During his introductory press conference earlier Wednesday, new Nets head coach Steve Nash was of course asked about his relationships with Kevin Durant and GM Sean Marks, his thoughts on Kyrie Irving, and a lot of big-picture items as he embarks on his first coaching gig.
He went further in-depth when joining Joe & Evan to kick off the 4 p.m. hour on WFAN, explaining just how quickly (or not) his candidacy for the Nets’ coaching gig went from unknown to final answer.
“Based on the relationship (with Marks) we’ve had for years, I thought it was a good fit and thought there was a good chance I’d be considered,” Nash told Joe & Evan. “You have to go through the process, but I would’ve been more surprised if he wasn’t willing to listen. And, at this moment in time, this is a great situation not just for me personally, but for my family.”
Nash noted that “if this was a developmental situation,” the move might not have been right, but he inherits a roster that starts at the top with Durant, whom he has worked with for years both as an opponent, a friend, and a mentor as a consultant in Golden State.
“We have a great relationship; when I was finishing my career, we would work out during the summer, and then I would help him after I retired. And, with the Warriors, we got to work together more closely,” Nash said. “I feel a great connection with him, and as a rookie coach, having that plays a big role as well.”
Evan asked Nash about Durant’s supposed quote that he “wasn’t fulfilled” even after winning an NBA title in Golden State, and that’s something his new coach maybe has some insight into.
I don’t know what that quote was specifically, but maybe it was more a comment about Kevin’s inquisitive nature, and how he’s always striving to grow as a person,” Nash said. “Maybe it’s not all about winning, but about the journey and the self-realization that comes with it. On top of obvious gifts, Kevin has a passion for this game that very few have. He loves to play and compete, wants to win, and is an unselfish superstar.”
Then there’s the mercurial Irving, who only suited up briefly for Brooklyn this year, but is, as Nash put it, “one of my all-time favorite players” to watch.
“He is highly intelligent and creative, and a unique individual who is continually extending himself to the community. I can’t wait to get to know him more and see what drives him, and what makes him able to be so driven in the community while still playing at a high-level on the court,” Nash said. “He’s an incredible person, and I really admire the way he’s put himself in position to help people with his platform.”
As he noted earlier in the day, Nash believes playing with so many stars in his career will help him prep to now coach them, because his M.O. was to always build a relationship that was more about the human than the status. That may be key with Durant.
“But when I say we have a friendship, it’s not like we’re going out for beers together – we have a relationship, but it’s built on the game of basketball,” Nash said. I don’t see this being a problem, because we were always together on the court, working on things. He was very excited when I got the job, though, and that’s very important to me.”
As for the rest of the roster, well, the next man up so to speak is Caris LeVert, and Nash is greatly looking forward to working with Brooklyn’s home-grown portion of the “Big 3.”
“I’ve known Caris for a few years and always admired his game. He’s a great piece for us,” Nash said. “The NBA seems to be increasingly about who can contain the ball, and vice versa, who can penetrate and create high-value shots. Caris is a guy who can attack and make the first domino fall. It’s about making these pieces fit together, and a lot is left to be determined, but Caris is versatile – he can start, he can maybe fit that Ginobili role as a closer – but it’s exciting to have a player of his caliber, another player who loves the game.”
The rest of the group is in flux – Joe Harris is a free agent, Wilson Chandler is reportedly headed back to China, and other pieces still need to be locked down – but Nash likes what he sees so far.
“There’s been a lot of work done the last five-plus years. In the NBA, everyone is always trying to improve, but I come in here grateful for the roster that we have,” Nash said. “I’m preparing us to be the best team we can be with this roster – I expect this core to be there, but in the NBA, you have to be adaptable and know that anything can happen, so my focus is on trying to put this group in the best position to succeed.”
And as for what that entails?
“The first thing you think about is that we have to be successful defensively; we have to be able to match up with different teams, and figure out how the frame we’re building holds up,” Nash said. “Offensively, I think we’re built for the modern game. I definitely come in with my principles on a high level, but we’ll adapt to our players. The expectations are something I’m well aware of, and one of the things that made this an exciting opportunity.”
You can listen to Nash’s entire segment with Joe & Evan below!