Veteran big man Scot Pollard played for six coaches over his 11-year career in the NBA, and the one who was his very first—Doug Collins—was actually let go in midseason. He has some familiarity with how the politics of players and coaches works in the league.
So when he looks at what has happened in Brooklyn this summer, with Kevin Durant’s trade request morphing into a request for the firing of coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks, he sees only one obvious outcome: Nash’s firing.
“I don’t think Steve Nash makes it much longer,” Pollard said on this week’s episode of Heavy’s The Celtics Collective. “Honestly, it’s always the coach. They’re not going to fire the $150 million dollar player, they’re gonna fire whatever Steve’s getting paid. Ten million a year, five million a year. That’s peanuts compared to what KD’s making and they’re not going to see Steve Nash coach. So, that’s how those things work.
“When a team bails on the coach? And if your star player has bailed on the coach? Then it’s easy for the rest of the team to go. ‘Well, I’m not playing as much as I wanted to either, and it’s probably the coach(’s fault).”
Nash Is Nets’ Winning Coach in History
Nash figures to enter the season as one of the coaches on the biggest hot seat in the league, with last year’s team wilting in the postseason thanks to a first-round sweep at the hands of the eventual East champs, the Celtics. Much of what happened with Brooklyn was not Nash’s fault, including the refusal of Kyrie Irving to take the COVID-19 vaccine, the lack of conditioning and subsequent trade request lodged by James Harden, and the unwillingness/inability of Ben Simmons to take the floor for the team.
A devastating ankle injury suffered by starter Joe Harris did not help, either, nor did injuries to Durant that cost him 27 games. Still, Nash got the Nets into the postseason and lodged a 44-38 record, despite an 8-19 mark with Durant out.
Nash was hired by the Nets as a stunning replacement for Kenny Atkinson in 2019, and it was believed at the time that Durant had helped lobby to have Nash installed as coach. The two had worked together when Nash was on staff with the Warriors before joining the Nets, which made later reports of Durant’s unhappiness with the coach all the more surprising.
Nash, with a .597 winning percentage, remains the winningest coach in Nets franchise history.
Few Teams Likely to Make Early Coaching Change
Nash certainly does enter the 2022-23 season as the favorite to be the first coach let go, however. Four teams (the Kings, Jazz, Hornets and Lakers) will have new coaches, and several teams have coaches who could be in trouble with a slow start—the Sixers, Knicks, and Trail Blazers among them.
But Nash is considered the most vulnerable. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith agreed with Pollard during a segment on the network last month, saying the Nets will not be getting rid of Durant and Irving any time soon.
“I don’t know the inside working of the Nets, but if I was there, it’d be a legitimate chance because I’m not getting rid of talents like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant,” Smith said. “If we want to win, this is the best situation for us to win is having those two guys in uniform.”