Cowens: Nets' Kidd will need new set of skills as coach
JUN 15, 2013 1:02p ET
That may not sound too difficult, considering Kidd was just hired as the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. But he also just retired as a point guard after 19 years in the NBA, most recently with the New York Knicks.
This is a rare and major leap — Kidd has transformed from peer to superior within a few short weeks.
It’s important, Cowens said, for Kidd to quickly recognize the difference between the two.
“As a player you are a 'me' guy,” Cowens said. “As a coach you are a 'we' guy, and your main concern is being truthful and fair with everyone, even though they may not see it that way.”
Cowens should know. He spent 12 years (1970-80, 82-83) as a Hall of Fame center for the Celtics and Bucks before embarking on a coaching career. Along with holding a dual role as player-coach with the Celtics (1978-79), he led the Charlotte Hornets (1996-99) and Golden State Warriors (2000-02) from the sideline.
Yes, Cowens was both a player and coach at the same time — the last NBA player to hold such a role. So you can believe him when he says Kidd should attempt to avoid a similar setup.
Though Kidd plans to stick to coaching with the Nets, Cowens stressed that the future Hall of Famer will have to stay focused to keep the two roles separate. Not just physically, but mentally.
“You get very little leeway, and it only lasts a short period of time,” Cowens said. “Players want to be confident you know how to lead, plan for, explain to and support them.”
Kidd is taking over a team with an array of talent — from guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to center Brook Lopez. Each has been an All-Star at least once.
Yet the Nets are viewed as inconsistent and underachievers. They lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs despite the fact the Bulls were undermanned and the Nets held home-court advantage.
As a point guard, Kidd led the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003, gaining a reputation as a winner who shared the ball. So not only did his hiring make a splash for a team that could use one, the Nets are hoping he can make the game more fun for the players and change the culture in the locker room.
As long as that change takes place on the sideline, and not in uniform, Cowens said he believes Kidd “should be fine.”
Obviously, Cowens and Kidd aren’t the only greats in the NBA’s player-to-coach fraternity. Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens are others who gave it a try as player-coaches with no time off to acclimate to the coaching world — some with more success than others.
For instance, Cousy had a splendid career as a point guard with the Celtics, winning six championships in the 1950s and ‘60s. But he flopped as a coach with the Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City-Omaha Kings (1969-73), making the playoffs just once and failing to get out of the first round.
And Cousy is a good example of a coach who thought he could help more as a player. He came out of retirement at the age of 40, designating himself as player-coach with the Royals.
It didn’t come close to working. Cousy played in just seven games, and the Royals finished 33-49. In one unfortunate incident in Cleveland, Cousy checked himself in to inbound the ball, then had to call a timeout to avoid being whistled for a 5-second violation. So he checked himself out and went back to coaching.
That story alone should be enough to keep Kidd from being tempted to try something similar with the Nets.
“Coaching has its own set of fundamentals to master that are different than playing fundamentals,” Cowens said. “He will do fine if he is conscientious about learning how to be a coach and not act as a player who is coaching. He can't be their teammate. He has to be their authority figure.”
Cowens concluded by saying the Nets have the talent. The rest is up to Kidd.
“Talent wins; coaching enhances talent,” he said. “You know you can coach when you can keep players playing hard and invested in the team’s success when you are losing more than winning.”
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