Steve Nash’s tenure as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets is over.
On Tuesday, reports emerged that the two-time MVP had mutually agreed with the franchise to leave his post amid a 2-5 record to open the 2022/23 NBA season. Many expected Brooklyn to compete for a championship this year with Nash leading a stacked roster headlined by All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
Back when he was hired in September 2020, Nash’s surprising arrival was supposed to signal the beginning of a new era in the Eastern Conference; a move designed to unsettle the NBA landscape. With Nash at the helm and two established and bona fide superstars in Durant and Irving wreaking havoc on the court, the world appeared to be their oyster.
However, his 26-month spell in Brooklyn will be remembered as a turbulent time. Nash has had to endure, overcome and ultimately navigate a number of off-court dramas and distractions stemming from his two stars.
The Hall of Fame point guard was a part-time consultant with the Golden State Warriors when Durant was on the team, with the franchise winning two NBA championships during that time. The pair had history, but it didn’t take long for hiccups and general discontent to emerge.
Just one month into his career in October 2020, Irving oddly declared that the Nets did not have a true head coach in terms of leading the team - despite Nash hired to fulfil that exact role. Speaking on ‘The ETCs Podcast with Kevin Durant’, Irving said: “I don't really see us having a 'head’ coach. KD could be a head coach, I could be a head coach [some days].”
Durant remarkably agreed with Irving’s odd comments, adding it was a ‘collaborative effort’ before suggesting assistant coach Jacque Vaughn could also step in as head coach if necessary. It was an interesting exchange and only served to undermine Nash at a frankly ridiculously early stage in his tenure.
Nash and the Nets then truly stirred the NBA pot as the franchise traded for 2018 MVP and three-time scoring champion James Harden in January 2021. In order to pull off the monster move, Brooklyn sent highly-rated center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince to the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as guard Caris LeVert, forward Rodions Kurucs, three first round draft picks and four first round pick swaps to the Houston Rockets.
The incredible move meant Nash now had almost an unprecedented level of talent at his disposal in Durant, Irving and Harden - but the trio never gelled in the way the Nets had envisioned. Each superstar is ball-dominant and they struggled to find chemistry in what was a frustrating season.
Nash led the Nets to a 48–24 in his first season in charge - an improvement on the 35-37 prior campaign - but, with the names on their roster, success would be measured in the postseason. They advanced past the first round after seeing off the Boston Celtics in five games, and they faced Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference Semifinals - where they agonisingly lost to the future champions in a seven-game thriller.
Ahead of the 2021/22 season, the Nets were dealt a huge blow. General manager Sean Marks announced Irving would be ineligible to play or practice with the team due to his stance against the vaccine amid the the New York City vaccine mandate. Despite remaining unvaccinated, the Nets later declared Irving would return to the team as a part-time player for games outside of the New York area and Toronto due to the heavy minutes played by Durant and Harden in the star guard’s absence.
In February 2022, the Harden experiment ended. The Nets shipped him and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first round picks in an attempt to bring the best out of Irving and Durant ahead of the postseason.
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It didn’t work. The Nets were humiliatingly bounced in the first round by the Celtics, who swept their hapless opponents 4-0 and didn't seem to get out of first gear as Boston kickstarted their run to the NBA Finals.
The final blow came in the form of Durant’s bombshell decision to request a trade earlier this offseason. The 34-year-old handed in his trade request and allegedly gave the Nets an ultimatum to either fire general manager Marks and coach Nash or send him to another franchise. The wounds were ultimately healed, but Brooklyn's poor start to the season has led to yet another change of heart - and Durant appears to have gotten his wish.
Nash led the Nets to a disappointing 2-5 start to the new season as he attempted to navigate the return to the fold of the much-maligned Simmons. The Australian fouled out twice in his first three games, with the Nets losing on both occasions.
Nash may even be somewhat relieved that he is out of the Nets organisation and no longer has to speak on the behalf of his players who appear to be consistently embroiled in controversy. As a two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star, the Canadian deserved better from superstars like Durant and Irving who were supposed to perform for him and spectacularly failed in one way or another.