Sitting at an outdoor lounge in a Miami hotel on April 7, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd was finally able to exhale. It was six days after the Nets, who opened the season 10-21 with injuries to several key players, had clinched a playoff berth with a convincing win over the Houston Rockets. Kidd, the rookie NBA coach, had silenced doubters for at least one day. He knew there were bigger challenges to come.
The Nets, having set a franchise-record with 15 straight home wins in Barclays Center, open the playoffs on Saturday in Toronto(12:30pm; ESPN). Tickets are on sale at BrooklynNets.com.
As he sipped an iced tea, a relaxed Kidd spoke with BrooklynNets.com about his golf game, his first season as a coach, meditation, and his thoughts on what he would consider a successful season.
Q. If you could wave a magic wand, what's the one part of your
golf game you'd like to improve.
A. Short game.
Q. Who is the one pro golfer you'd like to play a round with?
A. I've played with Phil [Mickelson]. Last year I played with Henrik Stenson. But I'd like to play with Tiger.
Q. What's the one golf course you'd like to play?
A. Augusta. It's during our season and they close it right after the Masters. One day, Augusta.
Q. What have you learned about Kevin Garnett that you didn't know until you got into this player-coach relationship?
A. His work ethic. You hear about it. I got to see a little of it on Team USA. But to see it every day and to see how consistent he is with it, it's unbelievable.
Q. Was there an “Ah!” moment with KG, a moment you were watching film late at night or early one morning, heard someone shooting, and knew it was him?
A. It's just him. I think it's the opposite. If you're doing film and you don't hear a [ball] bounce or you don't hear someone in the gym, you're like, “Did KG come in? What's wrong?” Or Paul [Pierce]. “What's wrong?”
Q. What have you learned about Paul Pierce?
A. He's got a great personality. As a competitor you only get to see him inside the lines. Now, to see him on a daily basis, I think he's funny. But also he understands when it's time to be serious and get work done.
Q. The one thing you learned from your father that helped you become who you are today?
A. He always told me not to rush things. As a kid, I always wanted it now. He always talked about working hard. Sometimes things just don't come to you; you're going to have to work for it. So I guess that falls under being patient.
Q. How about mom, what did you get from her?
A. She's such a competitor. I think that's where my competitiveness comes from. Even as she's gotten younger she's still competitive. She says she played ball. They didn't have YouTube then so we're trying to find out if she really played. She says she did. When I was a kid growing up she used to say she could shoot. We'd shoot against each other. I won't say who won. So the competitiveness, I got that from her.
Q. What do you have on your iPod?
A. Apple has the radio stations, so I go R&B in the morning and then I'll go with some hip-hop before the game. But after the game, it's more meditation music. It's not artists, it's more whatever is being played.
Q. Do you do a lot of meditation?
A. I don't have tapes of meditation but I put on the meditation station. I did as a player, too. I used to always play the game before the game happened. As a coach I do the same thing.
Q. How has meditation helped you as a coach?
A. I can use the Philadelphia game (a 4-point win in which the Nets gave back most of 21-point lead) as an example. I wasn't panicking about the score, or what was happening, I just needed to find out who could handle the situation. As a player, I always felt confident that if I was caIm, my teammates knew, “He's going to do something to help is win.” As a coach, my hands are really tied. I got to believe in my players. If they see I'm calm, they'll believe I trust them, which I do.
Q. What do you like about Shaun Livingston?
A. He understands that I trust him; he's going to do the right thing. He's like a security blanket. When things go wrong, “OK Shaun, check in.” It doesn't have to be him scoring. I think he settles everyone down.
Q. If Livingston was running for president one day, would that surprise you?
A. Nope. Don't take this the wrong way. He's so old, but to be so young, to be so mature. Maybe that's because of what he's endured in his basketball career. It has made him grow up faster. Or, what we sometimes lose. His parents brought up a good boy.
Q. Favorite movies?
A. I love “Gladiator” and “300.” I love the movie “Shooter” with [Mark] Walhberg.
Q. Why “Shooter?” That seems so different than “Gladiator” and “300.”
A. You look at someone's life, who was doing good for the country. He kind of went out on his own, wanted to be left alone, do his own thing. His family was his dog. Once they went after his family, he took it to that next level.
Q. What actor who you would want to play you in a movie?
A. Vin Diesel. Give me some muscles.
Q. Has this been an enjoyable first season as a coach? Is there anything you would have changed?
A. No. People might think it's crazy, but if we got off to a great start and everything was good, there would be a lot of things we wouldn't know. We wouldn't know Mason [Plumlee] could play at a high level. We wouldn't know we could use Shaun and Deron [Williams]. I'm happy it went this way. We were challenged early. As a coach, I was challenged. As coaches, we were challenged. The players were challenged. And as a team, we responded. I couldn't have asked for a better first year to learn this job.
Q. How did you meet your wife, Porschia?
A. A friend of mine and I met [her and a friend] in the city, just the four of us. She started talking about yoga and I started feeling good about myself saying I thought I could do yoga. I showed up to class the next day. I embarrassed myself. And maybe she showed out, let's put it that way. She was in her arena and I wasn't. From
there it was good.
Q. Who would you vote for Coach of the Year?
A. [Duane] Casey's done a great job in Toronto. I think Jack (Mark Jackson) has done a great job in Golden State. I would have put my two guys, Casey and Terry Stotts. You have a great story in Phoenix. [Jeff] Hornacek. My vote would be split three ways between Casey, Hornacek and Stotts.
Q. Can you at least allow yourself to understand people putting you in the conversation?
A. I guess I have no choice. But I couldn't understand. I'm just doing my job. I'm trying to do my job. I'm trying, actually, to learn how to do my job. So it would have to be someone who wasn't killing me at the beginning. Then I could respect that.
Q. Favorite meal?
A. I love sushi. Fish, I love fish, too. Halibut with vegetables is great. But sushi is great.
Q. Was there a low moment this season?
A. I don't want to say there was a low moment. There was a moment of, “Are we ever going to be healthy?” Right around Christmas, “Are we ever going to be healthy? Will the pieces of the puzzle ever fit?” And that's what a coach’s job is, to get the pieces to fit. Probably that was the one moment that stood out: “Can I get these pieces to fit?”
Q. How did you handle that? Did you mediate on it? Did you stay late at the office? Did you get away from it?
A. I just tried to keep thinking of different ways. We were behind a little bit offensively and defensively because of some different things that took place. And that falls on the coaches. So it was, “Where are we offensively and where are we defensively? Is this what's working for us or do we need to make a change offensively to get guys in better positions?" Even with Brook [Lopez] in, we weren't taking advantage of our shooting behind the arc. You write these questions on the board and try to figure out how to make the right changes.
Q. Has there been a best moment this season?
A. I don't want to say one best moment, but one [moment] stands out. I spoke to Joe [Johnson] before the Memphis game. I told him, “I'm going to lean on you a little harder.” Because we we're injured.“I'm going to lean on you.” He responded like no other. He had an unbelievable game. We won on the road. That's a great moment because I asked a player and he responded. That was a happy moment. Even though our record didn't show it at the time, that was a happy moment.
Q. What do you like best about how this team turned it around?
A. Again, it's the trust. I got great guys in that locker room. I couldn't ask for a better year to start this new job. There's no one scorer on our team. There's not one dominant ball handler. We know there's not one dominant rebounder. What we've figured out as a whole is: we're long, so using deflections and steals [is our strength]. Guys also understanding that using the pass is faster than using our feet. I try to hold my smile in when I see the ball touch four people. Make or miss, if the ball goes in, that's great. But if it doesn't, that's how basketball should be played. I don't need to see someone dribble 15 times, don't pass, take a tough shot. Sometimes he's going to make it but his teammates are like, “Why am I going to play defense or why am I going to help when I don't get to touch the ball?" So everybody touching the ball, I smile inside. Everybody's now bought in. If we could do it on offense, we could do it on defense, too. We can help each other. That's the fun part. If these guys have a question, I'm just trying to lead them to the next spot where they could come up with the answer.
Q. If winning the title is the only measure of success at this level, but only one team is going to do that, what will success look like to you if the Nets don't win it all?
A. Whenever this ends, this journey ends; I look at those guys and they're exhausted. That's the sign of success: that they left everything they had. And I've been in that situation on different teams. The playoffs, the team that you played, they're a better team or they were better in that series, but you're exhausted and you've given everything you had. Those are success stories in that there was trust, we all trusted each other. We were unselfish, passing the ball, guys passing up a shot. Trust and playing unselfish and playing hard – those are the winning stories.