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Stamp of Approval: Steve Nash wants to return as head coach ... and Kevin Durant wants him back

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets - Play-In Tournament Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Steve Nash’s second year as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets ended on the losing side of a 4-0 first-round playoff series sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Still, after the sweep and disappointing season, Nash made it clear that he wants to remain the head coach in Brooklyn. When asked if he expects to be back after falling short of the team’s high championship aspirations, he was clear.

“Yeah, I loved doing this and I love these guys, love my staff, love all the departments,” Nash said. “Really have a great working environment, really enjoyed it, and want to continue doing it.”

More importantly, the biggest endorsement any Nets head coach can get within the walls of the organization is the one from Kevin Durant, who has a long relationship with Nash stemming back from their time with the Golden State Warriors. And Nash got it after the Game 4 loss Monday night. Durant wants Nash back in Brooklyn next season.

“I mean, c’mon now. Yeah, Steve’s been dealt a crazy hand the last two years. He’s had to deal with so much stuff as the head coach, a first-time coach: trades, injuries, COVID, it’s just a lot of stuff he’s had to deal with and I’m proud of how he’s focused and his passion for us. We all continue to keep developing over the summer and see what happens.”

It was KD’s second endorsement in the last two weeks. On April 8, the Nets superstar said that he thought that Nash had handled things “perfectly.”

“I think he’s done a great job. The last two years, he’s been dealt a wild hand: injuries, trades, disgruntled players, guys in and out of the lineup, and stuff that he can’t control,” said KD then. “I think he’s handling it all perfectly, to be honest.”

When the Nets were quickly spiraling out of control in the tail end of the regular season, many fans were calling for the organization to make a coaching change. Indeed, all those uncontrollable factors Durant mentioned — key injuries, dealing away James Harden at the trade deadline, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status, COVID-19 outbreaks, disgruntled players, and 83 different starting lineups in his two-year tenure — give the Nets head coach a form of insurance. He simply was never able to command anywhere near a fully available roster across his two-year tenure.

On the other side, Nash, who took the position with no coaching experience, has been under heavy fire for his coaching tendencies and deficiencies. Throughout the first-round series and during the regular season, the second-year coach received a lot of fan backfire for his rotations, lack of timeouts, in-game adjustments, and experimenting with the players on the roster for the majority of his second season.

But the fans’ backfire isn’t likely to matter much if at all in any discussions about Nash’s future. Moreover, he is only in the second year of a four-year deal signed in 2020.

In a report earlier Monday from Marc Stein, the veteran writer reported that the Nets have no intentions of parting ways with Nash this summer and making a coaching change. If a coaching change were to be made, the change would welcome the fourth coach in the Durant-Kyrie Irving era. Kenny Atkinson was fired and Jacque Vaughn was demoted to lead assistant when Nash arrived in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Nets head coach implied that he hopes he can keep his current coaching staff together in Brooklyn. Out of his assistants, Vaughn was rumored as a possible head coaching candidate last offseason. Of course, Ime Udoka — who pundits said outcoached Nash in the first round — was Nash’s defensive-minded assistant last season in Brooklyn and had been a candidate for the Nets head coaching job before Nash was hired. Steve Clifford, a coaching consultant this season, is rumored to be in line for several head coaching jobs.

“We’ll see if anyone has a job opportunity to be a head [coach],” said Nash on his assistant coaches picking vacant head coaching positions. “I really enjoyed working with my staff. They’ve been unbelievable at staying together this year.”

Despite two straight seasons without a ring or a trip to the conference title, Nash holds the Nets franchise record for best winning percentage in a single season (66.7 percent) and his superstar’s endorsement. Looking ahead to the next season, the Nets' head coach pointed to the return of Joe Harris and Ben Simmons as a big help, particularly getting his other players back to playing their natural positions.

“I think Ben Simmons and Joe Harris will give us a big lift. We’ll see how the rest of the roster rounds out but we should be excited by that, getting two of your top four guys back, two guys with size and one who is an All-Star, and one who is one of the best shooters in the league,” Nash said. I think that gives us a big boost.

“That allows other guys to fall back into their natural positions where they don’t have to guard big guys every night or play too many minutes where they have to do too much against tall defenses where it can be very difficult for a bunch of guys giving us size at every position. I think those guys will really help. Obviously, the rest of the roster is very key, as well, and so we have this summer to work at that.”

Fresh off the first-round series sweep to the Celtics, Durant did not shy away from explaining the importance of the upcoming offseason — one of the biggest off-seasons in franchise history.

“This summer is gonna be a very, very important summer for our organization,” Durant stated. “We’ll see where we go next year.”

He spoke to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports about his relationship with his long-time friend, Kyrie Irving. While emphatically saying Irving’s absence for all but 29 games had not hurt their friendship, there were moments of tension along the way.

“Yeah, yeah. Him not being around, wanting to be around,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “Having conversations, missing games, missing playing together. It was not much more I could do. It was out of my control. The best I could do was come to work and be me and make sure the situation in the building was right for everybody.”

Asked directly if he wanted Irving back, Durant was equally emphatic.

“I would love for him to play more. Life is way more important to me than that. I can’t be pissed off. I can’t end the friendship based on something like that. Our friendship is based off who we are as human beings. The basketball adds to it. If we don’t get along on the basketball court, we can easily talk it out as friends.”