Rick Carlisle has no doubt Jason Kidd will be a successful head coach in the NBA.
But in order to accelerate that impending success, the Dallas Mavericks coach would like Kidd to make one very important telephone call.
“I think one of the things that he’s going to do, and I’ve talked to [Kidd] about this, is talk to Larry Bird about it, because Larry Bird did this, too,” Carlisle said. “[Bird] didn’t do it nine days after retiring — he did it a few years afterwards.
“But [Bird] went into the job of an NBA head coach without any coaching experience. And so Jason will talk to him and I think he’ll get some good insights on it.”
Kidd might need those insights from Bird after the Brooklyn Nets pulled a mild surprise June 12 when they chose Kidd as their head coach. It’s a mild surprise because Kidd was a mere nine days removed from retiring from the NBA after a stellar 19-year career, yet he was able to secure the Nets’ job without having any prior coaching experience.
Kidd is eagerly embracing his life-altering decision.
“When you talk about 19 years of playing the game that I love and now having an opportunity to share my experiences and help a team from a different seat, this is a great challenge,” Kidd said at his news conference. “So I’m looking very forward to this.
“Yes, I have a lot to learn about coaching. But when I played the game I felt like I was an extension of the coach.”
Still, Carlisle would like for Kidd to have that chat with Bird.
Bird retired from the NBA in 1992, became a special assistant in the Boston Celtics’ front office, and then was named the head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997 without any coaching experience. Bird coached the Pacers for three seasons during which Carlisle was his top assistant.
In Bird’s first coaching season in 1997-98, the Pacers went 58-24, lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Bird was selected NBA Coach of the Year. The next season the Pacers won the Central Division, but lost to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
And in Bird’s final season as the Indy coach in ’99-00, the Pacers finished with a 56-26 regular-season record, then advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Carlisle believes Kidd — who helped the Carlisle-led Mavs capture the 2011 NBA title — is destined to become a terrific head coach.
“I don’t think there’s ever been an endeavor that he hasn’t been a winner with,” Carlisle said. “I’m happy for him. This is an opportunity that I believe that he’s earned with a 19-year playing career and the way he’s approached it and what he stood for.
“As it takes shape for him it’s going to be about getting the right staff together, because they have a good team.”
Before taking the Nets’ job, Kidd even had some dialogue with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, saying: “I had an email from Cuban asking did I want to come back and kind of learn the business side of it.”
What Kidd wants to learn is the coaching side of basketball — something he fully expects to excel in.
Former NBA player Spud Webb said Kidd was basically like a coach on the court. But Webb cautioned that with the varied personalities of today’s players, he might be in for a rude awakening.
“It’s got to be a tough transition because now you’ve got to deal with 12-15 [player] egos, habits and everything else,” said Webb, now the president of basketball operations for the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League. “It’s got to be the worst transition you can make because you’re not dealing with basketball all the time — you’re almost a psychiatrist.”
Webb said there will be close tabs kept on the relationship between Kidd and Nets point guard Deron Williams. Kidd and Williams are fast friends who also share the same agent, but now Kidd is Williams’ boss.
“It’s going to be a tough one to see him and Deron, to see how they react, because they’re such good friends,” Webb said. “It could be good, too.
“Deron could help him out a whole lot when he’s trying to get a point across. It just depends on how Jason comes across and how the locker room takes to him.”
Magic Johnson, who won five NBA titles as a player, coached the Lakers for 16 games late in the 1993-1994 season as a favor to then-owner Dr. Jerry Buss. Johnson describes it as one of the most difficult tasks he’s ever encountered, but believes Kidd is up for the challenge.
“We have seen [an inexperienced] Mark Jackson do a wonderful job with Golden State, and if [Kidd’s] heart is into it and if he’s willing to put in the work [he’ll be successful], because what he won’t understand is it’s going to take more work than it did as a player,” Johnson said. “When I did those 16 games for the Lakers, I understood how hard it is for coaches.
“I stayed up all day and all night going over game plans and watching film, and I couldn’t even sleep. I’m thinking about the changes that I want to make, all the different plays I want to run against the different teams, so I gained a lot more respect for coaches than I had before.”
Kidd, 40, admittedly is nervous about his coaching venture. He knows this player-to-coach transition won’t be an easy proposition.
“I’m a rookie,” Kidd said. “I go from being one of the oldest players in the league to now a rookie coach.
“I’m very excited about this challenge. I think here in Brooklyn we have a special opportunity to achieve that status, and that’s to be a championship-type caliber team.”
Nets general manager Billy King said Kidd embodies everything that he was searching for in a head coach.
“The one thing I think we’ll always know about Jason is he is somebody that always worked hard, and that’s something that I think will translate into the coaching,” King said. “Does he have a learning curve, yes.
“But I think if you know Jason, he doesn’t take something and just say, ‘I want to be good at it.’ He wants to be great.”
Ex-Mavs All-Star guard Rolando Blackman believes the Nets will be a success because Kidd’s leadership skills are undeniable.
“But the important thing is those of us who have been around J-Kidd understand that he understands, and that if they now formulate a format to his leadership, that good things will happen,” Blackman said. “Players still have to come up.
“Deron Williams and all the rest of them who are on that team still have to get the job done. But the important part about this is they have a great leader in J-Kidd who will be able to get it done, because he knows what he’s doing.”