NEW YORK — Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash dismissed the idea “white privilege” played a role in his hiring as coach of the Brooklyn Nets despite no prior coaching experience.
Speaking Wednesday in his first public appearance since his hiring last week, the 46-year-old Canadian said he “did skip the line” by not serving as an NBA assistant coach before taking a top job.
But eight-time NBA All-Star Nash said his league experience, including 18 seasons as a player and two as an advisor for NBA champion Golden State Warriors clubs, made him uniquely qualified for the Nets position.
“I have benefitted from white privilege. I’m not saying white privilege as being a factor in this position,” Nash said.
“We have a long way to go in defining racial and social justice. I hope I’m an ally in that cause. I’m very sensitive to the cause and the goal.
“I’m not sure this is really an example that fits that topic.”
It was a complaint raised last week when Nash was handed a prime job over veteran black NBA assistants guiding a Nets squad that will boast two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and superstar guard Kyrie Irving, who have won NBA titles and hope to unite to revive a moribund Nets franchise.
The Nets have won only one NBA playoff series since 2007 and have not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
“I did skip the line, but at the same time I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique,” Nash, a five-time NBA assists leader, said of his player role managing people, skills and uniting rosters.
“I was never far from that. It’s not like I was in the back. I learned a lot in my career.”
Hall of Famer Nash also learned watching Steve Kerr guide the Warriors to 2017 and 2018 NBA crowns.
“It gave me an insight that was invaluable,” Nash said. “He taught me a lot whether it was with his words and actions or just spending time around him.”
Nets general manager Sean Marks saw his former NBA teammate as a “culture driver” with teams and cited his unique development.
“His Hall of Fame resume, his experiences on and off the court and his leadership abilities are second to none,” Marks said.
– ‘Incredible’ roster –
Durant, who missed all season after tendon surgery, and Irving, out most of the campaign with injuries, will join a team that reached the playoffs to produce what Nash calls “an incredible roster… the opportunity is fantastic.”
Nash said having worked alongside superstars such as the late Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki in his career helps.
“But I don’t think about superstar personalities,” Nash said. “Those are my friends. I think about them as human beings. I wanted to build a fabric between us that made it fun but we could be honest with each other.
“To understand people, to genuinely care and want to get to know them, that’s it for me.”
Nash said defensive work and versatility are two trademarks he wants to establish.
He called Durant “one of the greatest players ever to play the game” and added, “he’s always searching and inquisitive about how to better play the game.”
Nash called Irving “one of my favorite players of all time — skill level, guts, competitiveness — I look forward to really getting to know him and to learn from him.”