Steve Nash Brooklyn Nets Town Hall: Getting Started in Brooklyn

Six years after his final NBA game, Steve Nash is back in the NBA full-time, taking the leap into a coaching career with the Brooklyn Nets. For 18 seasons, Nash carved out a career as one of the league’s great point guards, forming an All-Star tandem in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki, then returning to the team that drafted him, the Phoenix Suns, to win back-to-back MVP awards.

The up-tempo, 3-point shooting Suns teams that Nash directed sent the NBA in a new direction, setting in motion trends that have continued to accelerate over the last 15 years. After leading the league in assists five times with Phoenix, Nash concluded his career with two seasons in Los Angeles.

Nash played past his 40th birthday in that final season in Los Angeles, and he spoke with JJ Redick on his The Old Man & the Three podcast recently about getting all he could out of his playing career, battling through injuries toward the end. But when those 18 seasons were done, he needed some time to retreat from the game before he was ready for an opportunity like the one that presented itself in Brooklyn.

“I think I always realized I would like or enjoy coaching,” said Nash on Tuesday, speaking with YES Network’s Ian Eagle on a livestreamed Brooklyn Nets Town Hall. “I think it took me a while and a directive of trying to get away from the game and have some separation from being a player and having that be my identity and purpose for so many years. That transition needed to take place. I also love being a dad, I have five kids so that gave me the space to do that with everything that I had. And over the last few years I realized that there was an itch forming and that I was starting to gain some interest in taking that leap at some point.

“I started to take more notes, and study, and start to listen to what different people do and all different aspects of coaching and building and creating a culture, that dynamic of a winning environment. I think that collided with this incredible opportunity, this moment in time with this organization that’s just continued to grow and build. Such leaps and bounds, the roster and like I said all the departments are so mature that it’s an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.”

Nash told Redick he had received interest about positions over the last few years, but he had opted for smaller commitments to stay in the game; a player development consultant role with the Golden State Warriors and the general manager’s job with Team Canada.

But when the Brooklyn job opened up this summer, Nash reached out to general manager Sean Marks, a former teammate from Phoenix whom he’s known for two decades, back to playing in international competition for Canada and New Zealand. In early September, the Nets announced Nash’s hiring as head coach.

He’s taking over in unusual circumstances, as the NBA continues to manage its calendar after the pandemic-postponed and then extended 2019-20 season that concluded just weeks ago. With the NBA Draft coming up on November 18, Nash said Marks and the front office have solicited his advice and insights, but he’s trusting that process and pick to them. He did confirm on Tuesday’s Town Hall that his former Phoenix teammate, Amar’e Stoudemire, would be joining the Nets as an assistant coach.

“It’s been a lot of fun getting my feet wet, building, and getting a staff going and connecting with all our departments and putting together a plan,” said Nash. “Sean Marks has done an incredible job building a very mature organization so to speak. All the departments are incredibly well-staffed and talented human capital and resources. So, for me to slide in here a ton of support and some incredible people to lean on and collaborate with, starting with my coaching staff. So, it’s been fun, I’ve been enjoying it every day.”

Nash is taking over a team coming off two straight playoff appearances that is primed to take another big step forward with the return of Kevin Durant, who missed all of the 2019-20 season, and Kyrie Irving, who was limited to 20 games. The Hall of Fame point guard is embracing the big expectations that come along with that as he gets started on his coaching career.

“We’re playing for a championship,” said Nash. “I don’t want to say that anything less than a championship is not a success because you never know what happens in life, you never know the way the ball bounces. Fortune is a big part of winning an NBA championship. But we are playing for a championship and we’re going to build accordingly. We’re going to frame everything we do in the lens of, ‘Is this a championship characteristic or is this worth championship quality?’

“Other than that, are we growing? Are we striving? Are we pressure-tested? Are we continually asking of each other and ourselves that individual collective growth every day and creating an environment that is fun but challenging and collaborative? If those tenets are being met, there’s a lot of success and reward in that. But we are playing for a championship.”