Steve Nash, Nets agree to part ways after 2-5 start to NBA season
Canadian head coach leaving amid more controversy surrounding player Kyrie Irving
The Brooklyn Nets refused to fire Steve Nash over the summer, no matter what Kevin Durant wanted.
But with the Nets off to a disappointing start amid more controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving, the team and coach both decided the change needed to happen now.
"We both felt this was time," general manager Sean Marks said.
Nash made it to this season after Durant said he wanted him out this summer, but not much longer. The Nets have been another mess, with bad play on the court and bad headlines off it.
The biggest — again — was created by Irving, who posted a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter page last week, drawing criticism from Nets owner Joe Tsai.
Marks said he and Nash had been talking for a week, perhaps more, before arriving at the decision that it was time for change.
"It was certainly trending that way and to be quite frank the team was not doing what it was supposed to be doing," Marks said. "We've fallen from our goals and of meeting our goals and it was time now because we still have lofty aspirations of where we need get to."
Marks said players were not consulted, but Durant said there wouldn't have been any need because everyone knew the situation the Nets were in.
"Let's be real. We're pros, we're veterans," Durant said. "We had a tough start. It was a rocky year last year, rocky summer. We knew that everybody was being evaluated. That's just how it is in the league."
Talks over replacement already ongoing
The Nets may move quickly to replace Nash.
A person with knowledge of the matter said the Nets were in discussions with suspended Boston coach Ime Udoka — a former Brooklyn assistant who is not with the Celtics this season because he was found to have violated team rules by having a relationship with a female staffer within the organization. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those talks were not revealed publicly.
The Nets may move quickly to replace Nash. A person with knowledge of the matter said the Nets were in discussions with suspended Boston coach Ime Udoka, a former Brooklyn assistant who is not with the Celtics this season because he was found to have violated team rules by having a relationship with a female staffer within the organization. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those talks were not revealed publicly.
ESPN first reported the talks between Udoka and the Nets. The Nets said a decision on the team's next coach would be made in the near future.
Nash had no previous head coaching experience when he took over behind the Nets bench before the 2020-21 season. Before joining Brooklyn, he had been a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors from 2015-2020 where he had also worked with Durant.
In his two-plus years, Nash posted a 94-67 record and the Nets made the playoffs in both his full seasons as head coach. But they were ousted in the first round of the 2021-22 post-season despite starting the season with a roster that included Irving, Durant and James Harden. Irving only played 29 games after declining to receive a vaccination against COVID-19, mandated at the time in New York City.
Criticized team on weekend
Nash handled it all as best as possible, but apparently not good enough for his best player. Durant said he wanted to be traded this summer if the Nets didn't fire Marks and Nash, but Tsai stood by them and Durant eventually pulled back his request.
We have to look deep, deep inside ourselves and what we want to do, what we want to accomplish.— Steve Nash after the Nets' loss to Indiana on Saturday
Nash downplayed that before this season began, saying he didn't believe the reports were entirely true and that they had quickly talked through their issues.
But things started poorly this season and Nash gave some his hardest criticism of the team during his tenure after their loss to Indiana on Saturday night, calling their defensive effort a "disaster" and saying he didn't see desire or will.
"We have to look deep, deep inside ourselves and what we want to do, what we want to accomplish," Nash said. "Do we want to give up on this because it's been difficult early, or do we want to stay the course and start to build something?"
Much of that was ignored because the focus was on Irving's combative news conference defending his tweet, and the Nets beat the Pacers in the rematch Monday to end a four-game skid.
But Nash's tenure ended anyway a day later, hours before Brooklyn is set to host Chicago. Jacque Vaughn will serve as acting head coach against the Bulls.
Tsai alluded to the constant turbulence around the team in his statement thanking Nash.
"I've gotten to know Steve during his time in Brooklyn, and he is not one to shy away from challenges," Tsai said. "My admiration and respect for him grew over time as he brought hard work and positive attitude to our organization every day, even in periods of exceptional storm surrounding the team."
Marks chose his former teammate as coach in 2020 despite no experience in the job, citing Nash's ability to be a connector of personalities as a player, when he was a two-time MVP with the Phoenix Suns who ended his 18-year career third on the NBA's list with 10,335 assists.
But his schemes were criticized as the Nets struggled defensively throughout his tenure and often didn't show the ball-moving style of play on offence his Suns teams did, instead relying on Durant, Irving or Harden to isolate.
Beyond the player changes, Nash also had to adapt to changes on his bench. Mike D'Antoni, the two-time NBA coach of the year, stepped down as his assistant after one season, and Ime Udoka left to become coach of the Boston Celtics.
Nash averaged 14.3 points and 8.5 assists and shot 42.8 per cent from three-point range as a star point guard with Phoenix, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The eight-time all-star won back-to-back league MVP awards in 2005 and 2006.
He retired after the 2013-14 season and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Born in South Africa and raised in Victoria, Nash represented Canada internationally multiple times, most notably as the motor of the Canadian team that finished seventh at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He won the Lionel Conacher Award as The Canadian Press male athlete of the year three times (2002, 2005, 2006) and was voted Canada's athlete of the year in 2005.
Home loss follows coaching change
In the Nets' first game after the coaching change, Zach LaVine scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to lead the visiting Chicago Bulls to a 108-99 victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday night in the Nets' first game after a coaching change.
Kevin Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, but Kyrie Irving managed only four points on 2-for-12 shooting. He missed all six 3-point attempts.
DeMar DeRozan added 20 points and Ayo Dosunmu had 17 for the Bulls, who outscored the Nets 31-19 in the final quarter.
With files from The Canadian Press
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