Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni, the player and coach that helped revolutionize NBA offense 16 years ago, have been reunited in Brooklyn. The team announced that D’Antoni, along with former Spurs and Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka, will be an assistant under Nash with the Nets.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to announce the hires.
D’Antoni and Udoka join Jacque Vaughn, who coached the Nets in the NBA restart, on the coaching staff. A’mare Stoudemire will also serve as a player development assistant.
📰 The Nets have hired Mike D'Antoni and Ime Udoka as assistant coaches and Amar’e Stoudemire as a player development assistant.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 30, 2020
Nash, with no previous coaching experience, was hired to lead a roster featuring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in early September. D’Antoni parted ways with the Rockets on Sept. 13, the day after they were eliminated in the conference semifinals.
D’Antoni has coached 13 full seasons in the NBA. And in nine of those 13 seasons (including his last four in Houston), his teams have ranked in the top six in offensive efficiency.
In their four seasons in Phoenix together (2004-05 through ’07-08), the Nash-and-D’Antoni Suns ranked first, first, first and second offensively. The ’04-05 Suns scored 8.2 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, the second best mark (trailing only Nash’s ’03-04 Mavs) in the 24 years for which we have play-by-play data. The ’06-07 Suns hold the fourth best mark (+7.6).
Those offenses were different than the iso-heavy one that D’Antoni has been running in Houston for the last four seasons. In each of the last two years, the Rockets have averaged more than twice as many isolation possessions as any other team. The Nets currently have four players – Durant, Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert – who can flourish in isolation. But getting them all to work together (should they all remain on the roster) will be an interesting challenge for Nash and his staff.
The Nets (under different management) have tried this before. In their second year in Brooklyn, they hired Jason Kidd just weeks after he retired as a player. His top assistant was his former coach, Lawrence Frank. But that relationship didn’t last 20 games, with Frank being removed from the bench and relegated to writing “daily reports” for the only Brooklyn team (the one with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett) that has won a playoff series.