Brooklyn's novice coach ready to take Nets to next level
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jason Kidd's numbers are to die for.
The future Hall of Fame point guard ranks second all-time in assists and steals, is the only player ever to put up at least 15,000 points, 10,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds and is third in career triple-doubles with 107 in the regular season and 11 more in the playoffs.
The 40-year-old San Francisco native also owns an NBA Championship ring, two Olympic Gold Medals and was a 10-time NBA All-Star.
His career record as an NBA coach, however, currently stands at 0-0, making his official hiring Thursday afternoon as the 18th head man in Nets history a risky one, to say the least, for Brooklyn general manager Billy King and ultra-demanding team owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
"Anytime you make a hire, you take a risk," admitted King during Kidd's introductory press conference just inside the main entrance to the Barclays Center before a throng of media gathered to take its first poke at the recently retired 19-year NBA veteran.
"I've known him for a long time, so I don't worry about whether guys are going to respond to him," King insisted. "He works hard and that's what I believe in."
As for Kidd, who finished up his brilliant career with a well-chronicled scoreless effort in the Knicks' season-ending playoff series against Indiana last month, the challenge of taking over a team that won 49 games a season ago, set a franchise record for road victories and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007 is one he embraces.
Albeit with a bit of understandable trepidation.
"I'm nervous," Kidd said. "I'm a rookie. I go from being one of the oldest players in the league to being a rookie head coach. I have a lot to learn about coaching. But this is a championship caliber-type team. Hopefully, I can communicate that to the guys."
Kidd's on-the-court communication skills were never questioned during his playing days.
The most deft and defiant hardwood quarterback of his era, the newly minted coach must now pass on those formidable skills and his knowledge of the game to the Nets' $98 million point guard Deron Williams, who struggled in that role during the first half of last season.
"He's the guy I want to pass the torch to," Kidd said of Williams, who was on hand to welcome his third head coach since the Nets opened the Barclays in November to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue. " He loves the competition and that's where it all starts. I think Deron is one of the best point guards in this league."
King, who cited a need for greater toughness from the high-priced roster he put together during a $330 million spending spree last summer, firmly believes that Kidd has what it takes to make the Nets one of the elite franchises in the league.
"When this process started. we were looking for a coach with great leadership to help our players compete and play hard," said King, who interviewed Indiana assistant Brian Shaw on Wednesday before committing to Kidd.
"Jason Kidd combined everything we were looking for. The one thing about Jason is he's always worked hard. He doesn't just want to be good at something, he wants to be great. He was an unselfish player. He wasn't a great shooter when he came in the league, but he became a great shooter. He'll make sure we go in the right direction."
That direction has to be up in 2013-14, as Prokhorov is in NBA Finals-or-bust mode entering his fourth season at the helm of the recently relocated franchise.
Armed with a "Big Three" of Williams, All-Star center Brook Lopez and shooting guard Joe Johnson, and a strong cast of supporting players, Kidd must take the Nets further than the first round of the playoffs next season for this hiring to be deemed a prudent one by King.
"The mission is to win," Kidd stated emphatically. "This is a team that should score at least 100 points (a night), but you can't win championships without defense. Deron is one of the best point guards in the league. Brook Lopez is obviously very talented. Those are two positions that we're set. My job is to get the most out of them. We want to be like the best franchises in sports, like San Antonio. We want to win 50 games for the next 12, 13 years."
Fortunately for Kidd, he won't have to go it alone.
There are already rumors circulating that former Nets coach and close Kidd confidant Lawrence Frank will be brought in as a top assistant. Kidd openly campaigned for the man he played under for the four of his six seasons with the New Jersey Nets, whom he led to the franchise's only two NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
"We're in discussions about a staff. Lawrence would be a great candidate," Kidd said. "I understand that I will lean on my staff heavily and learn from them. You have to start with structure. It starts with your leader. Guys will hear me talking, My message will be simple.: 'You have to play hard, play defense and work together.'"
While most head coaches run practice with a whistle in their mouths from the sideline, Kidd is still spry enough to get up and down with the league's best athletes should he decide to lace them up again.
But the best player in Nets history isn't about to entertain thoughts of a comeback on the hardwood, especially not with all the work he has ahead of him in the film room and in advance of this month's NBA Draft.
"I would have to take a lot of Advil," Kidd jibed when the Eagle asked if he'd actively participate in team practices. "I'll just keep the running to the treadmill."