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With nature of NBA coach changing, Steve Nash won’t be just a tactician

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In talking to Shlomo Sprung of Forbes Sports this week, Spencer Dinwiddie broke down the job of an NBA head coach and why he thinks Steve Nash fits.

“I think overall, it makes sense from the relationship perspective,” he said, referring to the hire of Nash.

“And to me coaching at this level, especially with the talent that we have, it’s like 80 percent psychologist, 10 percent temperament, 10 percent x’s and o’s. It’s mostly about managing the egos. That’s why Phil Jackson was phenomenal. He knew how to speak to Kobe (Bryant). He knew how to speak to Michael (Jordan).”

And, of course, Jackson had legendary assistant Tex Winter to help out with those x’s and o’s. So is the image of the frazzled, sweaty head coach armed only with his wits and his clipboard outdated? Maybe.

Dinwiddie noted that the real coaching is unlikely to be between the lines but is rather in the locker room ... or over a team meal.

“It’s more like if we’re losing three, four games in a row and KD gets mad or Kyrie gets mad, how do we make sure that everybody stays together, make sure things are OK,” Dinwiddie told Sprung. “And OK, DJ hasn’t gotten a lob in seven plays, how do we get him a touch? It’s more so that type of management than it is ‘call this play.’”

Dinwiddie is not alone in that assessment. Sean Marks referred to Nash’s role as a “connector” and “conductor,” the latter a description he said he borrowed from owner Joe Tsai.

“Joe Tsai and I were in lockstep throughout this entire search process, and we were completely aligned in the intangibles we’d be looking for in the next Nets leader. And as Joe put it clearer than ever, we’d be looking not only as I mentioned before, for a connector, but we’d be looking for a conductor.”

The hiring of Jacque Vaughn as his assistant —and the league’s highest paid assistant at that— also suggests something, said Brandon Williams, a former assistant Kings GM and now a consultant to Stadium, the sister site of The Athletic.

“One thing the hire points to is that the job is becoming much more collaborative these days,” said Williams on Stadium Friday, talking about the head coach. “You don’t need a coach to come in and tell these guys how to play, but I think he’s got to inspire them to play a brand of basketball that will elevate their play individually.”

Williams in fact disclosed that Nash didn’t limit his consulting to the the Warriors, that he helped other clubs, particularly with younger players because of “a special touch.”

“Steve Nash has long been a mentor for someone of us who’ve been around in other front offices,” noted Williams. “We’ve used Steve behind the scenes to mentor and counsel some of our players. He’s always been open and if you have a direct line to him, you see how he has a special touch with young players.”

Williams said Nash’s 18 years as a player will play a huge role in connecting with his players, arguing, “They’ll listen to his stories, his battles, his time in the fox hole for so many years.” And, Williams added, Nash won’t be “on an island” in Brooklyn.

“Remember he’s got a great team —starting with Jacque Vaughn as his lead coach— that are well prepared to take this team to the next level,” he said of the coaching staff. “So he’s not going to be on island by himself trying to figure this out as a rookie head coach.”

Nash has repeatedly said that he understands that he will need support and offered praise for the staff. He told Michael Kay on Wednesday that the Nets performance in the “bubble” left him “incredibly impressed” and even found the playoff effort against a healthier, more skilled Toronto team “admirable.” He gave a lot of credit to the coaching staff.

Shams Charania, who was on the Stadium segment with Williams, said the Nets will be looking to add “veteran coaches” to Nash’s staff.

“Nets will now look to fill our their staff looking at veteran coaches throughout the league,” he said, before adding a surprise candidate. “Some names I could very easily see being targeted include Jeff Van Gundy who they looked at as a potential coaching candidate, Phil Handy the assistant coach with the Lakers. Those are just a couple of names that I would identify that the Nets will identify, will look at closely.”

Caris LeVert told the R2C2 podcast with Nets broadcaster Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia that Nash may not have coached before but that’s the reverse side of the coin from another player criticism of head coaches.

“It means a lot,” LeVert said of Nash’s experience on the R2C2 podcast. “From a lot of players you hear “oh, well he didn’t really play when you’re talking about a coach. He didn’t play at the highest level.” That’s not the case for Steve.”