Jason Kidd, who helped the New Jersey
Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals
appearances as a player, returns to the
organization as head coach.
Jason Kidd , new Nets coach, says it took him
a week to go from old to young again in
basketball. It all started with him announcing
his retirement from the Knicks on one
Monday, and then convincing the people who
run the Brooklyn Nets that he should be their
next coach one Monday later.
"I went from being one of the oldest guys in
the league to being a rookie all over again,"
Kidd is saying on Thursday morning, before
heading over to Brooklyn to be officially
introduced as Nets coach.
Jason Kidd says, "I really do get the chance
to feel young again."
Oh, he finished old with the Knicks all right,
old as the Brooklyn Bridge some nights,
unable to score at the end of what had been
such a terrific season for him before the
playoffs began, such a splendid basketball
career ending in front of our eyes. Now he
gets a new beginning with the Nets, where
he jump-started his own career once and
changed everything for the Nets when they
were still playing in Jersey.
On Thursday morning, he talked about what it
was like to go over to the Nets' practice
facility in Jersey for what he said felt like
only the second real job interview of his life.
Laughing as he tells you this.
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"One was when we interviewed to get my
son into school in Manhattan," he says.
"Then came Monday at the practice facility.
But you know, it was funny once I got there.
I was nervous getting out of the car. But
then I felt my nerves settling once I walked
through the door, thinking of all the times
when I had gone into (former Nets general
manager) Rod Thorn's office there as a
player, just to talk about basketball.
"It was (Nets current G.M.) Billy I was
talking to. But in so many ways, I was back
to being a Net, back to talking to Rod."Jason Kidd will have little trouble
adjusting to his new role as head coach.
Of course, Thorn is the former Nets executive
who traded for Kidd, brought him to Jersey
from Phoenix, watched as Kidd passed and
thought and scored and pushed the Nets to
two NBA Finals.
"I felt like I was home, I really did," Jason
Kidd says on Thursday morning. "I felt like I
was home all over again once I was inside
my old practice facility. This was the place
where we practiced when we made our runs
to the Finals. Whatever nerves I felt on the
way over there, they really did settle inside
me once I walked up the stairs."
This all really started, with him and his agent
Jeff Schwartz, the weekend before Kidd
officially announced his retirement. They
were down in Georgia for a wedding of the
daughter of their friend Marc Lasry. Kidd says
his wife was still saying that she thought he
might have one more season in him, despite
the way his one season with the Knicks had
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Jason Kidd knew better. If you know
basketball the way he does, you know
"It was time to go," he says. "I knew that.
Jeff and my wife thought I might be able to
go on. But me, I knew I just had to go. My
biggest fear had always been getting hurt,
and not being able to leave the game as a
player on my own terms. No, I knew better
than anybody that it was time."
So then the conversation changed, the way a
game can change, the way he could always
change one with a pass or a smart play. He
and Schwartz had informed the Knicks on that
Saturday that he was going to retire. They
learned Grant Hill was set to announce his
own retirement at the same time. It was
agreed that Kidd would issue his own
statement on Monday.
"At one point Jeff said something like, ‘okay,
so what are you going to do now that you're
not a player anymore?’" Kidd says. "Then he
said, 'Listen, I know you can golf your way
around the world two or three times. But
when you get tired of that, and you will, then
you're going to ask me what you should do
next. Why don't we think about what's next
MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES
Jason Kidd brings the NBA title he earned
with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 to
Kidd chuckles again as he tells you the next
part of the story, before things happened as
fast as they did with the Nets.
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"I thought to myself, all right, ‘let's take a
look at your resume, Jason,’" he says. "’You
have no financial background. You have
basketball, that's what you have, for your
whole life.’ So next was going to be
basketball. Jeff started to put out some
feelers. Obviously one of his first calls was to
Billy. And then things started to move up
warp speed after that."
Before long Jason Kidd, one of the two most
important players in the history of the
franchise — Julius Erving was first — was
pitching himself to his old team. Excited at
the prospect of starting all over again as a
coach, starting all over again with the Nets.
"I got the feeling once I was in the room
that both sides were excited," he says. "I
spoke to Mikhail (Prokhorov, principal owner)
on the phone and understood right away how
much he wants to win. I understood their
concerns that I had never coached. But what
they got from me is that I would be willing
to learn. And that my work ethic as a coach
was going to be the same as it was when I
was a player. I shared with them the things
that I plan to share with Deron (Williams,
current Nets point guard) and with the whole
team. After I left the Nets I found out what
it takes to not just make the Finals, but to
win a championship. I think I have a sense
now of how you build a championship
structure and how you maintain that
Kidd pauses and says, "I don't care what
sport you're talking about. What you see with
great franchises is structure. A structure that
doesn't just take you from year to year, but
day to day."
He gives Jeff Schwartz the credit for pushing
him to try for this, so soon after his
retirement; Schwartz convincing him that the
next phase of what has been such a
remarkable career didn't automatically have
to wait until he had become a one-man
world golf tour. Kidds says even in his brief
retirement, there wasn't much time for golf,
the weather was mostly lousy.
Then Jason Kidd is talking about the extra
pass, talking about that the way the old
Knicks talked about the open man. Talking
about how there were unknowns once when
he was a rookie player, handling an 82-game
season for the first time, and how there will
be different unknowns and different
challenges now as a rookie coach. Now that
he has gone from old to young in basketball.
Now that he has taken the long way home to