After much consternation about who might be the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets (and plenty of Gregg Popovich rumors to boot), Marc Stein of the New York Times shocked the basketball world on Thursday morning when he reported that man will be Steve Nash. There was not an inkling of a rumor that Nash might be involved, and suddenly he's now the head coach of a stacked squad with championship aspirations. It will be, in all regards, a trial by fire.
Nash won two MVPs during his playing days and was inducted into the Hall of Fame two years ago. He's widely recognized as one of the best point guards to ever play the game and helped usher in the era of fast-paced basketball that has dominated the last decade of the NBA. He was also a pretty early rider on the three-point revolution train that transformed how basketball looked and led to grand experiments like the Houston Rockets over the last five seasons. The last time we saw Nash on the court, though, he looked nothing like the Hall of Fame point guard who dominated the early to mid-2000s. He struggled with a variety of injuries as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers before a back injury led to his retirement in March 2015.
Since then, Nash has not been particularly visible in the basketball world. He joined the Golden State Warriors as a part-time consultant in 2015 and earned his first championship ring in 2017. Otherwise, Nash's name hasn't been mentioned in any respect when it comes to the many coaching position that have opened up over the last few years, head coach or otherwise. And now, all of a sudden, he's the man in charge of the Nets.
Nash was obviously a basketball genius as a player and could run an offense like few other individuals in NBA history. He has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the X's and O's side of things. But that's not the whole job as a head coach. He'll need to manage egos and personalities, of which the Nets have in abundance with their two superstars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Nash will also be heading a team that not only hopes but expects to be in championship contention next season in the toughest media market in the country.
That's not exactly the makings of an easy transition to NBA head coaching life. If the team underperforms at all, Nash is going to be in the crosshairs. First-time head coaches usually get a decent margin for error, but Nash doesn't have that luxury with this particular position. The Nets need to be good, they need to be good right away, and Durant and Irving need to be happy. Nash's debut will also come in a weird season that will still be affected by the global pandemic and may even be condensed with the start date currently scheduled for early December.
It's a tall task. Nash very well could be up to the challenge. None of this is to say he's doomed to fail. But even for a basketball lifer like Nash, the leap from player-turned-consultant to head coach is quite a sizable one. He'll need to learn on the job, and he'll need to do it quick, too. The clock is already ticking on the Nets' championship window, and the onus is now on Nash to make it happen. No pressure, though.