Nearly two years ago, the Brooklyn Nets surprised the NBA world by naming HOF point guard Steve Nash as their next head coach. Nash’s candidacy for the job was a secret; there was little to no information leading up to the hire. Regardless, the expectations were high for Nash as fans expected the Nets to be in championship contention with the return of Kevin Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving. Now that we’re nearly two years into Nash’s coaching career, it’s time to evaluate how well he has done and if he has reached those expectations.
Steve Nash’s Strengths:
While it is a luxury to coach a team with superstar talent, Steve Nash did not have a straightforward job during his first two years as head coach. Unavailability and the lack of a consistent healthy roster have been a recurring theme in his tenure so far. It’s no secret that the Nets’ Big Three played only 16 games together, including only playing five games together in the postseason. The Nets had over 34 different starting lineups last year, 2nd most in the league.
Despite this, Nash found success by going 48-24 in a shortened 72-game season (2nd seed) while taking the eventual champions to a seven-game series. Today, a good NBA head coach needs to have an understanding and acceptance of modern basketball principles. This includes prioritizing spacing, willingness to play small ball, and switching on defense. Nash is willing to do all these things. Most Nets fans are quick to criticize their team’s Iso-heavy offense, but it’s important to realize a good coach also plays to player strengths. The Nets’ top players (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving) are all primary Iso players, thus the Nets run plays that will cause Iso-heavy possessions. This is why Nash is also one of the top coaches in the league in drawing up plays ATO.
Nash also emphasizes playing fast and pushing the ball fast in transition. It just so happens that the Nets’ new deadline acquisition, Ben Simmons, is the best or one of the best players at transition offense. It will be very interesting to see how Nash will use Simmons, as you want him to be the primary facilitator in transition.
Ultimately, Nash’s strengths as a head coach derive from his ability to overcome inconsistent roster changes and his acceptance of modern-day basketball.
Steve Nash’s Weaknesses:
As mentioned in my last article, the Brooklyn Nets are having a disappointing season. They are currently the 8th seed (play-in) and are only three games over.500. While it’s extremely unfair to pin this on Steve Nash, he’s not entirely blameless.
One of Nash’s few weaknesses is his incoherent rotations. While, yes, unavailability affects rotations, there is no reason four severely limited offensive players should share the floor. Nash overplays a lineup that includes a mixture of Bruce Brown/James Johnson/Blake Griffin, which results in long-scoring droughts. Speaking of droughts, Nash is also hesitant to call timeouts. Ultimately, you don’t want to call time too early as that can shift momentum, but you can’t call it too late where the game is out of reach. Nash calls his timeouts late, which is why the Nets often find themselves in close games after going up by double digits.
I’m in the minority of Nets fans who don’t dislike Steve Nash. While there’s a lot of room for improvement as a coach, I think Nash has done well given the abnormal obstacles facing him as a first-time head coach. However, I think he should be put on a hot seat if the fully healthy revamp Nets cannot make the conference finals. The Nets already failed year one, which cost them their Big Three. In another season where Nets come up short, it might be time for them to hand the keys of the car to another head coach.
If there’s one consistent thing during Nash’s tenure, it’s the expectation that the Nets will bring home the NBA title.