Canadian head coach Steve Nash is out in Brooklyn after a disappointing start and more controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving.
The Nets said in a release Tuesday that the franchise mutually parted ways with the two-time NBA MVP and basketball Hall of Famer. The move comes a day after they beat Indiana to improve to 2-5.
Brooklyn entered the season being considered a title contender with stars Kevin Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons on the roster.
“Since becoming head coach, Steve was faced with a number of unprecedented challenges, and we are sincerely grateful for his leadership, patience and humility throughout his tenure,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
“Personally, this was an immensely difficult decision; however, after much deliberation and evaluation of how the season has begun, we agreed that a change is necessary at this time.”
Nash thanked Marks and owner Joe Tsai in a statement, saying “it was an amazing experience with many challenges that I’m incredibly grateful for.”
Nash had no previous head coaching experience when he took over behind the Nets bench before the 2020-21 season. Before joining Brooklyn, he had been a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors from 2015-2020 where he had also worked with Durant.
In his two-plus years, Nash posted a 94-67 record and the Nets made the playoffs in both his full seasons as head coach. But they were ousted in the first round of the 2021-22 post-season despite starting the season with a roster that included Irving, Durant and James Harden. Irving only played 29 games after declining to receive a vaccination against COVID-19, mandated at the time in New York City.
Durant said over the off-season that he wanted Nash out before walking back his request. The Nets have been another mess this season, with bad play on the court and bad headlines off it.
The biggest — again — was created by Irving, who posted a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter page last week, drawing criticism from Tsai.
Nash gave some his hardest criticism of the team during his tenure after their loss to Indiana on Saturday night.
“We have to look deep, deep inside ourselves and what we want to do, what we want to accomplish,” Nash said. “Do we want to give up on this because it’s been difficult early, or do we want to stay the course and start to build something?”
Much of that was ignored because the focus was on Irving’s combative news conference defending his tweet, and the Nets beat the Pacers in the rematch Monday to end a four-game skid.
Nash was diplomatic in his farewell statement, saying “it was a pleasure to work with the players, performance team and front office every day.”
Marks chose his former teammate as coach in 2020 despite having no experience on the job, citing Nash’s ability to be a connector of personalities as a player.
But Nash’s schemes were criticized as the Nets struggled defensively throughout his tenure and often didn’t show the ball-moving style of play on offence that Nash excelled at as a player, instead relying on Durant, Irving or Harden to isolate.
Beyond the player changes, Nash also had to adapt to changes on his bench. Mike D’Antoni, the two-time NBA Coach of the Year, stepped down as his assistant after one season, and Ime Udoka left to become coach of the Boston Celtics.
Nash averaged 14.3 points and 8.5 assists and shot 42.8 per cent from three-point range over 18 seasons as a star point guard with Phoenix, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired third on the NBA’s list with 10,335 assists.
The eight-time all-star won back-to-back league MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 while with the Suns, who ran a lightning-fast offence through the star point guard.
He retired after the 2013-14 season and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Born in South Africa and raised in Victoria, Nash represented Canada internationally multiple times, most notably as the motor of the Canadian team that finished seventh at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He won the Lionel Conacher Award as The Canadian Press male athlete of the year three times (2002, 2005, 2006) and was voted Canada’s athlete of the year in 2005.
Brooklyn was set to host Chicago Tuesday night. Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn, who served as interim head coach to close the 2019-20 season before Nash took over will serve as acting head coach against the Bulls.
The Nets said a decision on the team’s next coach would be made in the near future.