Former Legends coaches trust Nájera

by Douglas Farmer

While Eduardo Nájera was the main attraction during his Thursday press conference introducing him as Texas Legends head coach, he was far from the only star in the room. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle, as well as Legends owner Donnie Nelson and general manager and former NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris, flanked the first Mexican-born coach in the D-League’s history.

Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman — the first woman to coach a professional men’s team when she was the Legends first head coach — and 1986 Slam Dunk champion and Legends President of Basketball Operations Spud Webb sat in the American Airlines Center audience, joined by Hall of Famer and former Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes. The star-studded panel voiced great expectations for Nájera.

“I think Eddie has it pretty much down to a science,” Lieberman said. “As long as he feels comfortable and doesn’t feel like he has to prove something, which he won’t, I believe his success will be early and often.”

Nelson, Harris and Nájera initially announced the hiring in Mexico City, immediately following Nájera’s announcement of his retirement. Following a 12-year career known for intensity, hustle and a propensity for diving to the hardwood whenever necessary, Nájera’s playing style will likely transfer to his coaching habits, Webb said.

“I try to talk to guys at the end of their careers about getting into coaching all the time,” he said. “Nájera is one of those guys. He works hard and is a student of the game. They usually make good coaches.” If not for that hard-nosed hustle, Nájera may never have donned a Mavericks uniform in his career. Instead, he was drafted by Cuban’s club, played five years in Dallas split between two stints, and now returns as a part-owner of the Legends. A pre-draft workout with, literally with, Cuban helped all of this happen.

“We didn’t have enough guys to work him out,” Cuban recalled. “So me and one of our guys, Gallo, who used to be here, played two-on-two with Eddie.” Nájera must have performed well enough in that workout, as Cuban claimed credit for his selection with the 38th pick in the 2000 NBA draft, making Nájera the fist Mexican-born player ever drafted. After the workout, though, Nájera was not sure he had handled it well, worrying his aggressive play may have rubbed the owner the wrong way.

“I thought it was the toughest audition for me,” he said toward the end of the press conference. “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 didn’t know what to do. I didn’t take it easy on him, and I think that’s the respect I earned from him.”

    Upcoming Texas Legends Events:
  • August 26: Frat Boys presented by Foundry Big and Tall Supply Co. tryouts at Next Step Dance in Frisco at 2 pm. Visit www.TexLegends.com for details.
  • August 28: Join us at Dr Pepper Arena for an Open House from 5-8 pm. Check out the Zip Line, Mechanical Bull, Rock Wall, and more! Event is free and open to all.
  • September 8: Local player tryouts. Check out www.TexLegends.com for more information.