The NBA is all about the stars — getting along with them, and getting the most out of them.
Steve Nash was a two-time MVP who helped make coach Mike D’Antoni look good in Phoenix. Now he’s the rookie head coach of the Nets, a tenure that will be determined by how he gets along with his own stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Nash already has Durant’s respect after years as a consultant with Golden State, and his status as one of the most prolific point guards in history should allow him to earn Irving’s respect, if he doesn’t already have it.
“We both love the game of basketball. We got a bond over me, in a sense, being a teacher and a pupil through the years. It dates back to when I was finishing my career and we would work out together, and working with [Durant] with the Warriors,” Nash told ESPN.
“I think that there is a trust, a commonality and a language between us when it comes to the game that has developed over time. That definitely is important. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and to have his confidence is really important.”
Durant already had enough confidence in Nash that he canvassed the Hall of Famer before joining Golden State. And during their four years together there, they regularly worked out after practice.
Irving, meanwhile, has known Nash for years and backed the hire.
“Ky and I have history, not only being two point guards, but he is one of my favorite players to watch,” Nash told ESPN. “He and I spent a couple days in the gym, I believe it was 2015, in New York City working out. There is a respect and admiration there for me. For me and Ky, our relationship is important.
“He is the point guard and I’m the coach, and I’m thrilled I get the opportunity to know him better and to understand him, how he plays and what he sees and be here to help him refine his gifts.”
Considering Nash’s strong rapport with Durant, and Irving’s mercurial nature that saw an ugly exit in Boston, the new coach’s relationship with his point guard as his extension on the floor may be even more important.
“I’m sure that he’ll think that’s the key to his team. He’ll do what he needs to do, and he’ll figure it out,” D’Antoni said via Zoom.
Both Nets stars made it clear what they wanted in a coach, and Nets general manager Sean Marks said Nash fits the bill.
“Both expressed high character, they wanted a great communicator, they wanted someone they would respect. We hit the nail on the head with a hire like Steve,” Marks said on an ESPN podcast. “A lot of what I know of Steve is as the ultimate communicator. That’s what the guys asked for, and that’s what they got.”
Richard Jefferson, who helped the Nets to consecutive NBA Finals and broadcasts their games on YES, seconded that Nash clearly got the star’s rubber stamp.
“I believe that Steve wouldn’t have been hired — a first-time head coach — if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving didn’t also believe in the hire,” Jefferson said. “You do that when you have great players: You see what the room is.”
Durant’s management team declined comment, but Jay Williams, who works with them at his Thirty-Five Ventures, said Nash clearly had their approval.
“Look: The reality comes down to who ultimately will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trust?” Williams said. “They had to put their stamp on this relationship.”
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