if he chooses. Harrington knows Nash and Durant well.