It was only six years ago that Steve Nash hung up his sneakers, ending an historic career as one of the generational talents at the point. Today, he’s the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, tutoring players who grew up watching the Hall of Famer.
It was the Bay Area where Nash began to grow his name. Nash was just a talented kid from Canada who didn’t receive many Division 1 college offers but turned into a first round pick in the 1996 NBA Draft after a four year collegiate career at Santa Clara in California.
Tyler Johnson, while growing up in the Bay Area, heard a lot of stories about Nash while he was at the university just down Route 101 from San Francisco. then enjoyed watching Nash as his career began and Nash’s wound down. Like many Nets, Johnson can’t wait to see how Nash’s coaching career pans out and learning under him.
“Steve is great,” Johnson said Wednesday about Nash. “I’ve heard a lot of stories. Me being from the Bay Area and him playing at Santa Clara, I heard a lot of stories about him, his work ethic, and how he became who he is with limited attributes. His basketball mind is what made him be an MVP in this league and take that Phoenix team to its best in a long time. He is still new to being a head coach as well so seeing his progression, I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
Then there is DeAndre Jordan, who played against his new head coach 13 times in the NBA, winning only four of them. Jordan and Nash shared the Staples Center floor from 2012-15 but wore different uniform colors. Jordan said that experience makes him feel a little old seeing Nash as his head coach. The 32-year-old big man is excited to learn under the Nets new head coach as they begin drills Sunday.
“Steve was great,” Jordan said. “Played against Steve for I don’t know how many years. Obviously, when he was in Phoenix and then with the Lakers. It kind of makes me feel a little old but let’s just say that Steve is young.
“It is great to have a great basketball mind now at the helm and other great coaches, former head coaches now, that we have along with JV, Adam [Harrington], Thiago [Splitter] from last year. I’m excited to put all of those things together and get back on the court with everybody and start gelling.”
Spencer Dinwiddie had a different take on watching ihs new head coach growing up. Dinwiddie grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan, idolizing the late Kobe Bryant, did not like anyone who competed against his Lakers.
Although not liking Nash, from a fan-kid perspective, he respected his play. That also goes for those on the Nets coaching staff who competed against the Lakers, starting with Amar’e Stoudemire.
“I think there is a difference between respect and like, right,” Dinwiddie said. “He used to battle the Lakers so I hate him but he was cold though so you respected him. Obviously, as you grow, understand, and see the new ounces of the position you play, how he does it at the highest level like winning MVP’s, you watch him, learn from it, and try to take from it so it is actually a dream come true to be able to have him as my coach.
“As far as the little kid fan though, hell no. I hate him,” reverting to his fan role. “Same with our other coach too, Amar’e. I hated him too. Get him out of here. Tiago (Splitter) with the Spurs, I hated him. Anybody that went against Kobe and the Lakers, I hated all of y’all.”
(Dinwiddie missed shooting coach Adam Harrington who played a year with Nash in Dallas and later introduced Nash to Kevin Durant.)
With Johnson, Jordan, and Dinwiddie all growing up in the United States watching Nash, another Nets player watched him from afar in France: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot who like , Nash is an international player.
Nash was big for him for him too, He did not get to watch a lot of his real-time games live but watched countless highlights and All-Star games featuring his now head coach. Luwawu-Cabarrot’s admiration of Nash began when he was teammates with Boris Diaw, another fellow French player, in Phoenix.
“It was big,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said about watching Nash as a kid in Europe. “Two-time MVP obviously. We followed and he was Boris Diaw’s teammate, another French guy who had a great career, so through that, we were able to follow his career.
“I actually had his jersey when I was a kid. I think it was the second jersey I had. Tony Parker was first but you know he is a two-time MVP and played in the playoffs huge times. I’ve been able to watch that, from far away of course, but not being able to watch the games but highlights and stuff like that. All-Star games.”
Now, of course all of them are watching Nash every day in practice ... obviously from a different perspective.
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