For the first time since taking over as coach of the Nets last season, Hall of Famer Steve Nash got to coach on Canadian soil against the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto. The moment certainly was not lost on a coach who grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Victoria, British Columbia, and later managed the Canadian men’s national basketball team from 2012-19. It was clear he cherished the Nets’ 116-103 victory.
"It’s a great day for me to be able to come and be back home and to be on the sidelines in this building against this franchise with all kinds of friends and family and people throughout the country watching," Nash said before the game. "That’s something that I’ve watched from afar since I’ve been retired, and I’ve been really excited by the steps the Raptors have taken, obviously culminating in the championship [in 2019]."
The selection of Nash by general manager Sean Marks in September of 2020 came as a bit of a surprise, and he said his tenure in the midst of a pandemic definitely has been a roller-coaster ride, especially considering all the injuries the Nets sustained last season.
"It’s been a big challenge," Nash said. "I don’t think we could have predicted how much stuff would be thrown at us last year . . . We had 38 starting lineups and 27 players on the roster. This year, we’ve obviously had some issues as well [with Kyrie Irving sitting out because he is not in compliance with the New York City COVID vaccine mandate]. But that’s the job."
Reflecting later on the win, Nash said, "That means a lot. This is a very special place . . . I’ve spent so much time here, and I have so many close friends and relationships and memories in this city. I have a lot of admiration for the Raptors’ organization and [coach] Nick Nurse.
"This is a really tough team here in Toronto and they have great fans. For me, this is definitely a sweet one."