Steve Nash impressed in his introductory press conference, becoming the latest former NBA point guard to make the jump straight into a head coach position without any prior coaching experience.
There is no question of what type of player Steve Nash was on the hardwood. One of the greatest point guards and international players to play in the league and a player who helped change the offensive paradigm of the league.
Nash called the first coaching job of his career a “unique opportunity,” explaining how his new team is at “an incredible point in the history of the franchise” and have “an incredible roster.”
Sean Marks, the Nets general manager and Nash’s former teammate in Phoenix from 2006-08, pinpointed the term pressure at Nash’s introduction press conference Wednesday. A trait that goes hand in hand with any team with championship expectations. For Marks, he described how Nash did not shy away from pressure and how his playing experience speaks volumes.
“There is nobody that I have been around that hasn’t wanted to be pressure tested on the spot quite like Steve,” Marks said. “He has never shied away from a moment so then you say first-time head coach but we have seen it done before. This guy has never run from anything and his career speaks for itself. The experience he brings here speaks volumes.”
Despite having no coaching experience and taking over a Nets team with championship expectations — and certainly a lot of pressure to meet those expectations, Nash has Jacque Vaughn in his corner as his lead assistant.
Vaughn served as the Nets interim head coach following the firing of Kenny Atkinson. In his time as interim head coach, the former NBA guard overachieved receiving incredible amounts of praise from his players along the way. In fact, Vaughn had the third-best winning percentage of any coach in Nets history, admittedly a small sample, trailing Lawrence Frank and P.J. Carlesimo.
Although he didn’t get the head coaching job, Vaughn is now the highest-paid assistant in the NBA and he will play a vital role in the Nets’ success moving forward.
As Sean Marks noted Wednesday, Vaughn came in second to Nash for the Nets head coaching job. The Nets general manager also noted his relationship with Vaughn grew in Orlando and it was not an easy discussion telling him that Nash got the job but he explained that Nash and Vaughn have already had multiple conversations.
“Regarding the conversations with Jacque, I am extremely close to JV and enjoyed the conversations we had,” Marks said. “We had a lot of our time in Orlando in the bubble and probably grew closer and closer over time. A good fun group down there.”
“Regarding having to let him know that the job was going to go to Steve, that was never an easy discussion. It is never easy to tell someone ‘hey look, you came up second in this regard’ but JV is a man and to who he is and wanting to continue to stay here and be a part of something, continue to build and he knows what is at stake here. He also knows that he is very about Steve. Steve and JV have had multiple conversations so I think it comes back to two guys having that respect for one another and humility to say ‘I don’t know everything, how can you help me and how can I help you.”
In addition to praising Vaughn for wanting to remain in Brooklyn as the lead assistant, Marks spoke about how it starts with the ownership and makes it way down through the organization in order to take the Nets to where they want to be as a team.
“So, I am really looking forward to not only JV and Steve but once the entire staff is put in place, to see a truly collaborative effort and we’ve said multiple times, it is going to take more than one person,” Marks said. “It is about a complete group effort and it starts with ownership and trickles down throughout our entire organization.”
As for Nash, he explained how he could not think of a better person to be his lead assistant, praising Vaughn for being a “high character individual and an all-around top human being.” The Nets new head coach noted the knowledge Vaughn has behind the clipboard.
“I think Jacque’s qualities speak for themselves,” Nash said about Vaughn. “He is an incredibly high character individual, extremely hard-working, prepared, and he is an all-around top human being so to have people like that to work with every day is incredible.”
“Also, what he has done for this organization. The work he has put in, the building he’s done from a cultural and basketball standpoint, the inside knowledge here is invaluable to continue and have continuity, so I couldn’t think of a better person to work alongside with, learn from, collaborate with, so I feel very fortunate that he will remain and to be a part and continue what he started here because he has his fingerprints all over this. “
Do not forget Nash was more than just a “player development consultant” in Golden State. He was the man behind the curtain during the Warriors championships, two of which included Kevin Durant. While serving as a consultant, Nash explained how he kept mental notes on how Steve Kerr coached as well as reaching the top of the mountain with the end result of winning.
“It was an incredible opportunity that Steve Kerr gave me,” Nash said reflecting on his time with the Golden State Warriors. “To be with Steve and have a close relationship with him but to also witness him winning up close and with him coming in as a rookie head coach as well. Another great organization and dynamic that gave me an insight that was invaluable.”
Although fresh into his tenure and having yet to coach a game, conduct a practice with his players, or fill out the rest of the coaching staff or roster, Nash has his eyes set on working from defense to offense.
“Stylistically, it is to be determined,” Nash said. “I think the most important thing is to start at the defensive end. Be strong, defensive transition into the halfcourt, and for offense, our team is a talented group. We definitely want to use the talent, speed, athleticism, versatility of our players to make plays for each other. The skill, I think, is profound in our roster so we want to put them in a position where they can express themselves in that way so they are difficult to cover. Make teams make a lot of decisions on their part, potentially a lot of mistakes to guard.
“That is still a work-in-progress. I definitely have my principles and preconceived notions but this is a collaborative effort and something I am going to build with my staff and with the roster we have in mind.”
As Vaughn has shown down in the “bubble,” he’s very interesting when it comes to thinking outside the box and go against popular norms in today’s NBA.
The Nets lead assistant has shown the ability to communicate with players on and off the court and a willingness to try new things outside the Nets box with this Nets group of players. From using different lineups to utilizing a zone defense to stretching player minutes using to mid-range offense rather than relying heavily on the 3-ball. In addition, Vaughn orchestrated a more balanced attack on the offensive end in the tail half of the Nets’ first-round series against the Toronto Raptors in the bubble.
Now entering the next chapter of his life, Nash admits he does not know yet what type of coach he wants to be. He simply put it as he wants to “be himself” but he has a respected coach in Vaughn to help with the transition from floor general to NBA head coach.
“I don’t see myself as a yeller and screamer,” Nash said. “But I haven’t actually been over there yet so we’ll see what transpires. But I think the reality is I’m going to be myself. If I’m anything other than myself, it’s not going to work. I can’t come in trying to conform to what I think a coach is supposed to be.”