We asked two of our most prolific film study guys —Matt Brooks and Nolan Jensen— for their thoughts on the hiring of Steve Nash. Nolan is a Nets fan who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, so for him, the hiring is quite special and he’s happy to tell you about it!
NJ: Given the arbitrary and disconcerting nature of this seemingly never ending year, it’s genuinely difficult to surprise me anymore. Yet the Brooklyn Nets continue to find ways to amaze me; this time by hiring NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash as their newest head coach.
I have no problem admitting that I was part of the overwhelmingly large demographic of people that, frankly, did not know Steve Nash was on the Nets’ radar...like at all. Sean Marks runs a tight ship, media leaks aren’t commonplace, as evident by the authentic shock across the basketball spectrum when the hire was formally announced on September 3. Marks and company knew who their man was back in May, yet no rumors surfaced about the prospect of Nash in Brooklyn. What’s that about gangsters moving in silence again?
By the way, I want to quickly point out that this hire means that the Nets now have *two* members of prominence within their brass that have connections to Canada. The team’s majority owner, Joseph Tsai, is a Canadian citizen. Nash, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, played his high school ball in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada—which as a Vancouver, BC native, makes him a bit of a legend around my side of the tracks.
What’s next? A Tim Hortons sponsorship for the Nets?!? I can see it now...instead of ordering a “double-double” (which is a coffee with two creams and two teaspoons of sugar for all of you non-Canadians) at the drive-thru window, instead, I’ll just ask for a “Jarrett Allen.” (Please allow this to happen, universe.)
MB: Let me begin with some informal thoughts on what Steve Nash means to me, Matt Brooks, a baseball fan-turned-basketball convert by traveling back in time to a very specific moment in Brooksian history.
The year is 2005, and a younger version of myself sits at the dining room table, flipping through a growing baseball card collection, and kicking his feet back and forth, back and forth, those feet still equipped in black-and-red Adidas soccer cleats and metallic green shin-guards from a soccer game earlier that day. With a monthly issue of Beckett Magazine in hand, 11-year-old Matt reflects upon his finest pieces of baseball memorabilia: A Miguel Tejada game-used jersey collectable (my favorite player in the MLB at that time)... a Derek Jeter rookie card… a 1971 Roberto Clemente Topps throwback gem… and so many more.
In the background, a basketball game plays quietly on the nearby television. Though not just any basketball game; it was a headliner featuring my childhood team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and soon-to-be back-to-back MVP Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns.
Pausing a second from marveling over a 2002 Bowman Chrome B.J. Upton rookie card (remember him?), that younger version of myself glances up at the TV.
Off a right wing pick-and-roll, Steve Nash drove into the teeth of the defense, only to be met by reigning MVP (and my childhood hero) Kevin Garnett, who prepared to swallow up the Victoria, British Columbia product whole like a delicious dish of Canadian poutine.
But then, in the midst of his drive, Nash spun mid-air 180-style like Karate Kid and rifled a pass to the weak-side wing, directly into the hands of Shawn Marion, who –– quite literally –– flicked that quirky three-pointer of his directly through the Target Center twine. It was a gorgeous, instinctual find that only the headiest of playmakers could provide, especially in the presence of a defender as tenacious as KG.
I was instantly entranced… captivated by the slicing-and-dicing Nash and his head of floppy flowing hair (that looked much like mine at that time). Much like a baby duckling at the first sight of its mother, my basketball brain was imprinted upon in a special way; from that day forth, I found myself continuously gravitating toward pass-first point guards (which, *ahem*). The way Nash saw the game, the way he understood the impactfulness of spacing (ahead of his time in that regard)... it was a demeanor that only a former soccer player could have. With my feet tucked snuggly into those black-and-red soccer cleats, that style of offensive approach resonated with me instantly. He treated basketball courts like they were soccer pitches, stretching NBA defenses well beyond their normal capacities, and making use of every inch of basketball hardwood while tiptoeing along baselines across America. Make no mistake, Nash was one of the primary reasons I became a basketball fan.
But anyways, enough drooling over Nash’s legacy. Let’s get into the important stuff, my Canadian friend. How, oh how, will the untested Steve Nash fare in his rookie season of coaching under the bright (hm, maybe “bright” is the wrong word here) theatre lights of the Barclays arena?
NJ: Now that the dust has settled, I’ve had some time to digest the surprise hire and actually reflect on it, I have to admit: I’m still just as excited as when news broke. Though this upcoming season will be Nash’s first as an NBA head coach, his experience and resume will command the respect not just of Brooklyn’s tail-end depth pieces, but more importantly of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
You don’t have to take my word for it, his ex-boss, Bob Myers, the current general manager of the Golden State Warriors, blushed over Nash’s ability to essentially walk into any room and command respect and admiration.
“Steve Nash has the ability to walk out onto the court and earn the immediate respect of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry or Klay Thompson — and there aren’t too many people in the world who can do that,” Myers told ESPN.
That was all but a prerequisite for any candidate in Brooklyn’s head coaching search; whoever they hired had to not just have similar if not synonymous philosophies of their two stars, but also be respected by them.
They wanted a “communicator,” and as Marks told ESPN, “that’s what they got.”
Now, obviously, there are several other factors that separate ‘good’ NBA coaches from ‘great’ ones. It is important that KD and Ky co-signed the hiring, now it’s about execution.
Unfortunately, we do not have a sample size to judge (or praise) Nash’s schemes or look at how much success he had in previous stints...because there are no previous stints. However, as Matt alluded to (far better than I could, a tip of the hat to Nets Daily’s Film Guy), Nash isn’t some rudimentary basketball mind who only secured the job because he’s the type of guy you want to head to the bar with (though it helped). No, he was an integral part in modernizing NBA offenses during his time spent in the “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns, and one of the best floor generals the game of basketball has ever seen.
He’s had tremendous successes and even more important to me, failures...hardships, he’s seen winning first hand in Golden State but has also had his fair share of disappointing playoff exits.
In hindsight, his Suns were definitely ahead of the curve but they didn’t go “all-in” on their philosophies. He told Bill Simmons in an interview earlier this year that he had wished “shot more threes” and wasn’t as conservative in his approaches; he wished the Suns would have “doubled down” instead of playing more to the Spurs’ slow and steady style (which was far more accepted at the time) in their playoff series defeat back in 2007.
Why do I mention this? Because he’s not going to get caught looking at another 3-2 pitch, and that’s what the Nets need to maximize this title window.
MB: Nolan, you nailed this. I’m going to reiterate one point because it’s that damn important: Nash has sailed the choppy seas of NBA stardom, reaching his zenith on numerous occasions while coming away crestfallen and defeated on others; in short, he’s seen it all and boasts the all-knowing wisdom of a basketball monk. That much will resonate with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, both of whom are coming off injury riddled seasons with much to prove in 2020-2021 (or whatever it is we’re calling the upcoming season. Is it just 2021, period? Are we bleeding into the 2021-2022 season, technically?? I just don’t know anymore.)
BUT, Steve Nash is still a rookie head coach. Let’s not mince words. The boom or bust Brooklyn Nets have only doubled down on variance with their latest hiring.
And that’s where Brooklyn’s ace in the hole comes in.
North of 1,500 words later and I’ve yet to launch a “hot take,” much less a lightly spicy argument. So, let me change that: The real gem of last week’s hiring was not the acquisition of the two-time MVP and basketball legend, Steve Nash. No, it was retaining bubble sensation and now the league’s most handsomely paid assistant coach, Jacque Vaughn.
And per Sean Marks himself, keeping Jacque Vaughn around was one of “Steve (Nash)’s first requirements of the job.” What a guy!
Nash will be required to amass a knowledge of the finer details of head coaching –– adjustments, rotations, etc. –– to succeed long-term, and normally that growth comes through sheer experience. Combine that with Brooklyn’s championship or bust expectations, and the stakes only rise higher. There’s pressure on Nash to succeed almost immediately, and that’s… practically unprecedented for a rookie head coach. Luckily for the 46-year-old, his assistant in the wings could greatly diffuse this potentially combustible situation. Here’s a brief overview of Vaughn’s resume...
Jacque’s a willing adjuster who fits his schemes to his players, a contemporary coaching perspective if I do say so myself (and one that bodes well come playoff time. I hope you’re reading this, Coach Bud). His offense was full of low-post pindowns, horns elements, midrange buckets, and of course, that trusty pick-and-roll; all of which sound dangerously lethal with regard to deploying the all-world scoring talents of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Defensively, Vaughn’s defensive principles flipped almost nightly… zone, switching, man-to-man, you name it. The Bubble Nets kept competitors on their tippy-toes with defensive flexibility, even with a pretty suboptimal cast of individual defenders.
To be clear, Vaughn has his warts as a coaching mind. At certain points, Brooklyn was a little too willing to mix things up defensively, providing for some confusion between a fairly inexperienced cast of Nets players (simplification is key when dealing with the young dudes!). “Are we running zone?” “Should I be switching?” These are the types of questions that arise from overzealousness at the controls while working with a younger team. Vaughn’s Nets were also atrocious at converting after timeouts, scoring just 72 points per 100 ‘ATO’ possessions per PBP stats, dead freakin’ last of all 16 playoff teams, most famously highlighted by… whatever this was:
(Nearly one month later and this play still bothers me. Was the plan really to give Joe friggin’ Harris, who likes to dribble maybe seven times a game, a pull-up three point shot? That’s the go-to move? Honestly? Against the defending champs? Why is Brooklyn’s best scorer, Caris LeVert, cutting to the weak-side, making for an incredibly tough angle on the inbound pass? Shouldn’t CLV –– I don’t know, call me crazy –– cut to the ball? Absolutely baffling, man.)
But still, as a fairly crystallized whole, Vaughn knows his stuff as an X’s and O’s brainiac and a unifying communicator. And plus, being the overqualified backup isn’t so bad; just ask Spencer Dinwiddie. Expect Vaughn and Nash to approach this upcoming season as a unified braintrust, working hand-in-hand en route to what could be basketball nirvana.
In fact, I wouldn't even be surprised if the two of them approach this next season as almost co-head coaches –– working together in unison and building off one another's strengths.— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) September 3, 2020
Co-head coaches. Yeah, that sure has a ring to it.