Photo Credit: Scott L from Los Angeles, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Nash deserved better. Better than being scapegoated for the failures of his players. Better than having his name and reputation dragged through the mud. Better than being the fall-guy for an inept front office and ownership.
Is it surprising that Nash and the Brooklyn Nets have “mutually” parted ways? No. It was inevitable. But of all the factors that have contributed to the Nets underachievement last year and through the first weeks of the current NBA season, Nash’s were minimal.
During his playing career, Nash was known for being an unorthodox and dynamic passer who created opportunities for his teammates to find open spaces and exploit a flat-footed defense in transition. He won back-to-back MVPs in 2005 & 2006 with that selfless playing style.
Unfortunately for Nash, his first coaching gig pitted him with three of the most selfish players in the history of the NBA: Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant. It should have been obvious from the beginning - Nash never stood a chance.
Since being hired at the start of the 2020-21 season, Nash’s tenure with the Nets was a disaster. Whether it was the questionable trade for James Harden in 2020, the even more questionable trade for Ben Simmons in 2021 (in which Harden, busy gorging himself in an embarrassing attempt to force his way out of Brooklyn, was traded to Philadelphia), or having his job security questioned by his star players (even though they were the ones who advocated for his hiring in the first place), Nash was never in a position to succeed. In fact, I seriously doubt any coach could have succeeded in these conditions with these players.
When the Nets included Harden in their deal for Simmons, it was thought that the former Sixers forward could provide the passing and defensive chops that the Nets were sorely lacking. Instead, Simmons failed to appear in even one measly game. He couldn’t even be bothered to play in the Nets win-or-go-home Game 4 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs to avoid a sweep.
Irving, similarly, also couldn’t be bothered to play, though for vastly different reasons as he defied New York City's COVID-19 mandate. Instead of helping his team win basketball games, Irving took his $35 million in guaranteed money and sat out every home game. The Nets, fed up with Irving’s antics, declined to offer him the long-term contract that he expected, leading to tension between the two camps, though Irving eventually caved and signed his $37 million player-option for the 2022-23 season. That Irving took the money isn’t really surprising - he’s a conspiracy peddler and an internet troll. He doesn’t actually stand for anything, he doesn’t have any sort of moral code, he isn’t really interested in truth or understanding. He’s all about one thing: himself, and whatever and whoever makes him feel superior.
Sadly, the one Nets star who actually showed up (when he wasn’t seriously injured), was Durant, and yet it was precisely Durant who advocated in the shadows that Nash be removed from his head coaching position in the offseason. In typical Durant fashion, he refused to be direct, and instead demanded a trade, suggesting that it was either him or Nash.
In a show of startling and remarkable courage, the Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai chose to defend Nash. They called Durant’s bluff - and it worked (at least, temporarily). The band was going to be together for one more run.
Now, less than ten games into the season, Nash is out. The band imploded. So much for being Irving and Durant’s hand-picked guy, huh?
On a positive note, the reality is that Nash is the real winner here. He’s finally out of that cesspool that was the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. From the front office to the players, there might not be a more toxic environment in sports. No coach (repeat: no coach) could have succeeded. Even John Wooden would have thrown in the towel after Irving’s most recent anti-Semitic Twitter post. Some players, even if they’re supremely talented, just aren’t worth it.