How will the Brooklyn Nets hiring of former star point guard Steve Nash as their next head coach impact the search of the Chicago Bulls?
The Brooklyn Nets made one of the initial big splash coaching hires of the 2020 offseason so far. They had one of the “win-now” approaches for a head coaching candidate that was in line to interview for their job opening. Between having injured stars that should be back next season, forward Kevin Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving, the Nets are one of the sleeping giants in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2020-21 campaign. They are in a very different spot right now than the Chicago Bulls, who are heading into the fourth year of their rebuild.
This coaching position opened up for the Nets back in March, when former head coach Kenny Atkinson was let go after four years at the helm in Brooklyn. It was one of the more surprising coaching departures in the last couple of years. Atkinson took the Nets rebuild to new heights during the 2018-19 campaign, when they were the surprise team that made the playoffs in the East.
In the current year, the offseason began for the Nets after falling short against the two-seed Toronto Raptors (as the seven-seed in the East) in a four game series sweep in the first round of the playoffs. The Nets were among the most injured teams in the playoffs (missing the likes of Irving, Durant, and standout point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, among others).
Moreover, replacing Atkinson won’t be an easy job by any means. But the next head coaching hire will have to mesh well with the superstar duo of Kyrie and KD. This dynamic will have to be of a similar nature to that of former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, along with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie.
A superstar duo like that of Kyrie and KD is never easy to coach. And the man that will now be tasked with doing so is the former Phoenix Suns Hall-of-Fame point guard Steve Nash. The eight-time NBA All-Star selection, five-time assists champ, seven-time All-NBA Team selection, and two-time MVP award winner, Nash was announced to be the next head coach of the Nets on the morning of Sep. 3.
Nash ended his NBA career in 2015, largely due to health concerns. He always had a spotty track record in terms of injuries (especially in the latter portion of his NBA career). After his retirement, he took on a consulting role with the Golden State Warriors (where he saw a ton of success within the organization).
There’s also coaching and management experience that Nash had since his pro career ended with Canadian basketball. He’s been on staff with Team Canada in recent years, which could help the transition into the head coaching role with the Nets.
The real question that emerges with teams that still have coach openings around the NBA, like the Bulls, is how this Nets hiring of Nash will impact other candidate searches.
The Bulls weren’t really considering many former prominent players like Nash in their coaching search. But Nash’s profile coming into a head coaching role is similar to that of a few other successful NBA coaches. Warriors head coach, and former Bull Steve Kerr, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, and Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, are all former guards in the NBA that got into the coaching game at a pretty young age.
What those three current NBA head coaches also have in common is that they’ve found a lot of success in recent years and have a lot of longevity on their side.
Meshing well with the current roster and continuing to bring the team into the modern age of basketball in the most proficient sense seems to be what the Nets are trying to accomplish with the hiring of the 46-year-old Nash.
The Bulls should have a similar goal in mind with their next head coaching hire. It seemed like that was part of the goal when the Bulls hired former head coach Fred Hoiberg a few years back. But he didn’t translate too well from the college to the NBA level as a head coach.
The promotion and contract extension that were handed to now former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen just were not good ideas in the last two years. Boylen took over for Hoiberg back in December 2018, and posted a record in his two seasons at the helm of 39-84. The Bulls rounded out the 2019-20 season with a record of 22-43, good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings.
All of the coaching candidates that the Bulls appear to be after right now to replace Boylen are largely those that have proven head coach experience, or assistants with connections to Arturas Karnisovas and/or Marc Eversley. Those like Atkinson, Philadelphia 76ers lead assistant Ime Udoka, and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, are commonly mentioned in connection early to the Bulls head coaching search.
Those such as Lue, Griffin, Jason Kidd, and Darvin Ham, could be among the legit coaching candidates for the Bulls that fit more in line with the Nash hiring with the Nets. But none of those would be as surprising as the Nash hiring.
No matter what transpires with the coaching searches for teams like the Bulls, Sixers, and New Orleans Pelicans, the hiring of Nash with the Nets is sure to make a big impact. It is a pretty jostling big splash hire that likely took some by surprise.