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Steve Nash not running from Nets’ championship expectations

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Steve Nash wasn’t ready to mark his introductory appearance as Nets coach by guaranteeing a championship. But he knows that’s where they should be aiming.

Longtime friend Sean Marks has done the arduous work of tearing the worst situation in the NBA down to the studs and rebuilding it into a star-studded roster, with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a real shot at a title. It’s a situation to which Nash — who’d been resistant to taking the coaching plunge — couldn’t say no.

“It’s a unique opportunity. It’s an incredible roster, it’s an incredible family here at the Nets,” Nash said via Zoom. “They’re obviously at an incredible point in the history of this organization, so the timing is fantastic, the opportunity is fantastic.

“I reached out to Sean at some point in the summer — I can’t remember exactly when that was — asked if this was the right time for me to throw my name in the hat and be considered for the position. That’s what got the ball rolling.”

Now Nash steps into great expectations. The Nets haven’t made an NBA Final since 2003, and Brooklyn hasn’t enjoyed a major title as a borough since 1955. But they shouldn’t be shooting for anything less.

Steve Nash
Steve NashBrooklyn Nets/Twitter

“Well, I think that’s where we should be looking. I think we have the talent, we have the culture. The organization has a foundation that can compete for everything,” Nash said on ESPN’s “The Jump”. “I’m not Babe Ruth pointing right now, but our expectations are high.”

And Marks and Nets owner Joe Tsai are entrusting a rookie coach to meet those expectations. Yes, waiting a week could’ve given them a shot at Billy Donovan, but listen to Marks and it wouldn’t have mattered.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around that has wanted to be pressure-tested on the spot quite like Steve,” Marks said. “He’s never shied away from a moment. So when you say first-time head coach, we’ve seen that been done before. This guy has never run from anything. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of games and his career spoke for itself. He’s made the right decision more times than not, and the experience he’ll bring here speaks volumes.”

The Nets are counting on that 18 years of experience in a Hall of Fame playing career to garner the respect of Durant and Irving.

Nash’s relationship with Durant stretches back to his playing days, introduced eight years ago by current Nets assistant Adam Harrington. That bond just solidified during Nash’s time as a Warriors consultant, often found training Durant.

“It evolved into a friendship. And we worked together in the offseason. When I retired, I continued to work with him at times in the offseason, just as a friend,” Nash said.

“When I was with Golden State and he came to Golden, obviously we got a chance to work up close and personal during the season for the first time. It’s a privilege to work with one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”

While Nash said he didn’t speak with Durant about coming to Brooklyn before he decided to take the coaching plunge, it strains credulity to think the superstar’s friendship wasn’t key in landing Nash the job.

Still, his rapport with Irving will be pivotal, both because of his position and the player’s mercurial nature.

“Kyrie’s one of my favorite players of all-time. He’s brilliant; skill level historically off the charts. Creative. Guts. Competitiveness. For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure,” Nash said. “We have a relationship going back to when he was a rookie, playing against him. Got a chance to train with him for a couple days in New York City after I retired, must’ve been five, six years ago.

“I’m excited to develop that relationship, watching him continue to show greatness on the floor and to continue to get to know him in a really meaningful way, because he’s an incredible person.”

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