Steve Nash will start his third year with Brooklyn in training camp, but now the dream of a title team is, if not shattered, a bit cracked.
Will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving be back (and happy to be so) or will Nash be handed a rebuilt Brooklyn Nets with younger players and lesser goals? Those are two different missions for the Hall of Famer.
As Brian Lewis notes, he goes into Season 3 of a four-year deal with question marks.
Nash has seen his rotations and his endgame management questioned. In last season’s playoff sweep at the hands of the Celtics, his perceived lack of strategic adjustments came under fire. Then this offseason, the Nets lost three full-time assistant coaches and a host of other valuable staffers. The microscope of the NBA world will be on him.
Of course, he has the full faith and credit of Sean Marks backing him up. It was Marks who pushed Nash to join him in Brooklyn and the two remain good friends. Irving may have wanted Phil Handy and Durant Ty Lue but that’s in the past. The present is on Nash.
He’ll be bolstered on the bench by eight assistants, quite likely the biggest staff in the league. It will be heavy on player development. Although Adam Harrington, a KD friend and favorite, is gone, Igor Kokoskov, the former head coach at Phoenix and with the Slovenian and Serbian national teams, has been hired. On the Nets coaching roster, Kokoskov is listed right under Nash and his top assistant, Jacque Vaughn. The team also added Adam Caporn and Trevor Hendry who also have a lot player development experience.
Durant, who reportedly asked for a trade on June 30, has been working out with Harrington in recent days.
Is there something more to the video, posted by Boardroom, the KD-owned platform, other than training? Is it a signal to the Nets ownership and management that his loyalty to friends and family is sacrosanct?
Kokoskov may very well be key to the Nets success. Nash wanted him back in 2020 when he was head coach of Fenerbahce, the Turkish powerhouse. As Alex Schiffer wrote recently:
Shortly after Steve Nash was named the Brooklyn Nets head coach in 2020, he made a long-distance call to Turkey to try to hire Igor Kokoškov to his inaugural coaching staff. The two had crossed paths in Phoenix from 2008-12, when Kokoškov was an assistant under Terry Porter and Alvin Gentry during the back end of Nash’s prime — and Kokoškov became one of Nash’s favorite coaches…
Nash isn’t the only important figure around the Nets who has crossed paths with Kokoškov — or who shares his interests. Kokoškov overlapped with Irving for one season in Cleveland.
Besides being a development coach known for catering workouts to each player’s skill set, as Schiffer writes, he is the wizened old head on the staff. His resume’ includes head coaching stints in the NBA, Euroleague and FIBA as well as assistant gigs in the NCAA at Missouri and with the Clippers, Pistons, Suns, Cavaliers, Magic, Jazz, Kings, Mavericks and now the Nets. He used all of his experiences to round out his knowledge. It was he who first taught NBA players the Euro-step. He also has an NBA ring, with the 2004 Pistons.
Nash, of course, will be playing with cards dealt him by Marks and he may not know what he’s going to have on his camp roster until September. Last season, he was dealt a bad hand, what with Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, James Harden’s trade request, Kevin Durant’s knee injury that shelved him for six weeks, Ben Simmons on-again, off-again return to play and just the general drain of figuring things out. Brooklyn led the league in starting lineups and rookies wound up with nearly 3,000 minutes on the court.
Was there enough of a record on which to rate his performance? The hope is that things would stabilize this season, but as the summer has proven, that’s not the case … at all. It is the reverse. That’s not to offer excuses for Nash but as his former protege’ Goran Dragic said of the season. “Every day there was something different, something difficult.”
Of course, one of the strengths of a good coach is his or her ability to adjust. With 154 games now on his resume’ (92-62), Nash has seen it all and no matter what the roster on September 27. he’ll be judged by what he gets from it.
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