Yet it was Marks and the Nets’ team owner, Joe Tsai, who persuaded Nash to move up his timetable and make an immediate leap to head coaching. It was similar to what the Nets’ previous regime did in June 2013 — hiring Jason Kidd, one of Nash’s playing contemporaries, just after Kidd had played in the postseason with the Knicks.
Nash’s hiring, beyond the questions it raised about his lack of experience, quickly brought renewed attention to the league’s dwindling number of Black head coaches. The reassignment of Vaughn, who is Black, has left the N.B.A. with just five Black head coaches in a league with a player pool that is estimated to be about 80 percent Black. At the start of the 2012-13 season, there were 14 Black head coaches.
New Orleans and Indiana have yet to replace Gentry and McMillan; Philadelphia and Chicago are the N.B.A.’s two other teams with a coaching vacancy. The other current Black head coaches are Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce, Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Detroit’s Dwane Casey, Phoenix’s Monty Williams and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers. Charlotte’s James Borrego was the first Latino coach in N.B.A. history, and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, of Filipino descent, was the league’s first Asian-American coach.
Vaughn, who had a 58-158 record in two-plus seasons as coach of the Orlando Magic, got off to a 2-0 start as the Nets’ interim head coach, with wins over the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers before the N.B.A. season was suspended indefinitely on March 11 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Nets, the No. 7 seed in the East, were expected to be competitive in the playoffs, though not championship contenders until next year, when Irving and Durant are likely to be back from their injuries.
Now the task is in the hands of Nash, who never won a championship as a player but earned eight All-Star appearances in Dallas and Phoenix and led the league in assists five times. The way he managed a string of serious injuries throughout his career may give him another edge in connecting with Durant and Irving.
Nash was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, his first year of eligibility.
In retirement, he has worked extensively with the men’s senior national basketball team in his native Canada — both as the program’s general manager and in an advisory role — while maintaining a significant presence in soccer as a team owner and broadcaster. Nash has said that soccer jobs, like his two-year stint as part of Turner Sports’ Champions League coverage, enabled him to maintain a more frequent presence with his family.
“I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years,” Marks said, calling him “one of the great on-court leaders in our game.”