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Pablo Prigioni earns respect and learns coaching game with Nets

Getty Images via NBA

Before he returned to the NBA as an assistant coach for the Nets, Pablo Prigioni says he had “other opportunities,” but chose Brooklyn because he liked what he had seen when he observed the Nets for a time last season.

“Thank God the Brooklyn opportunity occurred, and I am very grateful to the organization,” the former European and NBA point guard told NBA Argentina.

“It has been a year of learning and life experiences. Sometimes as a player one thinks that he has lived everything and it is not like that. It’s being a master’s degree for me, a master’s degree in head coaching and assistant coaching in the NBA. I am enjoying myself very much and at the same time trying to contribute my experience after so many years in my career.”

The 41-year-old, who played 22 years in his native Argentina, Europe and the NBA, retired two years ago. He began last year as head coach of Baskonia, one of Spain and Europe’s most iconic teams ... and where he developed into a top point guard before heading to New York and the Knicks .

However, the team started poorly and he didn’t feel like he was doing a good job and resigned, saying “I feel very frustrated for not being able meet my own expectations and mainly, the expectations the club had for me.”

That was late October. Four months later, he was spotted at Nets games hanging with the coaching staff and just after the season end, he and his former Baskonia teammate, Tiago Splitter joined the Nets as assistant coaches ... and in Splitter’s case, a scout.

“The professionalism that I had as a player, how they saw me playing at an advanced age, also gave them an image that I can be a useful piece in an NBA staff,” Prigioni explained.

Although Prigioni can seen on the Nets bench at Barclays Center during games, his primary role is working with younger players at the HSS Training Center.

“I have some players in charge to help and train them individually,” he said. “I have to be aware of them, their game and their development. At the same time I have responsibilities as a coach where I participate like all the assistants.

“What I like most is that the coach (Kenny Atkinson) has a great way of leading the staff that is the ideal, and that everyone has and can give their opinion, and is in line with the organization.”

Among his primary roles is the development of European guards, the Bosnian Dzanan Musa and the Latvian Rodions Kurucs, working individually with them at HSS and in the case of Musa, accompanying him to Long Island.

He’s also worked with the team’s point guards and why not. He finished his time in Europe as one of the Euroleague’s all-time leaders in assists and steals, a reputation he brought to the NBA as a 35-year-old rookie.

After D’Angelo Russell led the Nets to their upset of the Boston Celtics last Monday, Prigioni was one of the only people he tweeted at.

Another of the Nets veteran points talked up Prigioni.

“He’s a good person and has a great career behind him as a player, with his presence in the team he helps the NBA a lot and he knows what he can give him, what the NBA needs right now , ”acknowledged Shabazz Napier. ”He is always available to be able to make the necessary adjustments to our game, he knows what to say and what not to say at every moment, it is very good to have such a person in the team.”