By Frank Eltman
HAMPTON BAYS— Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge and was placed on interim probation nearly a year after he smashed his Cadillac SUV into a utility pole on eastern Long Island.
In exchange for the guilty plea, Kidd agreed to speak to Long Island high school students about the dangers of drunken driving. If he fulfills his community service, his plea will be reduced to a violation — driving while ability impaired — when he returns to court on Sept. 30.
Kidd, who retired as an NBA player after last season, was recently hired to coach the Nets — the team he took to two NBA Finals as a player when the franchise played in New Jersey.
"Because of his status as a professional athlete Mr. Kidd is the perfect person to reinforce the important message we've been trying to send, which is don't drink and drive," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said in a statement.
Police said Kidd crashed his SUV into a telephone pole in the Hamptons community of Water Mill on July 15, 2012. He was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
Defense attorney Ed Burke Jr. said Kidd was returning from a charity function before the crash. A Southampton Town Police report noted the 10-time NBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist was unsteady on his feet, smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot and glassy eyes.
The judge asked him at the plea hearing how much he'd consumed before his arrest. "A couple of drinks, three or four," Kidd replied in a very soft voice.
"You could have killed yourself. You could have killed someone else," Town Court Judge Andrea Schiavoni. "I hope you wake up every day happy to be here."
Kidd nodded in response.
He did not speak when he left the courthouse, accompanied by his attorney.
While playing with Phoenix in 2001, Kidd was arrested on a domestic violence charge, acknowledging he struck his former wife.