Steve Nash knew the question was coming during his introductory news conference on Wednesday as the Nets’ new head coach. Not only was Nash prepared, but he answered with disarming honesty when asked if he had “skipped the line” to bypass several dues-paying assistants to land a plum job as a first-time head coach with a franchise that has superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“Well, I did skip the line, frankly,” Nash told reporters attending a video news conference. “But at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. While I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to learn and understand as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that . . .
“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’s qualification for the job quite simply is a Hall of Fame resume that covers 18 seasons and that numbers two NBA MVP awards, seven all-NBA selections and the third-leading number of assists (10,335) in NBA history. As a point guard, he led the Mavericks for six seasons, the Suns for 10 and the Lakers for two before retiring in 2015 and then working as a development coach at Golden State under Steve Kerr, a first-time head coach who since has won three NBA titles.
Nets general manager Sean Marks played two seasons with Nash on the Suns and has enjoyed a relationship with him that goes back 20 years. Describing the qualities Nash has that he came to admire, Marks said, “With Steve, his winning past, the way he’s played the game, his family values and the curious and creative mind that he has brought to the game . . . And maybe more importantly than anything, the joy with which he played the game and the joy with which he led he led his teams, were deciding factors in making Steve Nash the right choice for the Brooklyn Nets.”
Nash was a surprise selection because he never said anything publicly about his ambitions, but his connection to Marks, his past relationships with Durant and Irving and his admiration for the Nets’ organization made the timing right.
“They’re obviously at an incredible point in the history of this organization, so I think the timing is fantastic, the opportunity is fantastic,” Nash said.
Nash was close with Durant at Golden State and previously worked with him and Nets development coach Adam Harrington when they were with the Thunder. Nash traced his relationship with Irving back to Irving’s rookie season. At the same time, he didn’t consult either player before contacting Marks but has communicated with them frequently since his hiring.
When Durant left Golden State to sign with the Nets as a free agent in 2019, Nash suggested the two-time NBA Finals MVP was searching for a challenge. “I think my comment is more about Kevin as a human being, the type of person he is, how he’s always trying to grow, always trying to learn and asking how he can get better,” Nash said.
“Kevin is somebody that is never afraid to say, ‘Help me with this. What do you think about that?’ That’s the confidence and security it takes to ask for help. He has that along with and incredible drive, work ethic, toughness and historic talent.”
Now, Nash, Durant and Irving will take on the challenge of turning the Nets into NBA champions together with their unique blend of skills.