The Brooklyn Nets are a team in transition with new head coach Steve Nash. However, Kyrie Irving’s recent comments on Kevin Durant’s podcast are a red flag.
There is nothing uncomplicated about the Brooklyn Nets these days. Last season, the Nets were a young, up-and-coming team without a superstar, but they worked hard and had a coach in Kenny Atkinson who expected a lot out of them. Then free agency rolled around, and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving came to town.
Both players were rumored to go any number of places, not the least of which the New York Knicks, and there was next to no buzz about them heading to Brooklyn until the deed was done.
Needless to say, everything changed. Instead of being a team on an upward trajectory, they had two stars, and two unpredictable, mercurial stars at that. Over time, even though Kevin Durant was out for the season with an injury and Kyrie Irving missed much of the season as well, Atkinson’s coaching style grated on them and that’s the mark of death for a team with stars and high expectations.
Atkinson was fired shortly before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jacque Vaughn performed admirably as the interim coach before the hiatus and then again in the NBA bubble in Orlando, leading the Nets to a 5-3 bubble record and making every team they faced work to beat them. The Nets were badly afflicted by COVID-19 and ended up sending a virtual skeleton crew of G Leaguers and two-way signees to Orlando, but through it all, Vaughn got the best out of them.
After a brief coaching search, Vaughn was moved to lead assistant and the Nets hired Steve Nash has their head coach. It was a stunning, out of nowhere move that was somehow even more surprising than Durant and Irving signing there in the first place. Nash was a player development coach with the Golden State Warriors while Durant was there, and apparently, that was enough to get the deal done with the Nets organization.
The Brooklyn Nets opted to avoid experience rather than embrace it
Generally, a team with the expectations that the Nets have will go with an experienced coach, and there are plenty on the market. That list includes Ty Lue, with whom Irving won a championship when they were together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It seems more and more like the duo might have just wanted a figurehead coach while they run the ship themselves, and Kyrie Irving’s comments on Kevin Durant’s podcast on Thursday might have just illuminated the issue better than ever:
“I don’t really see us having a ‘head’ coach. KD could be a head coach, I could be a head coach (some days).”
“Jacque Vaughn could be a head coach, could do it one day. It’s a collaborative effort.”
Is that actually what a head coach is? Is anything about this a “head coach”? Have Irving and Durant supplanted authority on their team in an even more obvious way than stars usually do in the NBA?
Maybe, but this is their team more than anything else. Ultimately they’ll be responsible for what happens whether good or bad, even if the repercussions go no further than slander on social media. And that’s nothing new to either Irving or Durant.
We’re learning more and more just how important coaching is. The LA Clippers just fired their coach, Doc Rivers, after a colossal second-round failure, and that Clippers squad is quite a bit better than this Nets team, even at full strength. While Nash will have plenty of time to try to make his mark on the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have already made it clear just how business will be done on their team next season.