In a surprising move Thursday morning, the Brooklyn Nets announced Steve Nash as the next head coach of the team. For weeks, there had been speculation over who would step in to lead this franchise with championship aspirations. Would the team promote interim head coach Jacque Vaughn to full time after his impressive stint in control after the firing of Kenny Atkinson? Would general manager Sean Marks try to coax Greg Popovich away from the Spurs to coach Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, or would they go with another experienced coach?

Apparently, we were all looking in the wrong direction, and while Nash’s hiring came out of nowhere, when you look at the decision a little deeper, it makes some sense when you consider his friendship with Kevin Durant. 

“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,” Nash said via ESPN’s The Undefeated. “It dates back to when I was finishing my career and we would work out together, and working with him with the Warriors. … 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.”

Prior to getting the position with the Nets, Nash was hired as a player development consultant for the Warriors before the 2015-16 season. After that season, Durant signed with Golden State in free agency, something that Nash had a hand in.

In an interview with The Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami, Durant said that Nash was the last person he called before making his decision to sign with the Warriors during the summer of 2016. After a half dozen teams pitched themselves to Durant, the former league MVP wanted to hear from Nash, who had only been with the Warriors for just one season at the time. 

“I trust his judgment on stuff. He’s always kept it real with me. He wasn’t recruiting me or anything, he just let me know how it is here…,” Durant said at the time. “I asked him how the guys would feel if I came here. He just said everybody’s selfless, no egos… Well, everybody has to have a ego, but you know what I mean. Guys don’t really take themselves too seriously. I wouldn’t say he made the decision for me, but he made me feel good about it.”

After that call with Nash, Durant publicly announced his decision to sign with Golden State the next day, and while the two were able to work more closely than ever before in the Bay Area, they already had a strong friendship prior to that. The summer after Durant won MVP in 2014, his trainer Adam Harrington introduced the two of them and suggested they work out together. Those workouts turned into frequent conversations, between the two over the years, and Nash became a “sage counselor” for Durant. 

When Nash would show up to the Warriors practice facility, he would work one-on-one with Durant in post-practice sessions, something that Durant sought out every time Nash was in town.

Nash would share his wisdom with Durant, in addition to different drills for him to include in his routine that would help him look at the game in a different way. The two developed a close bond during their time with the Warriors, and when Durant left Golden State to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, Nash wasn’t entirely surprised.

“Kevin’s a thoughtful — I don’t want to say complicated — sophisticated,  he’s continually pushing himself and searching for whatever it is that’s out there that’s going to fulfill him and excite him,” Nash said via The Bill Simmons Podcast. “I think maybe that part of it was underestimated that he would leave in three years, because that’s what led him there in the first place. He wanted something higher, bigger [when he left OKC for the Warriors]. He wanted to experience something different where he would be pushed in new ways, and it’s kind of the same thing that’s happening now.”

Durant missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season after he ruptured his Achilles tendon during the 2019 Finals, but is expected to be fully healthy whenever the 2020-21 season starts. When that happens, he’ll have a familiar face coaching him, someone who he already has close personal ties with, and who he trusts. Nash becoming Brooklyn’s next head coach is a shock, but the connection to its franchise star makes the move understandable. 

Nash says he also has a sound relationship with Irving as well. “Ky and I have history, not only being two point guards, but he is one of my favorite players to watch,” Nash said. “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.”  

The Nets are ready to move forward with their two superstars and new head coach in what could be a very successful 2020-21 campaign. “Frankly, we’re just all excited,” Nash said.

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