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Kevin Durant: Key to NBA head coaches success is ‘managing personalities’


In an extensive interview with David Letterman for his Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” Kevin Durant says that the key to success for NBA coaches is not so much x’s and o’s, but “managing personalities.”

Asked by Letterman what a head coach does “at the NBA level,” Kevin Durant responded, “Managing personalities. I think that’s the biggest thing. We all know how to play. We all know all the terminology. We know every single scheme that can be. But when you got a guy that can set the table for us, then tell us to go eat and let us do our thing, I think that’s the best coach ... Managing personalities, I think that their biggest job.”

Durant, of course, has praised Steve Nash for his ability to manage personalities — and crises — during the season while pundits and some fans have criticized Nash for his in-pay decision-making.

The interview was more a philosophical discussion between the two. There was no mention, for example, of Nash, Sean Marks, the Tsais or any of his teammates. It appeared to have been conducted prior to the season and in fact opens with Letterman’s seemingly odd appearance back at Media Day back in September. Now we know.

On his relationship with coaches, Durant elaborated on his philosophy of coaching. He said he’s never had any problems with his coaches from rec league to the pros, but did note that there have been disagreements between him and the head coach.

“I never had a problem with my coaches,” he told Letterman. acknowledging he’s had some “run-ins with coaches.”

Pressed by Letterman about what he meant by “run-ins,” Durant described them as “disagreements” and said it wasn’t just him disagreeing with his coaches but them wanting more from him.

“Over how something should be,” he explained to Letterman. “A play that may have been ran or a decision that I may have made or my leadership approach.”

Durant gave a non-committal answer on how long he will play. He is under contract with the Nets through the 2025-26 season. He said things depend on his level of play.

“Yeah, I can’t play, can’t be bringing in these checks or playing on TV in front of millions every night for the rest of my life,” he said, looking forward.

When Letterman noted that Tom Brady has said he might play til the age of 50, KD called that “hilarious” and told Letterman he doesn’t have a number like the Tampa Bay quarterback who’s now 44.

“You’ve not assigned a number to this?” Letterman asked. “Nah” responded Letterman. “I did before but now, it’s just like ...” trailing off as Letterman asked about his injuries. Durant admitted that he first started thinking about life after basketball after his first injury, a foot injury, seven years ago when he was in OKC.

The two spoke as well about his 2019 achilles tear and how he was uncertain whether it meant the end of his career.

Durant told Letterman that he “felt like I was looking in the face of his basketball death,” despite the fact that he wasn’t in pain, that he had just heard the “pop.”

“Obviously, it felt different,” he recounted. “Like I felt I was walking my foot was on a slant board and I was trying to walk. It was a weird feeling but I didn’t feel any pain.”

Durant said that a career-ending injury was “the first thing that came to my mind ... and it could have been.”

There were also moments in the interview when Durant made it clear he takes enormous pride in his game. In short, he knows who he is. He is Kevin Durant.

“I know how to control myself out there on the floor,” Durant said. “I feel I can dictate a lot out there. That’s fun knowing you got that kind of control.”

At another point, he said “My game it is what it is. I’m going to keep sharpening and adding tools and keep getting better but my overall approach is what it is,” KD told Letterman.

On a more cosmic question from Letterman — whether he changed the game or the game was moving in his direction, Durant said, “Nah, I feel like I helped though. I wouldn’t say I’m the main reason but it was on the way. Yeah, I think some people helped change the game. Some of us just play it.”

He also recalled the first NBA game he ever saw, a Washington Bullets game when he was 9 and how he set a goal that game. “Every NBA arena, I need to go in, need to play.”

The two played some hoops on the Barclays Center practice court and some shuffleboard at a Brooklyn court and talked about their relative contributions to society just by doing what they do.

When Durant said “I play a kid’s game. Is that more important?” Letterman stopped him and said that what KD has done is more important “because of the effect you have playing a kid’s game and especially now. just to elevate the mood, coast to coast and around the world and like the Olympics...

“You have a lot more responsibility to the culture and to the society than did I.”

Durant, for his part, said of Letterman’s contribution as late night host on NBC and CBS, “I think you had an important job. You had to tell the truth. You had to relay the message to the people. That’s important.”

He spoke as well about arriving in Brooklyn and switching numbers from 35 to 7 to “get into this Brooklyn experience’ but also, “the 7 looked so nice on the black-and-white” and “God rested on the 7th day meaning what he created was complete ... not that it was finished.”

The two spoke about a lot more including his relationship with his mother and father; his charitable contributions particularly in Prince Georges County, Maryland; his previously reported views of marijuana; how he sees e-sports as something he may want to do when he finally hangs them up and how he’s not a Knicks fan. Oh yeah, he told Letterman that he didn’t have girlfriend ... at least at the time of the taping.