In an interview with Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Steve Nash said the lure of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as well as his friendship with Sean Marks made his decision to join the Nets easy. And he noted, he’s long had the coaching “itch.”
“We both love the game of basketball. We got a bond, over me in a sense being a teacher and a pupil through the years,” Nash said of KD. “It dates back to when I was finishing my career and we would work out together, and working with him with the Warriors. ... I think that there is a trust, a commonality and a language between us when it comes to the game that has developed over time. That definitely is important. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and to have his confidence is really important.”
Various Bay Area reporters have noted that the two would work out on occasion at the Warriors practice facility. Nash has been a player development consultant for Golden State the last five years.
While Nash and Irving don’t have that kind of a relationship, he added he and Irving have known each other for years, and that Irving was supportive of his hire as well.
“Ky and I have history, not only being two point guards, but he is one of my favorite players to watch,” Nash said. “He and I spent a couple days in the gym, I believe it was 2015, in New York City working out. There is a respect and admiration there for me. For me and Ky, our relationship is important. He is the point guard and I’m the coach, and I’m thrilled I get the opportunity to know him better and to understand him, how he plays and what he sees and be here to help him refine his gifts.”
Nash also believes the two will be healthy whenever the NBA season resumes and he provided a detailed update on Durant’s rehab.
“Kevin looks good and feels good from what I’m hearing,” Nash said. “There is still an adaptation process that he is going through where he is healthy enough to do just about anything. But you still have to have time to adapt and fortify that recovery. He is going through the process now to create that durability and staying power with his Achilles and withstand the demands of the NBA game and schedule.”
Although Spears didn’t mention it, Caris LeVert and Nash have a relationship. At the very least, LeVert, Durant and Nash worked out together in California back in 2016...
Nash told Spears he spoke with both of the Nets superstars before taking the job.
“Frankly, we’re just all excited. It’s that honeymoon period,” Nash said. “We are all thrilled we get a chance to do this and do this together. Shortly, we will get to work. Unfortunately, it won’t be necessarily on the court with the guys. But in terms of doing work behind the scenes, we will continue to build our culture.”
Sean Marks in fact told Spears ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski that it was Nash who first broached the idea of replacing Atkinson.
“I just said I was ready,” Nash said when asked how he sold himself to Nets ownership and management. “I said I wanted it and shared my vision and my methodology. What I bring to the table and how I want to influence the group the more I see it going forward. Those are details and talking points that every coach has. I hope they really value the approach. But at the same time a big part of it is my history, and having trust in the way I see the game and coach the game.
“Sean Marks and I played together 15 years ago and played against each other internationally for 20 years. There is a relationship, understanding and conversations over the decades. That has to be a factor as well.”
Then, of course, the big piece that would please any coaching prospect.
“I’m fortunate to have this roster. We have a lot of talent. A lot of versatility,” Nash told Spears. “Let’s be clear, I feel grateful for the roster I have.”
Spears laid out just what that roster looks like and added a bit of news: Jamal Crawford is likely to return to the team.
The Nets return an offensively intimidating roster with Durant, Irving and guards Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets are also expected to re-sign veteran free agent guard Jamal Crawford, a source told The Undefeated.
Brooklyn also has two defensive-minded centers in DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen. While the Nets have a team option on defensive-minded guard Garrett Temple, free agents include sharpshooter Joe Harris, forward Wilson Chandler, guard Tyler Johnson and guard Chris Chiozza (restricted).
Nash also told Spears that he’s grateful to have Jacque Vaughn as his lead assistant.
“I am a rookie coach. I have relatively no experience coaching,” Nash said. “What I do have is a ton of experience playing the game, thinking the game and leading my team. I have to catch up, learn, study and grow and ask questions, find answers and solutions and strategies that fit my principles. I also have confidence in what I bring to the table.
“I enjoy working with players. I enjoy working with the group. Gaining their trust right away will come from them trusting my motives and my passion for the sport and this team and wanting to see them reach their potential.”
Separately, Nash spoke to Spears about how he sees himself as a leader in the NBA’s social justice movement. Nash has a picture of George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police, as his Twitter avatar.
“As a human being, it’s hard to live with racial injustice,” Nash told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s important for white people to take a deep look at what is occurring in our communities and what has been occurring for 400 years. A component of this conversation needs to be that white people need to not be offensive about white privilege or inequality. They just need to be honest, have those conversations and ask ourselves how we would feel if we had endured this 400-plus-year history.
“So, for me, it’s hurtful and it’s wrong. That’s why I have expressed my opinion on the matters because some of us are hurting and it’s not fair.”
Nash, in fact, complimented Nets owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai for their varied role in working with the community on both social justice and COVID-19.
“In the community, they have put their time, energy and resources,” said Nash, who was born in Johannesburg during South Africa’s apartheid governments. “To me, it’s an unbelievable opportunity to work with a team in an incredible city with an incredible ownership and a talented roster.”
- Steve Nash satisfies ‘coaching itch,’ eager to reconnect with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving with Nets - Marc J. Spears - ESPN
- Steve Nash will use his voice as Nets coach: ‘It’s important to support this fight’ - Marc J. Spears - The Undefeated