Nash out as Nets coach after poor start, more controversy
By Brian Mahoney
NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Nash is out as Brooklyn Nets coach after a disappointing start and more controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving.
The Nets announced Tuesday that they had parted ways with the Hall of Fame point guard, a day after they beat Indiana to improve to 2-5.
Nash made it to this season after Kevin Durant said he wanted him out this summer, but not much longer. The Nets have been another mess, with bad play on the court and bad headlines off it.
The biggest — again — was created by Irving, who posted a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter page last week, drawing criticism from Nets owner Joe Tsai.
“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,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
“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.”
The Nets may move quickly to replace Nash. A person with knowledge of the matter said the Nets were in discussions with suspended Boston coach Ime Udoka — a former Brooklyn assistant who is not with the Celtics this season because he was found to have violated team rules by having a relationship with a female staffer within the organization. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those talks were not revealed publicly.
ESPN first reported the talks between Udoka and the Nets. The Nets said a decision on the team’s next coach would be made in the near future.
Nash led the Nets to a 92-62 record and the playoffs in both full seasons, his first as an NBA coach. But they lost Irving and James Harden to injuries during their second-round loss to Milwaukee in 2021, then were a first-round flop last season after trading Harden during the middle of the season.
Much of the Nets’ problems during the latter season were caused by Irving being unavailable for most of their home games because he refused to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, as mandated at the time in New York City.
Nash handled it all as best as possible, but apparently not good enough for his best player. Durant said he wanted to be traded this summer if the Nets didn’t fire Marks and Nash, but Tsai stood by them and Durant eventually pulled back his request.
Nash downplayed that before this season began, saying he didn’t believe the reports were entirely true and that they had quickly talked through their issues.
But things started poorly this season and Nash gave some his hardest criticism of the team during his tenure after their loss to Indiana on Saturday night, calling their defensive effort a “disaster” and saying he didn’t see desire or will.
“We have to look deep, deep inside ourselves and what we want to do, what we want to accomplish,” Nash said. “Do we want to give up on this because it’s been difficult early, or do we want to stay the course and start to build something?”
Much of that was ignored because the focus was on Irving’s combative news conference defending his tweet, and the Nets beat the Pacers in the rematch Monday to end a four-game skid.
But Nash’s tenure ended anyway a day later, hours before Brooklyn is set to host Chicago. Jacque Vaughn will serve as acting head coach against the Bulls.
Tsai alluded to the constant turbulence around the team in his statement thanking Nash.
“My admiration and respect for him grew over time as he brought hard work and positive attitude to our organization every day, even in periods of exceptional storm surrounding the team,” Tsai said.
Nash thanked the Tsai family and Marks for giving him the opportunity, calling the job “an amazing experience with many challenges that I’m incredibly grateful for.”
Marks chose his former teammate as coach in 2020 despite no experience in the job, citing Nash’s ability to be a connector of personalities as a player. Nash was a two-time MVP with the Phoenix Suns who ended his 18-year career third on the NBA’s list with 10,335 assists.
But his schemes were criticized as the Nets struggled defensively throughout his tenure and often didn’t show the ball-moving style of play on offense that his Suns teams did, instead relying on Durant, Irving or Harden to isolate.
Beyond the player changes, Nash also had to adapt to changes on his bench. Mike D’Antoni, the two-time NBA Coach of the Year, stepped down as his assistant after one season, and Udoka left to become coach of the Celtics.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.
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