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Can Jason Kidd, never an assistant, succeed as a head coach?

June 13, 2013|
  • Jason Kidd during a New York Knicks-Detroit Pistons game.
Jason Kidd during a New York Knicks-Detroit Pistons game. (Duane Burleson / Associated…)

Jason Kidd landed the Brooklyn Nets' head-coaching gig Tuesday, just 10 days after retiring as a player.

The former point guard was considered one of the smartest players during his 19 NBA seasons, and he led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in his six-plus years with the team.

Still, is it possible for any first-time NBA coach to have success without first working his way up as an assistant?

Writers from around Tribune Co. will try to answer that question. Feel free to join the conversation with comment of your own.

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel

It’s helpful for new NBA head coaches to have NBA assistant-coaching experience.

It’s not absolutely necessary in rare cases.

Just ask Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson.

Rivers didn’t have any real coaching experience before the Orlando Magic hired him as their head coach in 1999, but he won the NBA Coach of the Year award his rookie season.

Jackson had no coaching experience when the Golden State Warriors hired him as their head coach before the 2011-12 season. But, in his second season, the Warriors reached the second round of the playoffs.

Any new head coach needs credibility, and Rivers and Jackson had that credibility when they started. Each of them had played in the NBA for over a decade. Jackson also brought aboard seasoned NBA assistant coaches, including Michael Malone, to help with the Xs and O's.

Jason Kidd, one of the greatest point guards ever, will bring credibility to his new role with the Brooklyn Nets.

[Updated at 9:13 a.m. June 13, 2013:

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

Doc Rivers and Larry Bird have Coach of the Year trophies on their mantle to prove you can be a successful NBA coach without previous assistant coaching experience. Mark Jackson is presiding over a turnaround in Golden State. Even much-maligned Vinny Del Negro, who never will be confused with Red Auerbach, took the Bulls to the playoffs in his first season of coaching. So who’s to say Jason Kidd can’t succeed?

As with most things NBA, it comes down to the players. And with Kidd’s wealth of knowledge and experience and ability to relate to what those players are seeing, it’s a safe bet the rookie coach will be able to coax more out of those underachieving Nets.

It helps that Kidd reportedly will surround himself with veteran assistants, including possibly his former Nets coach Lawrence Frank. Those two took two trips to the NBA Finals together when Frank himself was a neophyte coach, albeit one with assistant experience. Kidd was the star point guard then. He has a star point guard now in Deron Williams and surely will be able to maximize his vast ability.

That's not to say the Nets will win the NBA Finals. It is to say Kidd should be fine.]

[Updated at 12:39 p.m. June 13, 2013:

Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times

Going from playing directly into head coaching means skipping a few steps on the coaching totem pole, from video coordinating to ball-fetching assistant to an assistant whose voice actually carries weight in the game-plan discussions. Those who have endured these tasks usually have a greater appreciation for and understanding of team-building from the ground up.

That's not to say someone whose first coaching job is as the head honcho won't be successful, but it may take him a little while to fully grasp all the nuance of what it takes to guide a team. Being a great player isn't the only prerequisite for being a great coach (Isiah Thomas, anyone?). Coaching is every bit as much a skill as putting a ball through a basket, and it's usually best learned one rung on the ladder at a time.]

[Updated at 12:53 p.m. June 13, 2013:

Christy Cabrera Chirinos, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In the cutthroat world of NBA coaching, there’s no doubt experience as an assistant coach helps. But Jason Kidd has his own unique credentials that can help him easily transition into life as an NBA coach.

He’s widely regarded as having been a smart, unselfish player that was a coach on the floor, and he likely still has enough of a competitive spark to push some of the Nets’ young stars. All of that should translate as he moves into a new role in the basketball world, and he’s already received support from some of the sport’s biggest names, including Gregg Popovich, the no-nonsense Spurs coach.

So sure, coaching experience would help, but it’s not essential when it’s someone like Kidd bringing his own experience to the table. Ultimately, his success will depend partly on the players on his roster and the work he puts in.]


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