During a wide-ranging podcast discussion posted on Thursday, Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving made their first public comments about the firing last March of head coach Kenny Atkinson and the recent hiring of Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as the Nets’ new coach.
Their provocative remarks suggest they view Nash as someone who will be more "collaborative" with them as opposed to playing a more traditional authority-figure role.
Their comments came during the second part of an interview session lasting more than two hours that marked the debut of a podcast called "The ETCS with Kevin Durant." When Durant first raised the subject of Nash’s hiring Irving denied that he and Durant were responsible for the Atkinson’s firing on March 7.
"First of all, I want to give a shoutout to Kenny Atkinson because some people came out and (said), ‘Ky and KD got Kenny fired,’" Irving said. "That was completely false. Kenny was great for the group that he served, and I was very appreciative of what he was giving us throughout the season when we were playing."
In virtually the same breath, Irving then explained why he is looking forward to working with Nash, who has no previous head coaching experience. "We always hear how great Nash was or saw how great Nash was as a player, but when you know him as a person, you understand why he can co-exist with us," Irving said. "We don’t need someone to come in and put their coaching philosophy on everything that we’re doing and change up the wheel.
"It’s just like, ‘No.’ I need somebody that’s going to understand that I am a human being first. I serve my community and where I come from first. Then, basketball is something I come and do every single day because I love it, and also I have the ingredients and people around me to come in and do my job at a high level and I know they will hold me accountable to that level.
"It’s no disrespect to Kenny or any other coaches that I played with, it’s just Steve coming in at this moment and then following up with putting together a great coaching core that’s going to make us more successful."
Irving has known Nash since they played against each other early in his career and said he worked out with Nash once in 2014 and saw him two years ago at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
"Steve is great, and I have a relationship with him that’s going to build over time," Irving said. "It’s grown as a respectful relationship from afar.
"I think it’s also going to change the way we see coaches. I don’t really see us having a ‘head coach.’ KD could be a head coach, I could be a head coach."
Durant interjected that Jacque Vaughn, who served as interim head coach and has been retained by Nash, also can fill that role. "It’s a collaborative effort, I think, on our part," Durant said.
Recognizing that some have criticized their leadership, Durant said he and Irving expect to set the example for their Nets teammates by showing how willing they are to be coached every day. At the same time, Durant emphasized the importance of the relationship between Nash and Irving, who said he is fully recovered from shoulder surgery and ready to go.
"I think having Steve there collaborating with our floor general every day only is going to yield good results for our scorers like myself and Taurean (Prince) and Caris (LeVert) and Spencer (Dinwiddie)," Durant said. "Them having that relationship I think is going to be key for us going forward even more so than my relationship with Steve."