Eduardo Najera Press Conference Transcript

Donnie Nelson:
This is being simulcast all across Latin America by our partners with NBA Latin America, so beinvenidos a todos mis amigos y mis amigas en Latino Americano y Mexico. Howd I do? Did okay? Alright. High school Spanish still works.

This is a happy sad day. This is a day when we say goodbye to Eduardo Njera as a player and he starts his brand new career, which is really exciting. Eddie started here 12 years ago, and its amazing, you blink and there goes a career. He carried the baton not only for youth in the United States but in Mexico and all over Latin America like few others.

With his old-fashioned, Eddie hard work, diving on the floor for loose balls. He forced out a 12-year very successful career which all of our youth across the world can be very proud of. So we say goodbye to Eddie as a basketball player.

As a head coach, hes going to be head coach of the Texas Legends. Hes also going to have a part-ownership stake in the Texas Legends and he will be helping me in all the basketball decisions we make here with the Dallas Mavericks. So its a management, coaching and ownership opportunity which is really second to none. Congratulations Eddie.

Id like to pass the baton at this point to [Mavericks] owner Mark Cuban.

Mark Cuban:
I had to come down and say a few words about Eddie because Eddies got a special place in my heart. When I first bought the team, my very first draft, I really wanted to make a splash. I had Nellie out there buying draft picks left and right. I was a walking checkbook and every other team saw me coming. Three million here, three million there, three million there.

We had three first round picks Etan Thomas, Donnell Harvey and Courtney Alexander. Etan made it through, but the other guys didnt last as long. When we got to the second round, we had made a trade with Houston, and ended up with the [38th] pick, and Im like, Im taking this pick. I remember in the war room wed go around the room talking about draft picks, and they were like, I like this guy a little bit. I like this guy a little bit. Im like, Enough with this little bit stuff, right? Im going to make this pick.

Were going down the board, were talking about everybody. It just so happens that there was one guy that when he came in, we didnt have enough guys to work him out. So me and one of our guys, Gallo, who used to be here, played two-on-two with Eddie and who was the other guy? Do you remember? I dont remember. It was a potential draft pick. Of course I shut him down. Im like, but hes really good. I just stood up and said, This is my first draft. This is my first draft pick. They were telling me stories about how tough he is and this and that, and Im thinking, Is this the same guy I guarded?

But he was my guy, so with the [38th] pick of the 2000 draft, we selected Eddie Njera. A few months later he was starting in his first game with the Dallas Mavericks and just making everybody turn their head and notice that he was going to be a player, a great example, a great guy, a great teammate, a great friend.

Its bittersweet as Donnie said that hes retiring. It says a lot about who Eddie is that he lasted this long and he continues to give back to the community. Now hes back in Dallas as the coach of the Legends, so congratulations Eddie. Im really proud of him.

Del Harris:
Ill give you credit on Eddie, but you didnt have any input on Courtney Alexander? Come on, man. Owners have the right to have selective memories. Ive gotten that part. Thats why Eddie said, If Im going to do any coaching, Im going to be part-owner too.

Its great. Eddies been a special guy in my heart as well. We established a relationship really quickly because I helped him with his Spanish. Hes just such a wonderful guy, a great player and a coachs player because of the way he plays and the kind of person that he is.

On behalf of the Legends, I have to give Donnie credit first of all for the name. I wanted something to do with westernism. I had something like drivers. It was drovers. I had drovers because the guys that took the cattle up to Kansas City or wherever he went, they were called drovers. Cowboys was gone. Mavericks was gone, and all that sort of thing.

He took Legends, and its really terrific for those of you who havent been there. We have real legends in our office. Marques [Haynes], Nancy [Lieberman], Spud [Webb] and of course me. Now we have an international legend. Down there, we were there this last week, a wonderful time we had with all his great friends down there. You can identify a person by his friends. Again, wonderful, wonderful.

The guy is like Pel in Brazil. Hes Lalo down there. The headlines are, Lalo! This or that. It was just crazy. Hes truly a national treasure down there, and we think he is here in Dallas as well. We wish him well. We know hes going to do great things. Welcome to a new Legend in our organization.

Rick Carlisle:
When I got into coaching 23 years, I was a player for the New Jersey Nets for about a month. I got a phone call from Bill Fitch. He said, Well, youre waived. So I started to thank him for the opportunity. Id been on the roster for a month. We had a guy coming back from injury. He says, Wait a second, wait a second. If youre interested, you know I only have one assistant coach, Ive got a coaching job, Id like to offer it to you if youre interested.

So Eddie has a distinction, at least of choosing not to continue his career. He wasnt waived and hired on the same phone call. Thats a distinction I didnt have. This is a great day for Eddie. This is a great day for the Legends. Once again Donnie is doing something that is creative on the one hand, bringing in a guy like Eddie who is familiar to this area, as a player and a personality. A couple years ago he gave Nancy Lieberman a chance to be the first female coach of a mens professional team. The team was very successful.

This is going to something that works out well too. The thing about Eddie is hes a humble guy, he has love and respect for the game, and he knows what he doesnt know. I was with Larry Bird back in 1997 when he took over the head coaching job of the Indiana Pacers. And he had never coached a single day. What he did was, he got a couple of guys with some experience to do a lot of the teaching until he caught up. What he said was, Look, I know what I dont know. What I do know is how the game should be played from the standpoint of intensity, passion, the kind of effort that people need to see if theyre going to come pay money to watch a professional team play. I need you guys to do the Xs and Os stuff. As I get it, I can start teaching some of that stuff more so.

This is an open opportunity for someone to step into a great assistant coaching situation for a guy who is going to need that help, and he knows it. He and I have talked about this. He knows the challenges ahead of him. But hes not fool enough to think this is going to be easy. Again, he knows what he doesnt know. Donnie has done a great job of getting players in here. Del, this is on you now, as the [general manager] of the team, youve got to get Eddie some players.

Im very happy for Eddie. I only had the pleasure of coaching him for one year. Hes a mans man. He shows up everyday. He makes you play. If you step on the court and Eddie Njeras out there, and youre not ready to play, youre going to get knocked on your ass, and hes going to approach coaching the same way.

My hats off to Donnie for having this vision. My hats off to Eddie, this is not an easy thing to do, just jumping into a head coaching position I give you a lot of credit. This is going to be work, and its going to be humbling at times and its going to be very rewarding at other times. This is a great opportunity for you and this franchise. Now do I toss it to Eddie? Oh, I toss it to Donnie Nelson?

Del Harris:
You know, Im old. There was one thing I meant to finish my last thing on. The thing [Donnies] done up there because of the Legends thing, if you come up there, every game, Donnie and his staff, great people up there, have found people who are legends in the community. Legends in this area who have done something of significance for others.

He gets them out in the middle of the floor before the game, gives them an award, and sometimes we have two or three people. The other team is sitting over there wondering when are we going to start this game.

But were honoring people, the local guys sometimes, who have become legends because of the service they have given others. Teachers, firemen, policemen, anything that theyve done. Its just a wonderful thing that goes on up there. Besides that, we play ball.

Donnie Nelson:
Our focus really is to put the spotlight on people making a difference in the community. I dont think anyones made a difference like Eddie has in our community, our community here in north Texas, all over the United States, and every little kid across Latin America, Mexico in particular, can look to Eddie as an example of, you know what, he wasnt the fastest. He wasnt the best leaper. He wasnt the smartest. But it was his ticker.

His heart was the reason that he forced out a 12-year career. And its the reason hes going to be an amazing head coach in the D-League and hopefully in the NBA in the future.

Eduardo Njera:
Where do I start? A long time ago, obviously, I came to a big city from Norman where I graduated from the University of Oklahoma where I had a great career. I was very nervous about making the big jump to the NBA because I didnt know anybody in the city. At that time, I remember, Donnie met me, and he took me around, showed me around. I fell in love with the city completely.

Then I started contributing to the Mavericks I had a long career with them. Half of my NBA career was here. Even when I was gone, my heart belonged to the Mavericks. I always considered myself a Maverick. As soon as Donnie started talking to me about this unique opportunity, I was all over it. Spoke to my family members, spoke to friends. It just made perfect sense.

I know its going to be a scary journey ahead as a head coach, but I accept the challenge. I really believe my experience in the NBA is going to get me over the hump. Just like [Carlisle] said, I need to get some assistant coaches with experience. I still feel so comfortable because Im going to have the support of Nancy, my good old friend Del is going to be there, and Donnie himself has coaching experience in the game. Spud knows the game.

Im not scared at all. I think that it might be a scary situation, but personally, Im excited. Im going to be myself. Im going to work my butt off for these kids, for my players, for them to accomplish their dreams, which is to get to the NBA. I think that its been all about me, and Im thankful for the opportunity, but as a coach Id like to come in and help these guys accomplish their goals.

I want to thank you Donnie. I want to thank everybody in here. Mark left. He kind of brought back old memories. Now that he mentioned it, I thought it was the toughest audition for me, toughest workout for me. Knowing me, I was going to beat whoever was in front of me. I was trying to get a spot with the Dallas Mavericks, and then Mark was guarding me, I didnt know what to do. I didnt take it easy on him, and I think thats the respect I earned from him.

Im very thankful for being here, thank you to all you guys. Donnie didnt tell me there was going to be so many media here. I think this can be a journey, and I want to invite everyone to come along and support me. I want to thank Evan [Wyly] for giving me the opportunity to have a nice little piece of ownership. I think that eventually it makes perfect sense because my personal goals are different and I dont want to talk about that right now because its all about the Legends. Thank you Evan. I want to thank my friend Victor for coming in here today.

Im excited. Thank you once again.

What does it mean to you to become the first Mexican-born head coach under the NBA umbrella?
EN: I mean, it means a lot. Im so proud of my heritage. Im proud of being a Mexican, born in Mexico. Obviously I lived there all the way until I was 17. It means a lot. With that, theres a lot of responsibility. I know, I understand. I think if I just focus on coaching, and if I work really hard, I think that Im going to represent my country in the right way. Theyre expecting my work ethic, the same fundamentals I had as a player. They expect me to implement that as a coach, and Im going to do it. I think the country is going to be following me now, going to be follow the Legends. At the press conference, they knew who the Mavericks were, but once they heard about the Legends, now it became a Latino thing, a Mexican thing. Now were going to have their support I know, because thats who we are. Were very loyal to athletes. Hopefully I dont let them down.

Was this what you always wanted to do after your playing days?
EN: It actually developed. I didnt necessarily dream about coaching. Obviously my dreams were all about playing in the NBA and representing my country. It just kind of hit me the last couple of years. I went from being on one of the best teams to, its hard to say, one of the worst teams in the NBA. I had the opportunity to learn from different coaches. The best situation was with Larry [Brown]. Larry gave me the opportunity to be a player-coach. All of a sudden I have my teammates calling me Coach Njera. They respect me enough at the NBA, so I thought itw as something I needed to explore.

Obviously, once I spoke to Donnie and Evan, they got me really excited about it. Theyre in my back yard, I should say. I live in that area, and it should be a lot of fun. It doesnt necessarily mean I dreamed about this, but not it is actually kind of going toward that, because once Im in this situation, Im such a competitor, now I want to become one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Luckily, you dont need the athletic ability here. If Del could do it, I mean

What are your expectation as coach in year one?
EN: I think that, as long as I get my team playing as hard as they possibly can, I truly believe as a coach, chemistry means a lot on the defensive end. Offensively I think well figure it out. Once we decide on whos going to be the assistant coaches, I know Del has a million plays. Ill figure it out offensively, but my goal will be to have these kids playing as hard as they can, to be a rebounding team, a defensive-minded, mean team on the basketball court for the first year. Offensively, Id like to be free, up-tempo. Im not going to run a lot of plays to begin with. Thats my expectations for the first year, to help them get to the next level.

For Donnie, you mentioned Eddie will have a role in the Mavs front office. How will that work and what will his role be?
Donnie Nelson: Eddie will be my right-hand man. He will be assisting me in all major decisions with the Mavericks. We had a really nice experience with Michael Finley over the last couple of months. Eddie and Michael, who played together, and this is really kind of a neat thing. Its neat to see some of the guys who started their careers here in Eddies case, or traded here and spent a significant amount of time like Michael did, to come back and not only live here but to come back and be part of the organization. We take great pride in that, because great franchises are built on great people. Those are two of the best human beings Ive ever been around. We havent determined a title, in fact Mark [Cuban] is not big on titles, as you know. Hell be in the draft rooms, and not only selecting players with the Texas Legends, but hell be involved with allt the major decisions with the Dallas Mavericks as well.

Eddie, your thoughts on what it takes to be in that role?
EN: Obviously its a great opportunity. Donnie has done a great job w/ the Mavericks, of course. To be close to him and learning the business side is going to be an adventure. I believe that this great opportunity, more so than having an opinion, I think Im going to be listening to everything that is going on. Im going to try and be a sponge and try to learn everything that is thrown at me. On the Legends side, of course, theyre already involving me in selecting players, showing me videos of certain guys. it always seems premature to start building the team, but I know we have guys coming back from last year. Once we get the roster, I have something to work with, Ill step into that role. In the meantime, I feel like Im already making decisions, its a great experience and Im loving it so far.

Del, what kind of coach will Eddie be?
Del Harris: Hes going to be the kind of coach that he was as a player. Intelligent, full of heart, give everything that he has.

Eddie, what was your favorite memory as a basketball player?
EN: There are so many of them. It was a long career. I wish I could have played for 20 years, but I think my biggest memories, I was telling Donnie and Del, my very first exhibition game actually was against the Houston Rockets, the team that drafted me. I came in and I played, usually I was me, had a good game, but the biggest memory is how the people reacted to give me that role to come in and just play with a lot of energy. The fans kind of, its safe to say, they kind of gave me that role. And as a result, I had a long career.

Del Harris: One of the best memories I have of Eddie is were playing against Houston against Yao Ming. Yao Ming was killing us. Nellie is going crazy, we cant get Yao Ming stopped. He goes, Eddie, you get in there and you get in front of him, dont let him get the ball. We were down about 14 points in Houston. Eddie gets in there, and he actually shuts him down, totally turns the game around. We win the game by about 10 points. And later on I coached Yao Ming in the 2004 Olympics, and he says, Dont ever let that little guy guard me again. I hate that.

Eddie, do you think someday there could be an NBA franchise in Mexico? Would you support that idea?
EN: That was sort of my dream. I didnt really want to touch on it. This in the future, of course. I truly believe in the 90s, Mexico was prepared to have a pro team. Now that Ive gotten to know important people, politicians, its just kind of clicked. I dont really want to talk about this for a whole lot, but the country kind of has that bad reputation as of right now. I believe that with the new change coming up, its going to open up that door again and eventually to have an NBA franchise in Mexico. Im talking 5, 10, 20 years, but it would be something I would like to explore. Thats the reason this makes perfect sense. Being part-owner of the Legends, being the head coach, working closely with Donnie with the Mavericks. Its a great plan. Eventually I can get the experience, so I can go down perhaps to my friends, I can say this is how you do things, and hopefully they can buy the idea and hopefully they can make it happen.