Brooklyn Boro

Season one an eye-opener for Steve Nash

Nets head coach reflects on eventful rookie campaign

June 29, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Steve Nash saw it all during his rookie season on the Brooklyn Nets’ bench.

The first-year head coach had to deal with COVID-19 positive tests and protocols.

He had to coach three of the top-10 players in the league, though they very rarely wound up on the hardwood together due to injury or a couple of barely-explained absences.

The former two-time NBA Most Valuable Player as a Hall of Fame point guard even had to shake off the notion that the Nets didn’t have a true head coach, something Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving intimated during a podcast before Nash had worked a single game on the Brooklyn sideline.

Despite it all, Nash guided Brooklyn to its best-ever regular-season winning percentage (48-24) and the top offensive efficiency rating in the history of the sport.

But he also had to swallow a Game 7 loss at Barclays Center to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, leaving the Nets a couple of rounds shy of their ultimate goal: Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.

After the whirlwind experience, Nash took some time to look back last week from the team’s practice facility in Sunset Park.

He reflected on what was, and what could have been during a scintillating but ultimately disappointing initial season at the helm.

“It’s tough, really tough,” said Nash after falling five wins shy of leading the Nets to their first NBA Finals since 2003. “We were so close to advancing. On the one hand, there’s disappointment and pain to not continue and to not go all the way, as we set out to do.

“I look at all the adversity we faced, and our team gave it absolutely everything they had. So we told the players just how proud we are, the way they approached the season, the work they put in, the way they were able to overcome a lot of things. They put us in a position to continue to play.”

As did Nash, who admittedly relied heavily on a veteran group of coaching assistants as the high-priced Nets were a cause celebre on the national scene.

Adding James Harden in February, getting Blake Griffin as a “glue guy” and saying hello and goodbye to LaMarcus Aldridge following his arrival and retirement just 15 days later forced Nash to switch lineups and give his triumvirate of superstars the adequate rest throughout the campaign.

Head coach Steve Nash is looking forward to chasing Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955 next season. AP Photo by David Zalubowski

It also made it every difficult to get his team in tune for a postseason run that was supposed to end in a parade down Flatbush Avenue.

Regardless of the final outcome, however, Nash relished his first coaching opportunity in a league he once dominated as a player.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “I have the pleasure of working with some amazing people. The players, first and foremost, were outstanding with their effort and attitude, the way they work together to find solutions to all the things we faced this year.

“But just the organization as a whole, all the different departments, analytics, film performance, front office, you go down the line, there’s just high-quality people in every department. So it was a blast to be a part of this team, and I can’t wait to continue to grow and develop individually, but also collectively.”

Nash and the Nets are now on the hot seat to deliver in Season Two together.

If there is turbulence along the way, Nash will deal with it in stride, much as he did throughout this past year.

“It didn’t go our way this time,” he said. “but we’ll take some of this with us and it will make us stronger and we’ll approach that next season with this in our toolbox and it will grow our character and resolve.”

Next up for the former coaching neophyte is the July 29 NBA Draft and the Nets’ participation in the Summer League, which will run from Aug. 8-17.

Just like everything else he confronted in his rookie season, Nash is looking forward to the challenge.

“So that’s exciting, I like that part of the process, I like trying to be as inquisitive and seeking as much information or clarity as possible to make decisions, and sometimes it might just be one thing that is all that’s needed,” he said.

“Sometimes it might be 50 little things, but you have to be open-minded, you have to be inquisitive to find the answers, and then you have to decide which are relevant for moving forward for us. So it’s kind of a bigger process than being a player in that there are so much more layers to it, but it’s very similar in that you go into the summer, try to reflect on it and how can you revamp for next season.”

Kevin Durant will be taking his talents to Tokyo, Japan for the Olympics next month as a member of the USA men’s basketball. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

NOTHING BUT NET: Durant was named to the 2021 USA Men’s Olympic basketball team on Monday, giving him a chance to join Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony as the only Team USA members to win three gold medals. Fresh off an historic performance in the playoffs, Durant will start training camp in Las Vegas with his Olympic teammates on July 6 and will play in five exhibition games before the team departs for Tokyo, Japan to face France on July 15. Durant, who led Brooklyn in scoring throughout the playoffs, led Team USA in points on the way to gold in 2012 and 2016.

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