When the Brooklyn Nets parted ways with Kenny Atkinson during mid-March after he’d completed an incredibly impressive renaissance campaign with the team not too long ago, very few saw it coming. However, Steve Nash’s hiring came as an even greater surprise.
Kenny Atkinson never deserved to bid farewell to the Brooklyn Nets head coaching gig this early, especially after the team managed to acquire superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last summer, heavily due to the winning culture which he helped establish. But to continue vouching on Atkinson’s behalf months later with a fresh season already hopeful to start this January undoubtedly feels like a fool’s errand.
While attempting to sober up from the “family” and “all-in” slogans which all professional sports teams continue to loosely toss around, one must remember that this league remains a business at its core. For the Nets, no business assets wield greater value than Irving and Durant, and they do so by a noticeably wide margin.
Now although Brooklyn’s decision to prioritize both Durant and Irving drew rumors early on as the primary factor responsible for pushing Atkinson out the door, it contrarily likely served as a key reason as to why the team ended up with Steve Nash as their new head coach. While chatting with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Podcast, Nash spoke about how his ability to identify with players and build relationships led to his recent employment change.
Nash commented, “What I can do is offer the strengths and qualities I built my career on. Part of that is being able to relate to players of all different background and all different levels. I started out as a first-round pick, had some really bad struggles at times and ended up near the top of the game. I think that I offer a perspective and relatability to players all over the world. That helps my ability to connect and lead. Frankly I think that’s a big part of why I was afforded this position.”
Although Jacque Vaughn performed admirably having secured impressive wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers while serving as interim head coach, Nash seemingly snuck across the Brooklyn Bridge overnight and seized the job up despite his inexperience from a coaching standpoint. This allowed most fans to conclude that this relatability to current NBA players, which Nash elaborated on, indeed stood as the primary reason behind his hiring.
Most notably, Nash formerly worked with Durant while serving as a player development consultant for the Golden State Warriors, as the pair even secured their first ever NBA championships together during the 2016-17 season. The two developed a solid friendship out west, likely to continue with Nash on his way to Brooklyn, and furthermore playing into Nash’s illustrated strength ahead his first head coaching role.
But beyond Durant, Nash feels tailor-made for Irving as well, having played point guard himself while also expressing a desire to listen to and build effective relationships with his players, which certainly feels like an asset Irving missed out on during his first eight years as an NBA player. This factor poises to work similarly for Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, two more guards now with a perfect tool to help sharpen and develop their games to even further levels.
Although certainly with much to learn, as he even admitted himself, Nash’s apparent commitment to a “players’ coach” role certainly bodes well for the team, which is set up to help defuse any potential chemistry issues, something Brooklyn Nets doubters continue to forecast as a potential factor for the team’s demise. But while also still looking to acquire the necessary experience-based skills which all successful head coaches require, watch for Nash to put it all together and help the team meet its NBA Finals aspirations.