A week after announcing his hiring, the Brooklyn Nets and general manager Sean Marks introduced Steve Nash as the 23rd coach in franchise history in a virtual press conference from HSS Training Center on Wednesday morning.
“As we spread the net in our search for the next leader, the next connector, a communicator and a cultural driver, we look for these qualities, and all of these qualities we found in Steve,” said Marks. “His resume, his Hall of Fame resume, his experiences both on and off the court, and his character are second to none. Joe Tsai and I were in lockstep throughout this entire process, this entire search process, and we were completely aligned in the intangibles we would be looking for in the next Nets leader, and as Joe put it clearer than ever, we would be looking not only as I mentioned before, for a connector, but we would be looking for a conductor. That's pretty simple there.
“But with Steve, his winning past, the way he's played the game, his family values, and just the curious and creative mind that he has brought to the game over a 20-year career and also maybe more importantly than anything the joy with which he played the game and the joy with which he led his teams and his teams played, were deciding factors in making Steve Nash the right choice for the Brooklyn Nets.”
A relationship that spans almost 20 years brought Nash to Brooklyn, six years after his retirement as a player. Nash described it as “a full circle,” going back to two seasons in Phoenix where he and Marks were teammates with the Suns. Once he reached out to Marks earlier in the summer to express an interest in the job, things moved quickly, and the Nets announced his hiring on Sept. 3.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” said Nash. “It’s an incredible roster, it’s an incredible family here at the Nets. Sean’s leadership, Joe and Clara, they support the vision for this community and this franchise. And there is a family feel and fabric that makes it very exciting to walk into and to be a part of. They’re obviously at an incredible point in the history of this organization, so I think the timing is fantastic, the opportunity is fantastic. So that speaks for itself. It’s something I put on the back burner, but I’ve always been listening, taking notes, building in my mind and to get this opportunity to be able to join that lifetime of practicing and seeking it within the sport and life coupled with this opportunity was a perfect match.”
Nash joins the Nets after five seasons as a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors, but this will be his first full-time coaching position.
“I think the reality is, I’m going to be myself, and if I’m anything other than myself, it’s not going to work,” said Nash. “I can’t come in trying to conform to what I think a coach is supposed to be. I just have to be myself and build and support my team, put us in a position to have a lot of joy every day when we come in to work, come together and build chemistry and belief and bond and a family. That stuff can only happen if you’re authentic and if you’re yourself and you’re comfortable in your own skin. That’s all I can say really. We’ll see what it’s like actually when you’re on the sidelines, but I would imagine I’m just going to be me.”
Nash had more to say, and here are five key takeaways from Wednesday’s press conference.
ON FIRST TIME COACHING
This will be Nash’s first full-time coaching job. It’s a move that is not common, but not unprecedented. Whether it’s point guards with coach-on-the-floor reputations or players with Hall of Fame resumes like Nash’s, teams have valued that caliber of playing experience and leadership in hiring coaches.
That Nash resume includes 18 seasons, two MVP awards, seven All-NBA honors and eight All-Star Game selections, with five seasons leading the league in assists.
“I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique,” said Nash. “So while I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to understand and learn as far the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that. So to lead a team in such a unique position, to be the head of the team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people, skill sets, and bring people together, collaborating with a coach and a coaching staff for almost two decades, it’s not like I was in a vacuum. I learned a tremendous amount during my career. I haven’t grinded it out as an assistant coach like many people’s path, but there’s a precedent for players who have strong careers, who are leaders, anchors, I think to get this opportunity, as Steve Kerr and many other people have had to great success. It’s a unique situation I think, but I definitely realize that I need support. I’m going to hopefully bring a lot of qualities and skills to the table that are unique and strong, but I’m going to need support and a collaborative staff that has a lot of experience and is willing to build this with me.”
ON CHOOSING COACHING
Nash took his first step into a post-playing career when he was named general manager of Canada’s national team in 2012, before his NBA career was concluded. And with his playing accomplishments and the reputation he built over two decades, Nash always had a road to a coaching or front office career when he was ready. Ultimately, on the court was where he wanted to be.
“I love to compete, I love to teach, to lead and to be a part of a team,” said Nash. “And so, to be in a position where I can use all those things on a day-to-day basis and focus all my energy on those tenants is a perfect fit. So while I hadn’t necessarily publicly stated my desire to coach, privately it’s always been in my mind, it’s always been an opportunity that suited me. When you can’t run up and down the court anymore, what can you do? What can you contribute? And I think the characteristics and the strengths that I have even leaving my playing career were leading, teaching, collaborating; so to be a part of that, to build something with a group of people that have already done an outstanding job setting the stage was really exciting for me.”
ON PLAYING STYLE
The trend toward today’s wipe-open NBA style was largely tipped off by the up-tempo attack that Nash charged up when he returned to Phoenix for the 2004-05 season and won back-to-back MVP awards. In the 15 years since, the league has taken the pace and space of those “Seven Seconds or Less” squads well past what Phoenix did. While Nash is strongly identified with that offensive style, he’s looking at the defensive end first and still formulating what Brooklyn’s style will look like.
“Obviously, I think one of the most important things is to start on the defensive end, be strong in defensive transition and in the half court and on offense, for our team, we have a talented group, we definitely want to use the talent, speed, athleticism, versatility of our players that are able to make plays for each other,” said Nash. “The skill is profound in our roster and we want to put them in a position where they can express themselves and in a way where they can be very difficult to cover. Make teams make a lot of decisions and potentially a lot of mistakes and make them difficult to guard. That’s still a work in progress. I definitely have, like I said, my principles and my preconceived notions but this is a collaborative effort and it’s something that I’m going to build with my staff with the roster that we have in mind.”
ON JACQUE VAUGHN
The Nets have retained Jacque Vaughn as Nash’s lead assistant. That was the role Vaughn filled for his first three-plus seasons in Brooklyn before stepping in as head coach back in March. Vaughn led the Nets to a 7-3 record over his first two games in March and the seeding round games of the NBA restart in Orlando.
“I think Jacque’s qualities speak for themselves, he’s an incredibly high character individual, extremely hard-working, extremely prepared,” said Nash. “He’s an all-around top human being. So to have people like that to work with every day is incredible. But also what he’s done for this organization, the work he’s put in, the building he’s done from a cultural and basketball standpoint, the inside knowledge here is invaluable to continue, to have some continuity. I couldn’t really think of a better person to have alongside me to work with, to learn from, collaborate with. So I feel very fortunate that he would remain and willing to be a part of this and continue what he started here because he has his fingerprints all over this.”
ON MENTORS AND ADVICE
Aside from working for Steve Kerr in Golden State the last five seasons, Nash played for Don Nelson, Mike D’Antoni, and Danny Ainge among others. He hasn’t been reaching out for advice as of late, but the lessons he took from those coaches and others are part of what will inform his approach to the job.
“I think I’ve been influenced greatly by some of the incredible people I’ve gotten a chance to play for,” said Nash. “Those little bits or tendencies, lessons or experience that you gain from all those coaches, when you spend such time with them, such intense time with them. You see them at their best, their worst, you see them at their toughest and greatest moments. You learn about people. You learn how to respond to challenges. You learn how to respond to adversity. Because at the end of the day it’s about how you handle pressure, how you embrace being uncomfortable and wanting those moments, wanting to handle, survive and thrive during friction or during moments that are difficult. That’s what excites me as much as anything, the challenges, the tough times.
“I’m fortunate to walk into an organization that has incredible foundations. I think the chemistry and culture has been well-lauded. We have a roster that is very wealthy, and I mean that from a basketball standpoint. We have talent, versatility and good human beings. So as a coach there’s so much to be thankful for when you walk in the doors here. I just can’t wait to get started.”