Eduardo Najera Press Conference Transcript
ďThis 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. Howíd I do? Did okay? Alright. High school Spanish still works.
ďThis is a happy sad day. This is a day when we say goodbye to Eduardo NŠjera as a player and he starts his brand new career, which is really exciting. Eddie started here 12 years ago, and itís 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.
ďWith 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.
ďAs a head coach, heís going to be head coach of the Texas Legends. Heís 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 itís a management, coaching and ownership opportunity which is really second to none. Congratulations Eddie.
ďIíd like to pass the baton at this point to [Mavericks] owner Mark Cuban.Ē
ďI had to come down and say a few words about Eddie because Eddieís 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.
ďWe had three first round picks Etan Thomas, Donnell Harvey and Courtney Alexander. Etan made it through, but the other guys didnít 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 Iím like, ĎIím taking this pick.í I remember in the war room weíd go around the room talking about draft picks, and they were like, ĎI like this guy a little bit. I like this guy a little bit.í Iím like, ĎEnough with this little bit stuff, right? Iím going to make this pick.í
ďWeíre going down the board, weíre talking about everybody. It just so happens that there was one guy that when he came in, we didnít 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 donít remember. It was a potential draft pick. Of course I shut him down. Iím like, but heís really good. I just stood up and said, ĎThis is my first draft. This is my first draft pick.í They were telling me stories about how tough he is and this and that, and Iím thinking, ĎIs this the same guy I guarded?í
ďBut he was my guy, so with the [38th] pick of the 2000 draft, we selected Eddie NŠjera. 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.
ďItís bittersweet as Donnie said that heís retiring. It says a lot about who Eddie is that he lasted this long and he continues to give back to the community. Now heís back in Dallas as the coach of the Legends, so congratulations Eddie. Iím really proud of him.Ē
ďIíll give you credit on Eddie, but you didnít have any input on Courtney Alexander? Come on, man. Owners have the right to have selective memories. Iíve gotten that part. Thatís why Eddie said, ĎIf Iím going to do any coaching, Iím going to be part-owner too.í
ďItís great. Eddieís been a special guy in my heart as well. We established a relationship really quickly because I helped him with his Spanish. Heís just such a wonderful guy, a great player and a coachís player because of the way he plays and the kind of person that he is.
ďOn 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.
ďHe took Legends, and itís really terrific for those of you who havenít 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.
ďThe guy is like Pelť in Brazil. Heís Lalo down there. The headlines are, ĎLalo! This or that.í It was just crazy. Heís truly a national treasure down there, and we think he is here in Dallas as well. We wish him well. We know heís going to do great things. Welcome to a new Legend in our organization.Ē
ďWhen 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, ĎWell, youíre waived.í So I started to thank him for the opportunity. Iíd been on the roster for a month. We had a guy coming back from injury. He says, ĎWait a second, wait a second. If youíre interested, you know I only have one assistant coach, Iíve got a coaching job, Iíd like to offer it to you if youíre interested.í
ďSo Eddie has a distinction, at least of choosing not to continue his career. He wasnít waived and hired on the same phone call. Thatís a distinction I didnít 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 menís professional team. The team was very successful.
This is going to something that works out well too. The thing about Eddie is heís a humble guy, he has love and respect for the game, and he knows what he doesnít 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, ĎLook, I know what I donít 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 theyíre 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.í
ďThis 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 heís not fool enough to think this is going to be easy. Again, he knows what he doesnít 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, youíve got to get Eddie some players.
ďIím very happy for Eddie. I only had the pleasure of coaching him for one year. Heís a manís man. He shows up everyday. He makes you play. If you step on the court and Eddie NŠjeraís out there, and youíre not ready to play, youíre going to get knocked on your ass, and heís going to approach coaching the same way.
ďMy hatís off to Donnie for having this vision. My hatís 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 itís going to be humbling at times and itís 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?
ďYou know, Iím old. There was one thing I meant to finish my last thing on. The thing [Donnieís] 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.
ďHe 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.
ďBut weíre honoring people, the local guys sometimes, who have become legends because of the service they have given others. Teachers, firemen, policemen, anything that theyíve done. Itís just a wonderful thing that goes on up there. Besides that, we play ball.Ē
ďOur focus really is to put the spotlight on people making a difference in the community. I donít think anyoneís 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 wasnít the fastest. He wasnít the best leaper. He wasnít the smartest. But it was his ticker.
ďHis heart was the reason that he forced out a 12-year career. And itís the reason heís going to be an amazing head coach in the D-League and hopefully in the NBA in the future.Ē
ďWhere 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 didnít 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.
ďThen 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.
ďI know itís 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 Iím 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.
ďIím not scared at all. I think that it might be a scary situation, but personally, Iím excited. Iím going to be myself. Iím 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 itís been all about me, and Iím thankful for the opportunity, but as a coach Iíd like to come in and help these guys accomplish their goals.
ďI 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 didnít know what to do. I didnít take it easy on him, and I think thatís the respect I earned from him.
ďIím very thankful for being here, thank you to all you guys. Donnie didnít 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 donít want to talk about that right now because itís all about the Legends. Thank you Evan. I want to thank my friend Victor for coming in here today.
ďIím excited. Thank you once again.Ē
What does it mean to you to become the first Mexican-born head coach under the NBA umbrella?
EN: ďI mean, it means a lot. Iím so proud of my heritage. Iím 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, thereís 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 Iím going to represent my country in the right way. Theyíre expecting my work ethic, the same fundamentals I had as a player. They expect me to implement that as a coach, and Iím 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 weíre going to have their support I know, because thatís who we are. Weíre very loyal to athletes. Hopefully I donít let them down.Ē
Was this what you always wanted to do after your playing days?
EN: ďIt actually developed. I didnít 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, itís 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 NŠjera. They respect me enough at the NBA, so I thought itw as something I needed to explore.
ďObviously, once I spoke to Donnie and Evan, they got me really excited about it. Theyíre in my back yard, I should say. I live in that area, and it should be a lot of fun. It doesnít necessarily mean I dreamed about this, but not it is actually kind of going toward that, because once Iím in this situation, Iím such a competitor, now I want to become one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Luckily, you donít need the athletic ability here. If Del could do it, I meanÖĒ
What are your expectation as coach in year one?
EN: ďI 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 weíll figure it out. Once we decide on whoís going to be the assistant coaches, I know Del has a million plays. Iíll 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, Iíd like to be free, up-tempo. Iím not going to run a lot of plays to begin with. Thatís my expectations for the first year, to help them get to the next level.Ē
For Donnie, you mentioned Eddie will have a role in the Mavsí front office. How will that work and what will his role be?
Donnie Nelson: ďEddie 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. Itís neat to see some of the guys who started their careers here in Eddieís 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 Iíve ever been around. We havenít determined a title, in fact Mark [Cuban] is not big on titles, as you know. Heíll be in the draft rooms, and not only selecting players with the Texas Legends, but heíll be involved with allt the major decisions with the Dallas Mavericks as well.Ē
Eddie, your thoughts on what it takes to be in that role?
EN: ďObviously itís 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 Iím going to be listening to everything that is going on. Iím going to try and be a sponge and try to learn everything that is thrown at me. On the Legends side, of course, theyíre 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, Iíll step into that role. In the meantime, I feel like Iím already making decisions, itís a great experience and Iím loving it so far.Ē
Del, what kind of coach will Eddie be?
Del Harris: ďHeís going to be the kind of coach that he was as a player. Intelligent, full of heart, give everything that he has.Ē
Eddie, what was your favorite memory as a basketball player?
EN: ďThere 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, itís safe to say, they kind of gave me that role. And as a result, I had a long career.Ē
Del Harris: ďOne of the best memories I have of Eddie is weíre playing against Houston against Yao Ming. Yao Ming was killing us. Nellie is going crazy, we canít get Yao Ming stopped. He goes, ĎEddie, you get in there and you get in front of him, donít let him get the ball.í 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, ĎDonít ever let that little guy guard me again. I hate that.íĒ
Eddie, do you think someday there could be an NBA franchise in Mexico? Would you support that idea?
EN: ďThat was sort of my dream. I didnít 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 Iíve gotten to know important people, politicians, itís just kind of clicked. I donít 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, itís going to open up that door again and eventually to have an NBA franchise in Mexico. Iím talking 5, 10, 20 years, but it would be something I would like to explore. Thatís the reason this makes perfect sense. Being part-owner of the Legends, being the head coach, working closely with Donnie with the Mavericks. Itís 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.Ē