In an unexpected move, the Brooklyn Nets have signed eight-time All-Star Steve Nash to a four-year deal as the team’s head coach. Nash, 46, has no prior NBA coaching experience.
The Nets fired their former head coach Kenny Atkinson just before the NBA suspended its season due to COVID-19 in March, and lead assistant coach Jacque Vaughn had served as interim head coach through the Nets’ run in the restarted season.
Under the new setup, Vaughn — who was reportedly the only other candidate to formally interview for the head coach role — will become the highest-paid assistant in the league. He was previously head coach of the Orlando Magic from 2012-15.
“After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players. I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I have witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league.”
Nash, who played for 18 seasons, was GM of the Canadian national basketball team from 2012-19 and served as a player development consultant for the Golden State Warriors for the last five years. There, he further developed his already close relationship with Kevin Durant, who signed with the Nets last offseason.
While few would question Nash’s qualifications — he reportedly had previously turned down other NBA head coach opportunities — the announcement of his new gig has fervently reignited discussions around the NBA’s waning number of Black coaches.
Nash’s hiring will undoubtedly draw comparisons to that of Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who had not previously coached in the NBA, but was GM of the Phoenix Suns while Nash was a player there. Kerr, too, joined a team when it had immediate pressure to win a title, and found success.
But as noted by The Ringer’s Tyler Tynes, the current pool of Black candidates in the head coaching conversation includes plenty of big names like Jason Kidd, Ty Lue, Alvin Gentry, Mike Brown, Nate McMillan, and Mark Jackson — who preceded Kerr at Golden State — among others, in addition to Vaughn.
The veterans McMillan and Gentry were let go when their seasons ended, leaving just five Black head coaches remaining among the NBA’s 30 teams. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers are still in the market for new head coaches.
Despite the contrast in race between NBA players and team officials, the league earned a grade of A+ for racial hiring in the 2020 report card issued by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The league’s number of Black coaches peaked at 12 — 40% — in 2012. About 80% of NBA players are Black. Further, just 9% of team presidents and CEOs, 16% of employees in the NBA league office, 21.7% of GMs, 14% of VPs, and 16% of senior administrators are Black.
Last week, Nets owners Joe and Clara Tsai committed $60 million to social justice causes and said they would work to create an inclusive culture at BSE Global — the holding company for their properties — including recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting Black employees and employees of color, especially in leadership positions.