The Brooklyn Nets reached into their past to hire one of the franchise’s greatest players on Wednesday, opting to hire Jason Kidd as their new head coach. Brooklyn chose Kidd over Indiana associate head coach Brian Shaw, who interviewed for the position Wednesday afternoon.
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Kidd, the franchise’s leader in assists and steals, wowed the Nets when he interviewed for the job last weekend, giving the team’s management a strong vision of what he wanted to accomplish if they took a chance on him, despite his never having coached in any capacity. Kidd’s playing career just ended two weeks ago, when he retired after 19 seasons, the last of which came with the Knicks. Kidd played well for New York early in the season, teaming with guard Ray Felton, but his play slipped noticeably down the stretch, and he didn’t score a point in the team’s last 10 games, going 0 of 17 from the floor.
But Kidd, who was the co-Rookie of the Year in 1994 with Grant Hill, will go down as one of the game’s all-time greatest point guards. He’s second in league history in assists (12,091) and steals (2,684), trailing Hall of Famer John Stockton in both categories. His presence was crucial to the Mavericks’ successful playoff run in 2011, which culminated in a six-game Finals victory over Miami.
Kidd, according to a source, was mulling over potential television opportunities when he instead followed through on what many thought was just idle talk about wanting to become a head coach. He asked Nets president Billy King if he could have an audience to discuss a potential transition into coaching, and Kidd made an impression both on King and other senior Brooklyn officials.
“He’s very persuasive when he talks about it,” a source said. “Jason’s like, ‘why not? I’ve been in this game for 20 years. I know this game inside and out’…Jason’s been thinking the last few years about coaching. There’s enough people in the sport who have said to him, you’re going to be a great coach. He’s 40 now. He’ll be 41 in August. When you get to that age, you start thinking about things.”
Shaw, who is still up for the vacant jobs in Denver and Philadelphia, was told that the Nets “sensed a specialness” in Kidd, according to a source, and thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring in a player who had been the face of the franchise when it was in New Jersey, when Kidd led the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2001 and 2002.
Shaw was believed to have the inside track for the job after Phil Jackson rebuffed the Nets’ inquiries about the position last month. King believed the Nets’ personnel was ideal to run aspects of the triangle offense, which Shaw obviously knew and had mastered as Jackson’s assistant in Los Angeles, as well as a former player for the Lakers who had been on the Lakers’ three championship teams in 2000-2002. It was another bitter disappointment for Shaw, who was passed over to be Jackson’s successor in L.A. after his retirement in 2011 for Mike Brown. Brown lasted one season plus five games before being fired last November.
Kidd’s relationship with the Nets’ point guard Deron Williams clearly was also a driving factor in the team’s decision to go outside the box for its next coach. Kidd and Williams played on the 2008 Olympic gold medal team in Beijing and share the same agent. The two are close and the Nets were disappointed in Williams’s play for much of this season, his first since signing a $98 million extension last summer. Brooklyn was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Bulls in seven games, losing the seventh game at home.
Kidd will be the team’s third head coach in less than a year. Brooklyn fired Avery Johnson in December after the team got off to a 14-14 record, replacing him with P.J. Carlesimo, who finished the season and playoffs as the team’s interim coach. The team announced two days after its loss to Chicago that it would not be bringing Carlesimo back next season.
Kidd is determined to bring in assistant coaches with significant coaching experience to his staff, and according to Yahoo! Sports, he has reached out to longtime assistant coach Tim Grgurich, who is beloved by players and coaches alike for his development skills with players. Grgurich was on Dallas’ staff when Kidd played there and the two remain close.
“You have to bet that his competitiveness as a player transfers to him as a coach,” one league coaching source said of Kidd. “He’s one of the most competitive SOBs I’ve ever been around.”
Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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