Brooklyn stunned the NBA by hiring Steve Nash, handing a win-now team to a rookie head coach.
The move underscored just how important stars and relationships are in the league. Aside from his brilliant Hall of Fame career, Nash played alongside Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks in Phoenix and developed a great relationship with Nets superstar Kevin Durant during his years as a consultant in Golden State.
“After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” Marks said in a statement. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players. I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years.
“One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I have witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league. We are excited to welcome Steve, Lilla, Lola, Bella, Matteo, Luca and Ruby to Brooklyn.”
The move was kept under the radar and in the shadows, very much on-brand for the Nets. They interviewed – and retained – assistant Jacque Vaughn, and had been linked with Tyronn Lue, Gregg Popovich, Jason Kidd and others.
Instead, they hired Nash, who won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 – the latter season playing with Marks – but had never made the jump to coaching. Nash had, however, spent five years as a player development consultant with the Warriors, reaching Four Finals, winning two rings and getting to know one KD.
“We are excited to welcome Steve to the Nets family and look forward to a successful and meaningful partnership,” said Nets governor Joe Tsai. “Steve shares our vision for the future of this franchise and his character exemplifies the core principles of our organization in working to serve our communities. I can’t wait for Steve to get started.”
Tsai paid a small fortune to sign Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan last offseason, and extend Caris LeVert. He’s said he’ll pay luxury tax if need be to build a contender, and he’s handed that contender over to Nash.
“I am honored to have this opportunity with such a first-class organization and would like to thank Sean, Joe and his wife, Clara, for having faith in my ability to lead this team forward,” said Nash, 46.
“Coaching is something I knew I wanted to pursue when the time was right, and I am humbled to be able to work with the outstanding group of players and staff we have here in Brooklyn. I am as excited about the prospects of the team on the court as I am about moving to Brooklyn with my family and becoming impactful members of this community.”
Brooklyn gave Nash a four-year contract, and retained Vaughn as the highest-paid lead assistant in the league. He’d gone 7-3 and guided a threadbare group through the bubble to a seventh place finish in the East.
“We are thrilled to retain Jacque as a leading member of our coaching staff,” continued Marks. “Jacque has been an integral part of our program and a key contributor to the growth and development of our entire organization.
“His role in developing our players both on and off the court and his influence driving our culture have been invaluable. Our players will benefit from the continuity of Jacque’s presence, and we are extremely fortunate to keep him in our Nets family.”
Nash – third all-time in assists – continues a trend of heady point guards getting jobs without ever spending time as assistants: Kidd, Mark Jackson, Doc Rivers, Isiah Thomas and of course Steve Kerr, whom he apprenticed under in Golden State.
“Y’all wanted a third star 👀🍿,” Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted.