Brooklyn Nets name surprise pick as next coach: Steve Nash

The Brooklyn Nets found their next coach, and it’s a surprise: Hall of Famer and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.

Nash spent the past five seasons as a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors where he got to know All-Star Kevin Durant, who now plays for the Nets and once called Nash one of the best basketball minds he knows. But there was no public indication Nash wanted the Nets job.

“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,” Nash said in a statement released Thursday morning. “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.”

Nash wasn’t among the names who were publicly being considered for the job. Give Nets general manager Sean Marks credit for keeping that quiet and allowing the process to play out.

Steve Nash (right), shown talking with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, has been named the coach of the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

"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.”

It is an out-of-the-box hire. Nash has no previous head coaching experience, and the Nets have championship aspirations with Durant and Kyrie Irving. But it's also worth noting Golden State's Steve Kerr also had no previous head coaching experience and led the Warriors to a title in his first season.

Jacque Vaughn, who was Brooklyn’s interim coach after Kenny Atkinson was fired in March, will remain on staff as Nash’s lead assistant.

Nash, who played college basketball at Santa Clara, was drafted No. 15 by Phoenix in 1996 and developed into one of the best point guards of the era. The Suns traded him to Dallas after two seasons because Nash sought more playing time that wasn’t available with Jason Kidd on the Suns’ roster.

Nash began to flourish in Dallas alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Nash became a free agent in 2004, and he went back to Phoenix and excelled in Mike D’Antoni’s high-tempo offense. An eight-time All-Star and three-time first-team All-NBA, Nash was named MVP in 2005 and 2006.

He retired following the 2013-14 season and was hired by Golden State to work with players in 2015. He remained largely behind the scenes, helping players and learning from Golden State’s staff, led by Kerr.

“Steve is one of the smartest players who has ever played the game. He’s one of the most skilled and probably got more out of his physical ability than anybody I had ever seen,” Kerr told the Mercury News in San Jose, California, in 2018, adding, “he has tremendous knowledge and the ability to teach. He’s an incredible asset for us.”

In the same Mercury News story, Durant said, “He’s someone I can talk to about anything and somebody I really respect. His basketball mind is probably the best I’ve been around. He tries to simplify the game and keep me conscious of those things as well. It’s simplifying and keeping it as easy for yourself. I’ve learned so much. So many people taught me how to play. He’s continued to teach me different things I can put in my game.”

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