With dozens of cameras snapping and a basketball in Jason Kidd’s hand, one photographer yelled “Coach! Over here!” towards the recently retired point guard.
Kidd, after a split second, looked in his direction, grinning. “Coach,” he said. “It’s coach from now on.”
In perhaps the biggest media circus yet in Brooklyn Nets history, the team introduced former Nets All-Star and all-time NBA legend Kidd as the first coach ever hired by the Brooklyn Nets, at a lavish press conference at the Geico Atrium in Barclays Center. With hundreds present, including Nets minority owner and former Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, and Nets point guard Deron Williams, Kidd welcomed his new challenge as head coach, while clearly still not used to the moniker.
In a half-hour press conference, Kidd’s outpouring of thankfulness, wide eyes, and occasional stammers — he’s never been known as a gifted public speaker — gave off the vibe of someone who still wasn’t really sure that all of this was real.
For the majority of the conference, he spoke in proper corporate generalities. He spoke of his vision without detailing it. He proclaimed the Nets should win 50 games without explaining how he’d get them there. He blew Billy King away, but he would only tell so much about how he did it. But King made it clear that Kidd was wholly impressive in their time together Monday, going over what he could do offensively and defensively with the roster, as well as his ability to lead. He can’t wait to put together a great staff, whoever may be a part of it.
That isn’t to say he didn’t talk basketball. After the Nets finished this past season the second-slowest in pace, Kidd preached a desire to “explore early, get up and down more … This is a team that hopefully can get to 100 points. They have that type of talent that can put the ball in the basket.”
“My experience as a player playing Brooklyn, once they got to 88, 89 points, they kind of unplugged.”
Along with pushing the tempo, King, Kidd, and Williams all stressed that ball movement and spacing would be two important factors in the team’s new offense. King added that the team could use some more perimeter shooting and athleticism. The Nets were one of the most prolific isolationist teams in the NBA last season, but a team with Kidd at the helm can’t be defined that way.
Kidd also wants to play Deron Williams off the ball a bit more, a change the franchise’s star point guard would welcome.
“Gerald (Wallace) likes to play like that,” Williams added. “If you look back at some of our best games, we’re best when Gerald’s getting the rebound and pushing it, or Joe (Johnson) gets the rebound and pushes it, when we’re advancing ahead. When we score 85 points, it’s hard for us to win.”
Williams is still the team’s leader and coach on the floor. “When I played the game, I felt I was an extension of the coach,” Kidd said during the conference. “Now I want Deron to be that guy.”
This is as big a risk for King as it is for Kidd, and he knows it. In the second season of Brooklyn Nets history, King has hired a player straight out of playing for the first time in NBA history since 1991. He could have gone with an experienced head coach. He could have gone with Brian Shaw, the Indiana Pacers associated head coach that he awkwardly met with Wednesday. But instead, he went with a point guard that only just retired from the game of basketball in the same calendar month, one that is due in court June 20th due to a DWI charge from last year.
King welcomes and acknowledges the risk, but says the reward outweighs them. “Does he have a learning curve? Yes. But Jason doesn’t want to be good, he wants to be great.”
He does. That much is not up for debate. Kidd left little trinkets throughout the conference that showed his intense desire to coach. For example, Kidd said that he’s kept a diary since 2010, filled with notes on how coaches went through specific situations and how he might have approached them. He didn’t want to leave the game of basketball when he left the court. He had an offer from Mark Cuban to learn the business side with the Dallas Mavericks, and declined.
Less than one week later, he’s Brooklyn’s head coach. With so many questions heading into training camp, Kidd didn’t tip his hand on what was next — other than there was a lot of work for him to do.