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

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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:

Year Team Coach Seasons W L PCT Playoff appearances Series won
2020 BRK Steve Nash ? ? ? ? ? ?
2014 NYK Derek Fisher 2 40 96 29% 0 0
2014 GSW Steve Kerr 6 337 138 71% 5 18
2013 BRK Jason Kidd 1 44 38 54% 1 1
2011 GSW Mark Jackson 3 121 109 53% 2 1
2008 CHI Vinny Del Negro 2 82 82 50% 2 0
2005 MIN Kevin McHale 1 19 12 61% 0 0
2000 IND Isiah Thomas 3 131 115 53% 3 0
1999 ORL Doc Rivers 5 171 168 50% 3 0
1997 IND Larry Bird 3 147 67 69% 3 7
1995 BOS M.L. Carr 2 48 116 29% 0 0
1994 LAL Magic Johnson 1 5 11 31% 0 0
1993 DAL Quinn Buckner 1 13 69 16% 0 0
1992 DEN Dan Issel 3 96 102 48% 1 1
1987 PHO Dick Van Arsdale 1 14 12 54% 0 0
1980 SDC Paul Silas 3 78 168 32% 0 0

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.