Steve Nash has had to go through the gauntlet when it has come to his first two seasons as an NBA coach.
He’s had to deal with COVID, injuries and disgruntled players all while trying to live up to the expectations of a team that had started this season with such high hopes. None of that has changed Kevin Durant’s mind about the job that Nash has done in Brooklyn.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Durant said. “The last two years he’s been dealt a wild hand. Injuries, trades, disgruntled players, guys in and out of the lineup. Stuff that he can’t control and I felt like he handled it as best as he could. I think it’s on us as players to make his job easier.”
Sunday marked the Nets’ final game of the regular season, which Steve Nash entered with a 91-62 record in his two years leading Brooklyn. That included a 12-game run in the postseason last year which saw the Nets knocked out in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Still, Durant said he has seen the team respond to Nash and that as a new coach he is still learning along with everyone else.
“Guys have been doing a good job of listening and responding well to Steve, and we all know this whole thing. Everybody’s developing every single day,” he said. “It’s his first real opportunity as a coach, so I think he’s handled it all perfectly, to be honest. It’s a tough hand he was dealt when he got here.”
If anyone thought that the adversity would have soured Nash on the coaching experience so far they would be mistaken. The Nets head coach said that he was enjoying what he described as a “great challenge.”
“I think my perspective is to get really deep into the challenge, not what the challenge was supposed to be,” Nash said. “Or who’s supposed to be on the floor. Deal with what’s in front of us and so we’ve had pockets of the season that’s totally different and looks like a totally different team, different group, different challenge. From leading the East after a month or so to COVID interruption to the trade to losing Kevin to Kyrie only playing part-time.
“It’s like different iterations of our group and each chunk of the season has been a different challenge that we’ve had to dig into that challenge and that pocket of the season. Not necessarily draw too many connections to the other iterations of our season.”
Nash specifically pointed to the 21 game stretch where the Nets were without Durant, the organization’s cornerstone player, as perhaps the biggest success of the season. Brooklyn struggled mightily and at one point dropped 11 straight games, but Nash said the team had to survive and they did.
“The group psyche had to survive,” Nash said. “We also had to improve in certain areas even if wins were not necessarily the outcome. That was as challenging I think as you can face sometimes. And our group’s resilience, coaching staff’s ability to find an approach for the group to improve and survive and weather that period of that season is the reason we’re here and not outside (the playoffs).”