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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Tom Lutz

Slumping Brooklyn Nets fire Steve Nash amid chaos on and off the court

Steve Nash talks to Kevin Durant earlier this month as the pressure mounted on his position
Steve Nash talks to Kevin Durant earlier this month as the pressure mounted on his position. Photograph: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

The Brooklyn Nets have attempted to arrest the chaos surrounding the franchise by firing head coach Steve Nash after two seasons in the job.

“We want to thank Steve for everything he brought to our franchise over the past two-plus seasons,” said the Nets general manager, Sean Marks, in a press release on Tuesday. “Since becoming head coach, Steve was faced with a number of unprecedented challenges, and we are sincerely grateful for his leadership, patience and humility throughout his tenure. Personally, this was an immensely difficult decision; however, after much deliberation and evaluation of how the season has begun, we agreed that a change is necessary at this time. We wish Steve, Lilla and their family all the best in the future.”

When Nash joined the Nets at the start of the 2020-21 season, they were expected to compete for a championship with the All-Star duo of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant later joined by former league MVP James Harden. However, after finishing second in the Eastern Conference, they lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. The following campaign was even more disappointing as Irving sat out large parts of the season due to his decision not to get vaccinated. Harden struggled with injury and was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal that brought Ben Simmons to Brooklyn, and the Nets were swept in the first-round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

The problems have only increased in recent months. In August, Durant reportedly demanded to be traded unless the Nets fired Nash and Marks. While that danger seemingly passed there was instability elsewhere. Simmons, a former No 1 overall pick, has been woefully ineffective while Irving tweeted out a link to a documentary containing antisemitic tropes last week and subsequently refused to back down from his stance, despite claiming he respects all religions. On Monday night, fans courtside wore t-shirts reading “Fight antisemitism” as Irving played in front of them.

Crucially, the Nets struggled on court. Their 2-5 record puts them 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and Nash appeared unable to unite his team.

In a statement, Nash thanked the Nets for an “amazing experience with many challenges that I’m incredibly grateful for.”

Eyebrows were raised when Nash, whose brilliant playing career ended with his enshrinement in the basketball hall of fame, was appointed to lead the Nets, despite never having served as a head coach. While many of the Nets’ problems were out of Nash’s control, his downfall was far from a surprise as Brooklyn reel from one problem to the next.

Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn will replace Nash while the Nets look for a permanent replacement. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said possibles to take the job include former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Ime Udoka, who is serving a suspension at the Boston Celtics but would be available to take a job at another team.

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