By GEORGE WILLIS
A year ago, the Brooklyn Nets seemed to be a franchise headed in the right direction. They earned a playoff berth with a late-season rally, and though ousted by the Sixers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, appeared to lay a foundation for future success.
Since then, the Nets signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in a blockbuster free-agent haul the last offseason and followed that by firing Kenny Atkinson, the head coach responsible for leading the team’s return to respectability.
Now they’ve hired Steve Nash to be the head coach, a Hall of Fame player with zero previous head coaching experience, leaving you to wonder if the Nets have a plan after all.
Sure, it’s a headline grabber: Nash to Nets made national news and grabbed a lot of attention. But if there’s anything that folks around here have learned, splashy headlines mean little when it comes to wins and losses.
Look, Steve Nash might be the next Steve Kerr, another former player who had zero head coaching experience when it took over the Warriors and has now won three championships. Then again, he could be Derek Fisher, who took over the Knicks with zero head coaching experience and left town after less than two seasons.
The Nets did a similar thing with Jason Kidd, who got the head coaching job after his brilliant NBA career, much of it with the Nets. While that created a lot of early excitement, fans quickly found out “famous ex-player turns coach” doesn’t make losing any more comfortable.
“After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a news release. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator, and mentor who will garner the respect of our players.”
Later he added, “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.”
Here’s the problem. If Durant and Irving are healthy, the Nets should make the playoffs next season. Nash may not have to get out of his courtside seat for that to happen. But the playoffs are a different animal where coaching strategy comes into play. Adjustments that are made during games and between games impact which team advances. It’s not all about talent.
With Durant and Irving, the Nets are supposed to be gunning for a championship and not just a team trying to sell tickets and get attention. Right now, the hiring of Nash seems like more of the latter.