Steve Nash on surprise Nets hiring: 'I did skip the line, frankly'

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The Brooklyn Nets surprised the basketball world last week by hiring Steve Nash as their new head coach.

The Hall of Fame point guard retired in 2015 and has spent none of that time as a coach at any level, though he did spend some time with the Golden State Warriors as player development consultant. Now, he will take over a team with title aspirations next season thanks to the return of Kevin Durant.

That prompted some questions over whether or not a white coach should receive one of the NBA’s 30 head coaching jobs with such little experience, especially with many Black assistant coaches waiting for their shot in a league where the majority of head coaches are white.

Steve Nash says he skipped line, but points to Steve Kerr as precedent

SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Steve Nash speaks during the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 7, 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Steve Nash's rise has been quick. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

During his introduction with the Nets, Nash was asked about those questions. The new coach didn’t deny his rise was unusually quick, but also pointed to his years as a player and other success stories like Warriors coach Steve Kerr:

“Well, I did skip the line, frankly, but at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven't necessarily learned some of the skills that I'll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.

“So to lead a team in such a unique position, to be the head of the team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people, skill sets, and bring people together, collaborating with a coach and a coaching staff for almost two decades, it's not like I was in a vacuum. I learned a tremendous amount during my career.

“I haven’t grinded it out as an assistant coach like many people’s path, but there’s a precedent for players who have strong careers, who are leaders, thinkers, to get this opportunity, as Steve Kerr and many other people have had to great success. It’s a unique situation, but I definitely realize that I’m going to need support.”

Like Nash, Kerr was hired as the Warriors’ head coach in 2014 with little coaching experience following a career as a strong player. However, Kerr had also worked as the president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns before his hiring.

Jason Kidd and Derek Fisher have also been mentioned as precedent for Nash’s rise from player directly to head coach. Both point guards were hired as head coaches shortly after their retirements as players.

Nash: White privilege is a problem

Nash also addressed the matter of white privilege, which has frequently been used to characterize his rise. He didn’t deny white privilege is a problem, but chafed at the idea that his hiring is a pure example of it:

Well, I have benefited from white privilege. Our society has a lot of ground to make up. I’m not saying that white privilege was a factor in this position, but I think as white people, we have to understand that we are served a privilege and a benefit from the color of our skin in our communities and that we have a long way to go to find equality and social and racial justice.

I hope that I’m a great ally to that cause. This is something that Clara and Joe Tsai have really made an incredible gesture to help within our organization but also in our communities, to help stem the gap in racial injustice. So I’m very sensitive to the cause and the goal.

I’m not sure that this is an example that purely fits that conversation, but I own it. I understand why it’s important to talk about it and that we do we meed diversity and opportunity for African-American coaches and staff in all capacities.

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