The Brooklyn Nets had one primary directive in picking their next head coach: find someone who could connect with Kevin Durant. The superstar forward that missed the 2019-20 season will return from a ruptured Achilles tendon next season, and after chemistry problems plagued Durant's final season with the Golden State Warriors, the Nets needed to find a coach who could keep both him and the rest of the team happy.
They believe they've found that coach in Steve Nash, the legendary point guard whose basketball acumen and communication skills have always been revered around the league. His relationship with Durant, though, likely played a huge role in getting him the Nets job. The two worked together in Golden State, where Nash was a part-time consultant, and in an appearance on JJ Redick's "The Old Man and the Three" podcast, he blessed the hire by raving about Nash's basketball acumen.
"His insight for the game, his communication, how he communicates the game of basketball is definitely going to help me as a player develop and it's going to help the rest of the team," Durant said, as transcribed by ESPN.
"Every time I'm in the gym with him, I was always like a sponge," Durant said. "I'm looking forward to this man. I always feel like I'm a student of the game. Somebody who has experienced so much and played in different eras, I'm looking forward to him teaching me some more things about it as well."
The Nets have tried to surround Nash, a first-time coach with no full-time coaching experience, with assistants that can fill in gaps where he is inexperienced. His top assistant will be Jacque Vaughn, a two-time head coach who just thrived in the bubble with many of the players Brooklyn will retain next season. Brooklyn can live with Nash needing time to adjust to the intricacies of NBA coaching, X's and O's and in-game adjustments.
What they wanted out of a coach was someone who could get the most out of their two eccentric superstars. That didn't necessarily mean hiring the best coach. Durant, after all, left Steve Kerr, a two-time champion, while Kyrie Irving left Brad Stevens, one of the most well-regarded coaches in basketball. It meant hiring the right coach. Nash earned Durant's respect with the Warriors, and as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, he will likely gain Irving's fairly quickly. If he can maximize those two players, his hiring will have been a success.