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Nets’ Steve Nash joins list of NBA head coaches with no prior coaching experience

The Nets were looking for a big name with their next head coach and they found one in Steve Nash. PBT's Kurt Helin examines the move and what it means for Brooklyn moving forward.

At his Hall of Fame induction in 2018, Steve Nash said, “You’ll never be more alive than when you give something everything you have.”

Except Nash hadn’t lived that way professionally since retiring in 2013.

He served as a player-development consultant for the Warriors. He oversaw Canada’s national team. He did some TV work.

But none of those were full-time pursuits.

Nash has an exhaustive job now, though. The Brooklyn Nets shockingly hired him as head coach. He’ll take over a team that – with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and assets to chase a third star – has legitimate championship aspirations.

Most NBA head coaches prepare for the job by… coaching. Maybe as an assistant. Maybe in college. Maybe at another level. But coaching somewhere.

It’s a helpful way to learn the trade. Obviously, Nash carries incredible basketball intelligence from his playing career. But coaching requires different skills, and actually coaching offers great perspective on the tedious work involved.

That’s not an absolute prerequisite, though.

Since the league’s last player-coach (Dave Cowens with the 1978-79 Celtics), 16 people have become NBA head coaches without prior coaching experience:

YearTeamCoachSeasonsWLPCTPlayoff appearancesSeries won
2020BRKSteve Nash??????
2014NYKDerek Fisher2409629%00
2014GSWSteve Kerr633713871%518
2013BRKJason Kidd1443854%11
2011GSWMark Jackson312110953%21
2008CHIVinny Del Negro2828250%20
2005MINKevin McHale1191261%00
2000INDIsiah Thomas313111553%30
1999ORLDoc Rivers517116850%30
1997INDLarry Bird31476769%37
1995BOSM.L. Carr24811629%00
1994LALMagic Johnson151131%00
1993DALQuinn Buckner1136916%00
1992DENDan Issel39610248%11
1987PHODick Van Arsdale1141254%00
1980SDCPaul Silas37816832%00

Good luck drawing any sweeping conclusions from that list. It includes smashing successes (like Kerr and Bird) and clear failures (like Fisher and Buckner). Most of the coaches land between.

They all brought unique experiences to the job. All were NBA players. But some were executives. Some were broadcasters. Some jumped straight from playing.

Nash’s work in Golden State should familiarize him with the teaching aspects of coaching. His time with Team Canada should help with the necessary organization. His playing career, which included MVP point guarding with the Suns, should ready him as a tactician.

But there are so many new aspects for a first-time coach – connecting with players from a new angle, handling the pressure of being in charge, focusing on the work amid the long grind of a season.

It’ll take everything Nash has.

Which sounds like exactly what he wants.