Josh Newman, Field ReporterA young Billy King served as the treasurer for USA Basketball when the Men’s Senior National Team blew through the 1999 FIBA Tournament of the Americas and qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
That USA squad included a still-improving Jason Kidd, who had just finished his fifth season in the NBA. A relationship grew from there and as the years went on, King got to know and observe Kidd, eventually concluding that the future Hall of Fame point guard was a hard worker and had the attributes that would eventually make him a successful coach.
Nearly 14 years after that first meeting, King, now the General Manager of the Nets, sat on a makeshift stage on the Barclays Center concourse for one of the most important days of his career as an executive.
His introduction of Kidd as the 18th head coach in Nets NBA history caps a whirlwind week that didn’t see the former New Jersey Nets star turn into a legitimate candidate until the end of last weekend despite zero coaching experience.
“I now have the opportunity to share my experiences and help a team from a different seat,” Kidd said. “This is a great challenge and so I’m looking very forward to this.”
“Does he have a learning curve? Yes, but I think if you know Jason, he doesn’t just take something and say, “I want to be good at it,” he wants to be great,” King said.
Kidd, who led a previously wayward, dormant franchise to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 and is generally considered the best player in the franchise’s NBA history, had visions of becoming a head coach as his career began to wind down with the Dallas Mavericks from 2007-12 and the Knicks this past season.
A conversation with his agent, Jeff Schwartz, at a wedding in Sea Island, Georgia took place recently. The topic turned to retirement and what Kidd would do with himself. Schwartz called around asking various teams if there were coaching opportunities and Kidd even received an email from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asking if he wanted to come back and learn the business side of the NBA.
What ensued was a quick courtship after Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw had emerged as the favorite for the job. Kidd and King met Monday about the head coaching position and by the time King met with Shaw on Wednesday morning, the wheels were already in motion to hire Kidd.
“I’m a rookie, I go from one of the oldest players in the league to now a rookie coach and so I’m very excited about this challenge,” Kidd said. “I think here in Brooklyn, we have a special opportunity to achieve that status and that is to be a championship-caliber team.”
Kidd praised good friend Deron Williams several times during the press conference, saying the franchise point guard is and needs to continue to be the leader of a roster that is built to win now. Williams is 28, Joe Johnson, 31 and Gerald Wallace, 30 as all three of those guys, plus budding 25-year old All-Star center Brook Lopez, are signed long-term.
Unless King can pull some offseason magic and get someone to take on the remaining three years and $30 million of Wallace’s deal via trade, this is the roster Kidd has to work with for better or worse.
If nothing else, Kidd sounded like he had a plan on Thursday. He wants this team, which was nothing short of a slow-tempo, methodical group last season, to push the ball more and get out in transition. He sees Wallace as something of a point-forward and would like to get even more out of Lopez. The bottom line is Kidd, a true visionary with the ball in his hands in his time in East Rutherford, would like to see more creativity and versatility from the roster.
“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 gonna be simple. You have to play hard, you have to play defense and we’re gonna grow together. That’s what’s going to make this special.”
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA