Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday that head coach Steve Nash told him Brooklyn’s players were “not responding to him” in the opening weeks of the regular season. The Nets subsequently fired Nash and are expected to hire Ime Udoka as their next head coach.
Brooklyn opened the season 2-5 under Nash and also struggled last year amidst constant internal turmoil. Former Nets assistant coach Amar’e Stoudemire appeared on ESPN New York to detail why the head coach had difficulty getting through to his players.
“Everyone wasn’t quite available to play and there were ups and downs, there were major trades that happened with bringing in James Harden, then James Harden departing,” Stoudemire said. “So as a coach it’s tough to really get that chemistry built or get your strategy implemented within the team because of all those changes. And so because of that I think Steve Nash lost the locker room a bit, and the players didn’t really have the respect as they probably should’ve for a head coach, and I think that’s what led to Steve parting ways with the Nets.”
Former Nets assistant coach Amar'e Stoudemire talking about Steve Nash's firing and his view on the team's defensive issues last year that lingered into this season.
Via @ESPNNY98_7FM. pic.twitter.com/WFcDIGSFtN
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) November 2, 2022
Brooklyn limped to the seventh seed last season with a revolving door of players before being swept by Boston in the first round. Kyrie Irving missed more than half of the year while refusing to comply with New York’s workplace vaccine mandate. Joe Harris played just 14 games before he was ruled out for the season. Kevin Durant missed extended time with a knee injury. And all of this led James Harden to force his way to Philadelphia at the trade deadline.
Brooklyn used 43 different starting lineups in 2021-22. That was the most in the league and nearly double the average amongst playoff teams (24).
As Stoudemire noted, Brooklyn was unable to develop chemistry because of this. These issues have lingered into the start of this season with Harris, Seth Curry, T.J. Warren and Ben Simmons all missing games early. The Nets were putrid defensively in seven games prior to Nash’s dismissal, ranking 29th in defensive rating. Brooklyn finished last season 20th in defensive rating. While injuries and internal instability factored into this, Stoudemire also said players were unhappy with the team’s lack of schematic structure under Nash.
“The players were growing frustrations because they wanted to have a defensive structure that would allow them to hold each other accountable,” the former assistant said. ‘When plays break down and someone makes a mistake, you want to be there to cover for them, but you also want to let them know, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to do it this way. You made a mistake, but now let’s force him down into whatever the coverage is.’
“And I think because we didn’t quite have that strategy implemented within the team, whenever someone makes a mistake, the next person makes a mistake, and then who are we holding accountable for these mistakes? So now it’s a flux of a lot of people making mistakes and finger-pointing. And then that creates an unstable environment, which then now creates bad defense and bad offense.”
This is likely the main reason the Nets are expected to hire Ime Udoka to replace Nash. The 45-year-old possesses a strong defensive background, along with experience with Brooklyn’s stars. Udoka coached Durant and Irving as Brooklyn’s defensive coordinator in 2020-21. He also coached Ben Simmons in the same role with Philadelphia the season prior.
Marks denied reports Tuesday that Brooklyn has already made a decision on their next head coach. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Nets could announce the hiring of Udoka as early as Wednesday.
“I think a formal agreement could be reached as soon as today,” Wojnarowski said Wednesday morning. “Ime Udoka could be on the Nets bench as soon as this road trip this weekend.
“For Brooklyn, I think Sean Marks sees a coach in Udoka who he believes will command the respect of that locker room and will improve them defensively.”
.@wojespn weighs in on the Brooklyn Nets finalizing a deal to hire suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka:
"This is probably the last-ditch effort to make this [Nets team] work." pic.twitter.com/Q4OIsqSrH3
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) November 2, 2022
Following a 108-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls Tuesday, Brooklyn sits just one game ahead of last place in the Eastern Conference. The Nets will look to make up some ground when they travel to Washington and Charlotte later this week.