When news broke about Steve Nash getting the job at Brooklyn as the new head coach for the Nets, I’m sure that the first thing that came to mind for many basketball fans was the challenge posed by the fragile dynamics of a rookie head coach working with superstars and their egos.
It is always a good idea, on paper, to have talented individuals come together and expect them to achieve great things. However, while skills allow you to show people how good you can be, it is your personality that defines how good you can be around others who are just as talented, and if such endeavor promises success or if it is doomed to fail from the start.
Basketball fans were hoping they’ll get to have a good look at how Irving’s ball-heavy style of iso backcourt play meshes with Durant’s position as a primary go-to player in a set half-court offense. And yet, it remains to be seen if Irving and Durant are a good fit in Brooklyn as individual players and as a two-punch combo, owing to their lengthy stay at the sidelines because of injury.
And now, things become more complicated with Nash joining the fray: three Alpha males, three different basketball styles, three different personalities.
As a basketball player, Nash has cemented his stature playing his brand of basketball. He led the Phoenix Suns to multiple playoff appearances with his run-and-gun up-tempo style of basketball that didn’t only look good but also did a lot of good for Phoenix, making the Suns a real contender. Nash excelled and became the league’s Most Valuable Player because he has a high basketball IQ, judging from how he reads the court and how he decides between taking a shot and making a pass. He loves to spread the floor and his excellent court vision allows him to see and make plays for open teammates, which makes him a joy to watch (and most certainly, a joy to play with - after all, we can argue that many former teammates were able to elevate their game and status in the NBA because Nash allowed them to shine).
Whether or not he plans on implementing the same offensive approach now that he is no longer the starting guard, but the head coach remains to be seen. Fans are excited to find out, that is for sure.
But it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Brooklyn Nets under Nash plays basketball using a different blueprint. After all, it is not uncommon for a player-turned-coach to utilize a different approach. Style of play is always dictated by the personnel available to the team and it is the job of the head coach to play to their strengths and not force a team to adopt a style not suitable to how the team is built. It is interesting to see what Nash will change and what part of Brooklyn basketball Nash opts to keep and build on, and how the Nets’ very young and very talented supporting unit will take part in the process of improving the quality of Brooklyn basketball, which in itself and its current form is already promising.
But overall, I think few will nitpick this part of Nash’s rookie season as a head coach since everyone will give him at least one full season to adjust, adapt, and establish the identity of the team with him calling the shots.
Instead, people (I think) will focus more on how all three Alpha males will be able to work together. They will make a case early on as to why this partnership merits great expectations or portends to a series of unfortunate events, as soon as proof is made available via game stats, locker room chatter, and insider gossip.
I like Nash. I wish him success in his coaching career. But the truth is his success as a coach depends on a lot of moving parts—how Irving and Durant will play under his system, how the players who are set to lose their playing time (once Irving and Durant return) respond to playing limited minutes, how Brooklyn trades during the free agency, and how the battle lines in the East is reformed once free agency concludes and whether big names stayed put or transferred to a new team.
By all accounts, this is a challenging journey for Nash and it will begin soon. If there is anything Nash has proven in the NBA, it is his grit and willingness to grind it out.