After the first wave of Nash-Mania swept the borough of Brooklyn, the NBA is turning to speculation about Brooklyn’s newest head coach. After all, there is no shortage of questions that can be asked about the first-time head coach and how he’ll fare in charge of the Nets. With the head coach position filled and the NBA’s transaction window still closed because of ongoing CBA negotiations, speculation turns to the rest of the Brooklyn bench. Let’s take a look at who could potentially be joining Nash on the sidelines next year.
In tandem with the announcement of Nash’s hiring came the news of former interim head coach Jacque Vaughn becoming the highest-paid assistant coach in the league. Nets management had met with Vaughn just days prior, and I had speculated they negotiated terms to retain JV in an assistant’s role.
Vaughn’s importance to the coaching staff once next season rolls around cannot be understated. Upon Nash being brought in, he and Vaughn were described as a “package”. Despite a stellar career and one the greatest point guards of all time — a role that is often described as being “a coach on the floor — the fact remains; Steve Nash had absolutely no coaching experience on the NBA level prior to joining the Nets. Jacque Vaughn, on the other hand, is a seasoned coach who just finished up his second stint at head coach, this time for the Nets in the Orlando Bubble.
It’s been made clear by the Nets brass that Nash’s leadership is among the main qualities he brings to the table in this role. He’ll excel in that role, meshing with some of the more eccentric personalities on the Nets roster such as Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Kevin Durant. Vaughn is seasoned as an X’s and O’s manager and comfortable with the day-to-day responsibilities that come with being an NBA coach. He’s so crucial, in fact, Nash went as far as to say that when he was considering taking the Nets job, Vaughn’s presence was essential.
Right now, there are a plethora of head coach openings in the NBA. The two New York squads handled their business early — the Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau – but Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Houston, and Indiana all still are searching for their next leading man or woman. Vaughn is on the preliminary list for both Houston and Indiana, but luckily for the Nets they are likely to look otherwise, fancying Becky Hammond, Mike D’antoni, and Tyronn Lue. Remember, the Nets would have to grant any potential team permission to interview Vaughn, although it is considered customary for a promotion.
First off, I’d like to address a very fun but improbable possibility. Shortly after the announcement of Nash’s hiring in the morning, Marc Stein reported that Nash had “gauged Dirk Nowitzki’s interest in coming to Brooklyn as an assistant coach”. Nash and Nowitzki were teammates in Dallas and have stayed close friends ever since, visiting each often with their families. Nowitzki declined the offer, ever a loyal Maverick. Of note in Stein’s tweet though, is “Nowitzki is not looking to return to the game full-time so early in his retirement”. Nowitzki last played in 2019, just last year. Nash himself has said it took a few years of being a family man for that “itch” to return to the game. It’s still a possibility that somewhere in the future Dirk is suited on the Nets bench.
Pooch Tweet: Nets retain coaches
Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily gave us an idea of what Nash’s staff will look like, although there is still a lot left in the air. Adam Harrington is expected to return, a close friend of Kevin Durant’s and a contributing reason to him choosing the Nets as a Free Agent in 2019. Who will fill the remaining holes in the coaching staff?
If there’s anything the current incarnation of Brooklyn Nets should teach viewers, it is that the NBA is a league built on connections. The foundation of Steve Nash’s hiring was based on his connections to the organization, primarily Sean Marks and Kevin Durant. As for the rest of the coaching staff, they will likely already be connected to the team’s personnel. Enter Phil Handy. Current Lakers assistant coach, former Cavaliers assistant, and a Nets target as an assistant coach.
Handy has a close bond with Kyrie Irving from their time in Cleveland together and is credited with revitalizing the Cavs when they faced a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 Finals. Handy was an assistant on the Lakers during the 2012-13 season when Nash was their Point Guard. They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but would Handy leave a contending situation in Los Angeles?
While Phil Handy’s connection to Brooklyn is Kyrie Irving-based, Royal Ivey’s revolves around Kevin Durant. Currently a Knicks assistant coach, Ivey was hired by New York in 2019 in part to lure Durant to the Big Apple. Ian Begley reported that several teams were expressing interest in Royal Ivey, the same day Shams Charania reported that “The Nets are pursuing multiple assistant candidates for head coach Steve Nash’s staff”.
Durant was teammates with Ivey as a Texas Longhorn and in Oklahoma City. Of course, the Knicks would have to grant permission for Ivey to interview with Brooklyn, but Begley’s reporting says they are likely to, as is customary.
After being hired, Steve Nash was quickly compared to Steve Kerr. Both unathletic, short NBA point guards who were hired without any coaching experience, but with tremendous knowledge of the game. Plus, Nash had been learning from Kerr for the past few years as a consultant for the Warriors.
When Kerr was first brought on by Golden State, the Warriors brass made sure to surround the former TV commentator with plenty of experienced coaches on the bench, namely Alvin Gentry. Why not bring Gentry back, this time to help Nash in Brooklyn? Gentry coached Nash during his tenure at Phoenix and his fast-paced offenses would fit into the scheme Nash seems to be leaning towards.
Steve Nash on the Nets identity: "We have to be successful defensively, protect the basket. Offensively, we're going to adapt to our playing staff. We're built for the modern game. I come in with my principles; play fast, make quick decisions, space the floor."— Alec Sturm (@alec_sturm) September 9, 2020
Gentry was let go by New Orleans this offseason and hasn’t been a candidate for any other job openings this offseason.