Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez in the first half...

Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Denver. Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

It’s not a stretch to say this Nets offseason is critical for one reason: They need to find guidance.

Not just in the literal sense with a new coach, but a plan for the future because they’re stuck. Glued to a roster that has a low ceiling, Ben Simmons’ expiring contract, and a slow path back to the postseason.

That’s the task awaiting Jordi Fernandez. The Kings assistant/associate head coach reportedly will be hired as the Nets’ head coach and he steps into an immediate challenge.

It’s fair to question if the Nets should’ve gone with a coach who’s led a team before. Given the need to improve immediately, it would’ve been a safer bet, especially as the fourth hire under general manager Sean Marks.

But the Nets stuck to recent tradition with Fernandez being the third coach hired by Marks without NBA head coaching experience. The Barcelona, Spain native also comes highly regarded as the NBA general managers voted him the best assistant in the league in their annual preseason survey last fall.

With his start as a player development coach on the Cavaliers and six seasons on the Nuggets’ staff, he fits the teaching quality several Nets wanted in their next coach.

“I think for me personally, the detailed aspect, being detailed on both ends,” Mikal Bridges said. “You want to play, have that moment in the season where you’re not really thinking anymore, you kind of know what we’re doing offensively and defensively. It’s kind of [like] just that free mindset to go out there.”

Fernandez has a heavy task ahead. As a defensive-minded coach, he must raise the standards of a group that too often fell short of its potential and looked confused at times.

He also needs to sort out a struggling offense. That includes managing Simmons when he returns and figuring out a strategy for playing without Simmons if his back issues return.

He’ll also be part of a pitch to convince Nic Claxton to stay. Claxton enters free agency reinvigorated by his defense. So what will be Fernandez’s message to help elevate his ability as a rim protector?

“I just want transparency,” Claxton said of what he wants in his next coach. “Somebody that’s going to keep it real with me, look at me as a man and just tell me whatever the plan would be and go from there.”

Finally, Fernandez must manage a team that’s not in rebuild mode but nowhere close to a top-6 seed. The Nets are searching for who they’re going to be in this latest chapter. They’re also further in the shadow of the No. 2-seeded Knicks and have to at least return to the play-in tournament.

The expectation is that the Nets at least will return to the play-in tournament next year. That’s a tough task with a roster that lacks star power but has highly skilled players in Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Cam Thomas.

Fernandez will have leeway but it’s not an easy job. After 15 years coaching in and around the NBA, that experience will serve him best as he’s tasked to guide the Nets in figuring out what they’re going be in this era.

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