• Joe Makar

Steve Nash is the New Brooklyn Nets Head Coach

In a stunning move that shocked players, coaches, and fans around the league, the Brooklyn Nets announced the signing of Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash to a four-year deal to be their 23rd head coach in the franchise’s history. This decision comes as a tremendous surprise, as Nash’s name was never even mentioned as a possibility for the position. 

Among the candidates that were rumored to be in play for the Nets were legendary coach Gregg Popovich, Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, and Jacque Vaughn, the well-respected coach who took over after the midseason firing of Kenny Atkinson on March 7th. It is not known who had a legitimate chance at the heavily sought-after position. This is a classic move from Nets General Manager Sean Marks and the Nets organization who move in silence and do not leak any information that comes internally.

Nash is one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. He was a back-to-back MVP winner in 2005 and 2006, an eight-time NBA All-Star, and ranks third all-time in career assists with 10,335 over his playing career. In 2018, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a player who knew how to maximize his own talent as well as the talent of everyone around him. Nash is the definition of a leader and a basketball genius with an incredible IQ.

Despite no public leaks, Marks had quietly targeted Nash for the available head coach position. It is rumored that Marks had been targeting Nash as early as May. 

Marks played with Nash in Phoenix for two years from 2006-2008 and always had tremendous respect and admiration for him.

In a statement released by the Nets, Marks expressed his admiration for Nash. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players. I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game. I have witnessed first hand 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.” 

Jacque Vaughn will return to the staff as the lead assistant coach. This is a home run for Marks and the Nets organization as the players really seemed to respond well to Vaughn and his coaching philosophies. He is now the league’s highest paid assistant coach. 

Marks remarked, “We are thrilled to retain Jacque as a leading member of our coaching staff. Jacque has been an integral part of our program and a key contributor to the growth and development of our entire organization. His role in developing our players both on and off the court and his influence driving our culture has been invaluable. Our players will benefit from the continuity of Jacque’s presence and we are extremely fortunate to keep him in our Nets family.”

The Nets are taking a leap of faith by hiring Nash due to his lack of head coaching experience. However, they are building around him the right way by surrounding him with assistant coaches who have experience such as Vaughn and Adam Harrington.

The Nash decision surprised everyone around the NBA, not because of pessimism regarding his ability to succeed in the role, but because of the lack of discussion associated with Nash’s name and his hidden desire to coach. When you dive deeper into the hiring, it all seems to make perfect sense. Examine the connections and relationships that Nash has within the organization and you’ll see the fit seems like a match made in heaven.

Despite not having any experience as a head coach yet, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Nash in his new role, especially with his connections to the Nets franchise, most specifically with Marks and Kevin Durant. Nash always knew he was destined for coaching; he just wasn’t sure of when the perfect opportunity for him would be. 

When asked about becoming a head coach, Nash replied, “The coaching itch was always there. I’ve always known in the back of my mind that I’d love to do it.” 

Arguably the most important factor in the hiring of Nash was his strong relationship with Durant. Durant worked with Nash in Golden State, where Nash was a player development consultant the last five years and contributed to two NBA championships and four consecutive trips to the finals. 

Nash spoke about Durant with high praise by saying “I think that there is a trust, a commonality between us when it comes to the game that has developed over time. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and to have his confidence is really important. Nobody works harder and nobody is a better student.”

The respect is certainly mutual, as Durant had previously spoken on Nash and his impact on his life and playing career.

“He’s someone I can talk to about anything and somebody I really respect. His basketball mind is probably the best I’ve been around” Durant proclaimed.

While it is very uncommon to talk about the development of a 28-year old star, you must wonder what this hiring would do for Kyrie Irving as well. Irving, a gifted scorer and isolation player can now turn to an all-time great floor general in Nash for advice on efficiently running an offense to productively get his own as well as create for others in a loaded Nets offense.

While former head coach Kenny Atkinson deserves a large share of credit for his knack at player development, Nash checks all the boxes of what the Nets organization was looking for in a head coach. While names were mentioned, there was no clear candidate for the job. They needed someone who commanded the respect of the stars and likely a bigger name than Atkinson. Nash fits that bill and has the potential to be the long-term coach in Brooklyn.

Coaches and players around the NBA expressed their joy with the decision. We saw how loved and respected Nash is throughout the league through colleagues that have worked with him in the past, either as a player or a coach. On top of an intelligent basketball mind, it is a huge benefit to have a coach without an ego that receives the respect and blessing of both Durant and Irving. With Nash, that’s just what the doctor ordered.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has experience working with Nash, was asked about the Nets hiring Nash and responded “I didn’t see it coming. I think it’s great though. It’s an incredible hire.”

Kerr took to Twitter to congratulate Nash on his new opportunity.

Respected Lakers veteran, Jared Dudley, a former teammate of Nash, also tweeted his admiration with Brooklyn’s decision.

Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is another name who expressed his thoughts on Twitter regarding his new head coach, tweeting “I love the Steve Nash hire. So much of coaching at this level is being a psychologist.” 

Brooklyn signing Nash to be their head coach continues the trend of retired point guards getting opportunities as head coaches in the league such as Jason Kidd, Derek Fisher, Mark Jackson, Steve Kerr, and Doc Rivers. Some turned out to be very great coaches while others are no longer in the league. For Nash, many players and coaches around the league believe he is ready, and this is the perfect time for him to step into the coaching spotlight.

A team highlighted by Durant and Irving, as well as Nash as the coaching mastermind will garner heaping levels of media attention whether it is desired attention or not. All eyes in the league were already on the Nets following their additions of Durant and Irving last summer, but even more so now with the hiring of a Hall of Fame point guard as a first-time head coach. Some have their doubts about the decision to hire Nash out of the blue but ask anyone within the Nets organization and they will tell you that Nash’s future as a head coach is as bright as the sun in Phoenix.

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