While Steve Nash steps into a new challenge as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, he does have familiarity and a strong relationship with one of the pillars of Brooklyn’s high expectations for the 2020-21 season: Kevin Durant.
While Nash had experience playing against Durant for several seasons before his 2014 retirement, he initially connected off the court with Durant through Nets assistant coach Adam Harrington. Harrington worked with Durant during his Oklahoma City days before joining the Nets staff in 2016.
Nash joined the Golden State Warriors as a player development consultant in 2015, and worked closely with Durant for three seasons after he signed with the Warriors before the 2016-17 season. The new Nets coach said he did not speak with Durant before expressing his interest in the Nets coaching job, but has talked to him since.
“It’s a privilege to work with one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” said Nash. “Someone who is incredibly coachable, inquisitive, and that lends itself to the question of searching. I think what I meant was that Kevin’s always searching, he’s always curious, inquisitive, developing as a human being. So he’s a deep person who has a lot of goals and a lot about him, not just in basketball terms. I think my comment is more about Kevin as a human being, the type of person he is, about how he’s always trying to grow, always trying to learn and always asking how he can get better. A big part of that is that Kevin is somebody that is never afraid to say, ‘help me with this’ ‘what do you think about that’ so that’s the type of confidence and security it takes to be able to ask for help or know what they don’t know. And he has that along with an incredible drive, work ethic, toughness and historic talent.”
Durant has yet to play a game for Brooklyn, missing the 2019-20 season after suffering an Achilles’ tear while with the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. But the 2014 NBA MVP and nine-time All-NBA selection will transform Brooklyn when he takes the court to start the upcoming season, bringing his 27.0 points per game career scoring average — the sixth-highest in NBA history — to Barclays Center.
But Durant was not the only piece of the 2019 summer sweep that transformed the franchise. In Kyrie Irving, the Nets added one of the league’s elite point guards, an All-NBA Second Team pick in 2018-19. While Irving was limited to 20 games this past season due to a shoulder injury, he scored at a career-high rate of 27.4 points per game while averaging 6.4 assists and shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range.
While Nash shares a closer history with Durant, he shares a position with Irving, and he’s admired where Irving has taken the position.
“First of all, Kyrie’s one of my favorite players of all time,” said Nash. “He’s brilliant; skill level historically off the charts. Creative. Guts. Competitiveness. For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure. We have a relationship going back to when he was a rookie, playing against him. Got a chance to train with him for a couple days in New York City after I retired. Must have been five, six years ago. And I got a chance to speak to him since taking the job. I’m excited to develop that relationship, watching him continue to show greatness on the floor and to continue to get to know him in a really meaningful way, because he’s an incredible person. The gestures and the things he’s done around the WNBA or social justice, these are the things I really admire. For him to put himself in that position with his platform, to help people, shows there’s a really deep person there that I’ve gotten to know but look forward to getting to really know and understand and learn from.”