Jason Kidd approached his meeting with Nets general manager Billy King like many job seekers.
He was nervous he might say or do something to dissuade his chances at getting the position, especially since the meeting took place shortly after he announced his retirement from the NBA following a 19-year career with the Mavericks, Suns, Nets and Knicks.
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He eventually grew comfortable with the setting, especially when the discussion turned to basketball.
“I went in there and talked basketball,” Kidd said. “It felt like home and the butterflies disappeared. We just talked basketball and what I thought I could do for Brooklyn and from there it felt comfortable.”
It eventually led to the Nets hiring Kidd and officially introducing him Thursday afternoon at a packed press conference overlooking the court at the Barclays Center. His wife, two of his children and Nets point guard Deron Williams were in attendance as well.
“What stood out for me was his leadership and I’ve seen that before,” King said. “You see that up close when you talk to him and just his knowledge of the game as we talked and he was talking about different teams and their sets and how it would work with our team and how we would use it with our personnel in a different way. To me, I think the ceiling is very, very high. He gives a great work ethic and knowledge and I think working together we can build something that can last a long time.”
The process of finding the 18th coach in franchise history and the first one to start in Brooklyn and not have the interim tag began May 5 after the team announced P.J. Carlesimo would not return. The search took the Nets in several directions, including looking at established coaches such as Lionel Hollins and Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, but it eventually headed in the direction of Kidd.
“I was all over the place when I started,” King said. “As I started doing research, I probably went on thinking I was going to go in one direction but the more you talk to people doing research that leads you in another direction.”
The impetus for the coaching search actually began the weekend before Kidd retired from playing. Kidd was at a wedding in Georgia with agent Jeff Schwartz. He also had an email from Dallas owner Mark Cuban inviting him to work on the business side of things.
“He asked me, ‘What are your plans?’” Kidd said of the conversation. “You can only play so much golf before you call me asking, ‘What can I do?’”
The success of Mark Jackson in Golden State also swayed the decision, as did the success of Larry Bird in Indiana in the 1997-98 season. Bird guided that team to the Eastern Conference Finals against Michael Jordan and Chicago after King was an assistant under Larry Brown with the Pacers.
“When we played Golden State, I went up to him before the game and said ‘Thank you,’” Kidd said of speaking with Jackson, the former Knicks point guard. “You gave the guys the opportunity and you kind of cracked the door open for guys who are trying to go into coaching because of the success that he had.”
Another thing that guided King toward Kidd was forming a relationship with him in 1999 when both were involved with the U.S. Olympic team. Kidd was preparing for the 2000 Olympic Games and King was working as the team’s treasurer.
Besides those factors, King said that he looked into Kidd’s DWI arrest last summer in the Hamptons and even talked to the lawyers. According to the Associated Press, he is due in Southampton, N.Y. Town Court on June 20 after pleading not guilty to misdemeanor DWI.
Presently there will be 12 new head coaches in the NBA with three vacancies currently remaining (Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia). The Nets are one of six playoff teams that will have a new coach. Five of those teams lost in the first round but they are the only team to hire someone without any experience as an assistant coach or head coach.
One of the things Kidd will try to change or improve on is the team’s reputation for a lack of toughness. That was a prominent topic during their first-round ouster as mentioned by Charles Barkley on the TNT studio show and Chicago Sun Times columnist Joe Cowley in a halftime segment during Game 4 of the series with Chicago.
“I think you have to start with structure, understanding we’re here to build something and for that you have to have structure and it starts with your leader,” Kidd said. “You look at Deron, I think he is one of the best in the league at that. My message is going to be simple. You have to play hard, you have to play defense and we’re going to grow together. That’s what going to make this special.”
In other words, he will be trying to avoid some of the adverse situations the Nets failed to respond to. The three most notable instances were falling behind by 17 in Game 7 at home and getting blown out with one bad quarter in home games against Miami and San Antonio.
Kidd will also be the fourth coach in Williams’s career. Williams has reportedly had differences with Jerry Sloan and Avery Johnson that led to their resignation or dismissal. But he endorsed the move to bring in Kidd and found the decision to implement a more up-tempo system appealing.
“It definitely caught me off-guard when I first heard but I thought it was a good move for us,” Williams said.
After the pomp of Thursday’s introduction, a few key steps for Kidd’s first coaching tenure will start.
He will begin formulating a coaching staff of possibly experienced assistants. One of those could be Lawrence Frank, who was an assistant and head coach in New Jersey for Kidd’s entire tenure.
“A lot of people have speculated about Lawrence and he would be a great candidate but there are lot of people I will be giving a phone call to,” Kidd said. “I understand that my staff I will lean on heavy and learn from and he would be a great candidate. I guess I can use this as a recruiting tool for him to join me in Brooklyn.”
The process will also coincide with the team’s preparations for the draft in two weeks and free agency in July. Among the things King will be looking to provide his new head coach with is more shooting, especially from the bench.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.