How important is coaching experience?

Jason Kidd Nets Coach
Jason Kidd’s blazing ground. (AP)

Coaches with no prior coaching experience

Don Nelson
Don Nelson with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1986. (AP)

Examples abound for both sides of the “coaching experience” argument. Wilkins is one example of a success story, as well Don Nelson, the all-time winningest NBA regular season coach (1,335) and the man whose situation perhaps most mirrors Kidd’s.

After a successful 14-year playing career as a sixth man with the Chicago Zephyrs (now Washington Wizards, somehow), Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics (including five NBA titles with Boston), Nelson took over the GM and head coaching jobs for the Milwaukee Bucks. The added GM component aside, Nelson did not face the same kind of big-market pressure that Kidd will face in Brooklyn, nor did Nelson take over the reins of a franchise for which he used to be a superstar.

Still, Nelson did take over immediately after retiring, and was akin to Kidd in his basketball IQ. Nelson was an innovator, credited for introducing the concept of the point forward. (Not to be confused with Andray Blatche, who introduced the concept of a point center AKA Dray Goin’ Dray).

On the other side of the ledger, we have examples of interim train wrecks. Take Magic Johnson’s 5-11 nightmare in 1994. Or, for a Nets reference, try the laughable “coaching career” of Kiki Vandeweghe for the Nets in 2009-10, snoozing his way to 12-52 in the worst season in franchise history.

We also have Isiah Thomas’ famed coaching odyssey with the New York Knicks, which ended so badly that the fans actually booed Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas (who shares no relation), and Hall-of-Fame player Dan Issel’s mediocre six seasons in Denver in the 90s-00s, in which he only made one playoff appearance.

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