After the Boston Celtics completed a 4-0 first-round playoff series sweep of his team on Monday, Nets superstar forward Kevin Durant issued his second endorsement of Steve Nash as head coach of the future.
Durant was asked if he still believes Nash, who just completed his second season as a head coach after serving as a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors, is the right man for the Nets job.
“I mean, come on, now,” Durant responded. “Yeah (I believe that). Steve’s been dealt a crazy hand the last two years. He’s had to deal with so much stuff as a head coach, a first-time coach: trades, injuries, COVID, it’s just a lot of stuff he’s had to deal with and I’m proud of how he’s focused and his passion for us . We all continue to keep developing over the summer and see what happens.”
Nash was asked directly if he expects to return as head coach of the Nets next season after two consecutive years at the helm fell short of championship aspirations.
“Yeah, I loved doing this and love these guys, love my staff, love all the departments,” Nash responded. “Really have a great working environment, really enjoyed it and want to continue doing it.”
Nash has been under fire given the Nets’ recent lack of success. After the regular season spiraled out of control due to many off the court factors — including but not limited to Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status, Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain and James Harden’s midseason trade request — Nash’s Nets looked outmatched in their first-round matchup against the Celtics .
To add salt to the wound, Nash’s former assistant coach, Ime Udoka, picked up the broomstick at Barclays Center and swept him out of the first-round with a league-best defense and Coach of the Year votes to tout.
Nash quickly began looking forward to next season, provided he is back. NBA reporter Marc Stein reported the Nets don’t have any intentions of dismissing Nash this summer.
“I think Ben Simmons and Joe Harris will give us a big lift and we’ll see how the rest of the roster rounds out, but we should be excited by that,” Nash said postgame. “Getting two of your top four guys back, two guys with size and one who is an All Star and one who is one of the best shooters in the league. I think that gives us a big boost.
“That allows other guys to fall back into their natural positions where they don’t have to guard big guys every night or play too many minutes where they have to do too much against tall defenses where it can be very difficult for a bunch of guys giving up size at every position. So I think those guys will really help. Obviously the rest of the roster is very key, as well, and so we have this summer to work at that.”
Nash also suggested he hopes to keep his coaching staff intact.
“We’ll see if anyone has a job opportunity to be a head (coach), but (I) really enjoyed working with my staff,” he said. “They’ve been unbelievable at staying together this year.”
Moving on from Nash would set a bad precedent. It would mark the third head coach in as many years since the Durant-Irving era: The Nets dismissed Kenny Atkinson shortly before entering the Orlando bubble, then promoted Jacque Vaughn to interim head coach before demoting him back to an assistant in favor of hiring Nash .
But the fact still remains: His former understudy — who was more qualified for a head coaching job with seven seasons under Gregg Popovich and an additional season coaching Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia — found a way to neutralize Durant in a four-game playoff series and swept Nash’s Nets off their own home floor.
Nash, however, clearly has his superstar’s stamp of approval, and the Nets will spend their summer looking for ways to improve the roster. For now, it doesn’t appear a coaching change is on the way. Though all things are subject to change with yet another championship-hopeful season coming up empty in Brooklyn.