Steve Nash explains why he is the right man to lead the Brooklyn Nets despite not grinding it out as an assistant.
Forgive the baseball reference, but Steve Nash knocked his first media availability as Brooklyn Nets head coach out of the park. It’s clear that Nash still knows how to work a room after spending 18 seasons as one of the NBA’s biggest stars.
No one can question Nash’s playing credentials even though the hire took the NBA by surprise. The two-time MVP was a no-doubter for the Hall of Fame and one of the most electrifying players of his generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves to be a head coach, but he thinks his experience as a player holds weight.
“Well, I did skip the line, frankly,” Nash said during his virtual introductory news conference from the team’s practice facility Wednesday afternoon. “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.
“So to lead a team in such a unique position, to be the head of the team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people, 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 was criticized by some for skipping ahead of assistant coaches, and more specifically, cutting in line ahead of qualified minority candidates. Nash acknowledged that white privilege is a real thing and stated that he hopes to be an ally in bridging the gap on social justice.
Although these are valid criticisms, it’s ridiculous to condemn the hire in a vacuum. There is a larger discussion to be had about diversity among NBA coaching staffs and front offices, but Nash was hired because he has great relationships with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
His strong ties with Durant are well-documented from their time together with the Golden State Warriors. Nash served as a consultant for Golden State where he earned the respect of the two-time Finals MVP.
Irving is a mercurial talent who seems to generate extreme reactions on both sides of the aisle. For better or worse, fans and media tend to love him or hate him.
There’s no questioning where Nash falls on this divide—he adores Irving.
“First of all, Kyrie is one of my favorite players of all time. He’s brilliant, skill-level historically off the charts, creative, guts, competitiveness. For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure. 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 of days in New York City after I retired. … And I got a chance to speak to him since taking the job. I’m excited to develop that relationship, watch him continue to show greatness on the floor, and to get to know him in a really meaningful way because he’s an incredible person.”
Anyone hammering this hire as a mistake is full of it. On the contrary, declaring Nash a tremendous hire without any equivocation is a recipe for disaster.
He has the qualifications, the relationships, and the media-savvy to succeed in Brooklyn, but we won’t know if this will be successful until we see Nash roaming the sidelines of Barclays Center. The mark of success for these Nets is simple—a championship. Anything less would be a disappointment.
Will they get there with Nash? Again, it’s impossible to know until we know.
What I will say is that Nash has a presence that is undeniable. During my time on the Knicks beat, he would show up in Madison Square Garden to watch his Godson RJ Barrett from time to time.
Coaches, players, and media alike would flock to him in the tunnels and locker rooms just to pick his brain, even if only for a moment. The guys who carry that kind of respect from all corners of the NBA landscape are few and far between. It doesn’t mean Nash is cut out for coaching, but it can’t hurt.
Full video of the press conference can be found below: