“I don’t really see us having a head coach,” Irving said on the podcast, “The ETCs With Kevin Durant.” Referring to Durant, he said, “K.D. could be a head coach. I could be a head coach.”
Durant chimed in by claiming that Nets assistant coach Jacque Vaughn “could do it” on any given day.
“It’s a collaborative effort on our part,” he added.
It remains to be seen if Nash, 46, views Brooklyn’s head coaching position in the same light. At his introductory news conference, the two-time NBA MVP said he “can’t come in trying to conform to what I think a coach is supposed to be.”
“I just have to be myself and build and support my team, put us in a position to have a lot of joy every day when we come in to work, come together and build chemistry and belief and bond and a family,” Nash said. “That stuff can only happen if you’re authentic and if you’re yourself and you’re comfortable in your own skin. That’s all I can say, really. We’ll see what it’s like actually when you’re on the sidelines, but I would imagine I’m just going to be me.”
Irving, a six-time all-star who arrived with Durant in Brooklyn during free agency last year, asserted Thursday that the hiring of Nash would “change the way we see coaches.” He added, “We don’t need somebody to come in and put their coaching philosophy on everything that we’re doing, and change up the wheel.”
Limited by injuries to just 20 games for the Nets last season, while Durant missed the entire season following surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon, Irving did not accompany the team to the NBA’s bubble near Orlando. Atkinson, who had been the Nets’ coach since 2016, had already been fired by then, and the end to Brooklyn’s season was overseen by Vaughn on an interim basis.
Irving praised Atkinson on the podcast for having been “great for the group that he served,” but the veteran point guard went on to say, “I need somebody that’s going to understand that I am a human being first.
“I serve my community and where I come from first,” he continued, “and then basketball is something I come and do every day because I love, and also I have the right ingredients and people around me to come in and do my job at a high level, and I know that they will hold me accountable to that level.”
“I think a lot of people may question our leadership, overall or just us two,” Durant said. “But when me and Ky talked about being coached every single day, I think that’s leading by example. I think a lot of our teammates are going to follow that, once they see we’re getting coached, and we’re learning and continuing to ask questions about the game.”
At another point, Irving said something that could be construed as a swipe at previous teammates — a group that includes LeBron James — when he asserted, “I felt like I was the best option on every team I played for down the stretch. This is the first time in my career where I could look down and be like, ‘That [teammate] can make that shot, too. And he’ll probably do it a lot easier.’ ”
Later Thursday, James was asked about his relationship with his star teammate on the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis, and what kind of common ground they had despite a large age difference.
“We’re not jealous of each other,” he reportedly replied.
Some took that as a subtle jab at Irving, who had suggested several years ago that he demanded a trade away from the Cleveland Cavaliers to get out from under James’s shadow. Irving eventually addressed the chatter Thursday in NBA circles, telling the camera in a video he shared, “Why must it always be brother against brother?”
“If I’m addressing anyone, I’ll say their name,” Irving said. “Come on, y’all, don’t listen to the false narratives. Let people live their lives. It’s just a game. We talk about the art, talk about the sport — we talk openly, talk freely. But because we live in a click-based society, it becomes something bigger. … You don’t have to put me against anyone else, it’s never been about that. It’s about the love.”
At his introductory news conference, Nash had said of his decision to go into coaching, “I love to compete, I love to teach, to lead and to be a part of a team.”
“I think the characteristics and the strengths that I have, even leaving my playing career, were leading, teaching, collaborating,” he added. “So to be a part of that, to build something with a group of people that have already done an outstanding job setting the stage was really exciting for me.”
Nash arrives with some experience working with Durant. The former Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks star served as a player development consultant in Golden State while Durant was with the Warriors.
Durant said Thursday, “I think having Steve here and collaborating with our floor general every day is only going to yield good results for our scorers like myself and [Nets teammates] Taurean [Prince] and Caris [LaVert] and Spencer [Dinwiddie].”
Asked by his podcast co-host if he would be okay with standing in a corner as Kyrie handled the ball, Durant replied, “I enjoy getting out of the way and letting others flourish and being a decoy.”
Durant added that he learned with Golden State that “sometimes the best thing for you to do is just get out of the way.”