Kidd was hired by the Nets nine days after ending a 19-year playing career during which he was selected as an All-Star 10 times and compiled the second-most assists and steals in NBA history.
The 40-year-old said he was excited to take over a veteran team that he called “championship caliber.” Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov declared when he bought the team in 2010 that it would win an NBA title by the end of the 2014-15 season.
“My message is going to be simple: You have to play hard and you have to play defense,” Kidd said yesterday in his introductory news conference. “We’re going to grow together and that’s what’s going to make it special.”
Kidd spent six years with the Nets, helping lead the team to the playoffs every season including back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03. He won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and finished his playing career this season with the New York Knicks.
Hall of Fame guard Magic Johnson, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers for 16 games in the 1993-94 season, said he found coaching more demanding than playing and that Kidd’s biggest challenge will involve being patient with his players.
“He’s going to have to understand that guys are not going to be able to play like him, maybe be dedicated like he was,” Johnson told reporters on a conference call. “And then make sure he gets great assistants -- probably former coaches -- that can help him because game-planning is also tough because he has not been doing that.”
Kidd replaces interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who was fired last month after the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, their first postseason appearance since 2007, Kidd’s final year playing for the team. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson, who was fired when the Nets started 14-14 in their first season at the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn following a move from Newark, New Jersey.
Johnson also was 40 when he took over as head coach the season after retiring as a player, which he accomplished in the 2004-05 season with the Dallas Mavericks.
More than a dozen NBA players, including three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams, congratulated Kidd via Twitter.
“Excited to work under our new head coach,” Williams said. “Great leader and great basketball mind.”
Kidd said yesterday that he will look to Williams to play a role similar to the one he did as a player, and praised Brooklyn center Brook Lopez and guard Joe Johnson. He said his coaching style will be up-tempo, with an emphasis on ball movement and team defense.
“We want to be a team that wins 50 games on a regular basis,” Kidd said. “My job is to put guys in a position to be successful and also guys need to be patient and listen, because I was a player and felt like I knew everything.”
Kidd is taking a rare route to becoming a head coach, according to former Phoenix Suns General Manager Steve Kerr, who won five NBA titles as a player and now works as an analyst for TNT.
“The inexperience will be a factor early,” Kerr said yesterday. “He just has to get the right staff and get his feet wet and roll with it.”
Kidd’s 12,091 assists and 2,684 steals trail only Hall of Famer John Stockton in each category. A two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S., he was an All-NBA First Team selection five times and an All-Defensive First Team pick after four seasons.
Nets General Manager Billy King acknowledged there is a risk associated with hiring a first-year coach, much as there is a risk with any coach. He said the team did not start its search looking for Kidd, but that he impressed them during interviews.
“Does he have a learning curve? Yes,” King said. “But if you know Jason, he doesn’t take something and just say he wants to be good at it. He wants to be great.”
-- With assistance from Erik Matuszewski in New York. Editors: Rob Gloster, Jay Beberman
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