By Steve Lichtenstein
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Jason Kidd wants a job.
Kidd, the Hall of Fame-bound point guard who last week walked away from his playing career at age 40, wants to start his new life as soon as possible.
That’s why, according to various media reports, he’s secured a meeting with Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King this week.
Since Kidd single-handedly turned around the Nets franchise upon his trade to New Jersey in 2002, they owe him that. If there’s some capacity in which Kidd could fit in with the club’s long-term plans, it’s worth the discussion.
Just not as head coach.
Look, I’m a huge Kidd fan, but only within the confines of the basketball court. His unreal perception that fueled his rise to second place on the NBA all-time assist leaderboard might not necessarily translate to the sideline.
There’s so much more to being a head coach than having your name on all-time NBA stat lists, whether it’s managing playing time or managing people. Most often, these tasks prove to be more difficult for the star players, who are more apt to get frustrated over the lapses from lesser mortals (see Johnson, Magic).
One of the more successful of the game’s elite to transition to the bench was Larry Bird. Except that Bird first spent over five years as a special assistant in the Celtics’ front office before he took over as coach in Indiana, where he led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals.
Of course there have been plenty of platitudes towards Kidd from those within the league related to his new-found quest to coach. What else are they going to say? Kidd has generated a tremendous amount of respect from coaches and players, past and present, throughout his career.
Again, that does not make him qualified to coach here.
If Brian Shaw, the Indiana assistant who is also reportedly meeting with King this week, is drawing some concern for his lack of head coaching experience, how can Kidd rank higher on King’s list? At least there’s a trail of prior work with Shaw, much of it highly acclaimed.
Kidd needs to learn the ropes somewhere before jumping to head coach. It’s not degrading to be an assistant. It’s where you learn, even if it’s what not to do.
The Nets are far past the point where they need to make a splash with a big-name hire just to lure fans into the building. This is a playoff team that needs creativity, both in the front office and on the bench. They need a tactician, someone who can match wits with the top coaches in the East, like Spoelstra, Thibodeau and Vogel.
None of those guys even played in the NBA.
That doesn’t mean that playing experience disqualifies candidates. I’m still rooting for the Nets to grab Lionel Hollins, who had an above-average, 10-year career at point guard before entering the coaching profession (again, first as an assistant in college before the NBA). Hollins, whose contract in Memphis expires on June 30, has been rumored for just about every high-profile opening in the league. But no one has reported that the Nets will be bringing him in for an interview any time soon.
All this talk about Kidd as coach is becoming a distraction. King needs to do his due diligence quickly to find the right fit to lead a diverse and veteran group to the next level, which will be very difficult given the recent rise in the competition.
The Nets burned through two coaches this past season. King got passes because Avery Johnson was not his hire and he kept the interim label on Johnson’s replacement, P.J. Carlesimo, for the remainder of the year, which implied that Carlesimo was not long for the job.
This selection will only have King’s fingerprints on it. He can take the meeting with Kidd and listen to what he has to say, but he can’t “Kidd” himself to believe that he is a viable coaching candidate.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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