Steve Nash was reunited in Brooklyn with Mike D’Antoni, the player and coach who helped revolutionize the NBA offense 16 years ago. The team confirmed that D’Antoni would be an assistant under Nash with the Nets, along with former Spurs and Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was the first to announce the hirings.
Jacque Vaughn, who coached the Nets in the NBA reboot, joins D’Antoni and Udoka on the coaching staff. A’mare Stoudemire will also act as an advisor for player development.
In early September, Nash, with no prior coaching experience, was hired to lead a roster featuring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On Sept. 13, the day after they were defeated in the conference semifinals, D’Antoni parted ways with the Rockets.
In the NBA, D’Antoni has coached 13 full seasons. And his teams have ranked in the top six in offensive effectiveness in nine of those 13 seasons (including his last four in Houston).
The Nash-and-D’Antoni Suns numbered first, first, first and second offensively during their four seasons in Phoenix together (2004-05 through ’07-08). In the 24 years for which we have play-by-play results, the ’04-05 Suns scored 8.2 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, the second best mark (trailing only Nash’s’ 03-04 Mavs). The Suns of ’06-07 retain the fourth best mark (+7.6).
Such offenses were distinct from the iso-heavy one D’Antoni has been running for the past four seasons in Houston. The Rockets have averaged more than twice as many lone possessions in each of the last two years as any other team. The Nets currently have four players who can thrive in isolation: Durant, Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. But it will be an interesting challenge for Nash and his team to get them all to work together (should they all stay on the roster).
This has been attempted by the Nets (under different management) before. They employed Jason Kidd in their second year in Brooklyn, just weeks after he retired as a player. His top assistant was Lawrence Frank, his former mentor. But that partnership did not last 20 games, with Frank removed from the bench and reduced to writing “regular notes” for the only team in Brooklyn that won a playoff series (the one with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett).