Hello, Coach Kidd.
When Kidd was introduced as the 18th head coach in Nets franchise history and the first head coach hired by the Brooklyn Nets, he thanked Billy King for the opportunity.
But months before that—months before he says he even imagined retiring from the game and walking into a head coaching job—Kidd told the world about someone else he thanked.
It was February 27, and Brooklyn native Mark Jackson was visiting Madison Square Garden for the first time as a head coach. Jackson, who coached his Warriors to a win in Brooklyn earlier in the season, was admittedly nervous about making his coaching debut in an arena that he had played in as a high school student, college player at New York's Saint John's University, and NBA Rookie of the Year as a member of the New York Knicks.
"When we played Mark [Jackson] in New York, I went up to him before the game and I said 'thank you,'" Kidd said.
"He did give guys an opportunity to kinda crack the door open for guys who are playing to be able to go into coaching because of the success that he's had."
Indeed, Jackson cracked the door. But together, Billy King and Jason Kidd kicked it down.
Kidd, then a New York Knick, announced his retirement on June 3. A mere 10 days later, he was introduced as the full-time successor to Avery Johnson.
The move was a major surprise and a major risk. It is one that Kidd says came up in a casual conversation with his agent, Jeff Schwartz. According to Kidd, Schwartz made initial contact with King after he and Kidd decided to seek bench opportunities for the Hall-of-Famer.
The rest, as they say, is history.
And history is what Kidd hopes to make in Brooklyn.
"It's an exciting day for the Brooklyn Nets to have a chance to introduce Jason Kidd as our next head coach," King said.
"When this process started, in talks with Mikhail [Prokhorov] and ownership, we were looking for a coach that's gonna bring leadership, that can help build us to where we want to get to and show us the direction to help our players compete. We really wanted to resemble Brooklyn—somebody who plays hard and teaches hard for the guys to play hard."
"And Jason had everything that we were looking for."
Apparently, then, one thing that King was not looking for was a winning track record as a head coach.
And you know what?
Good for him.
NBA front offices are so often full of conservative executives and basketball people who are so afraid of making a mistake that we rarely see bold and courageous risks. Kidd's hiring comes as a complete shock to most because of the coaching culture that has permeated the league. The retread coach is the norm. The carousel is regular. The mold is the rule.
But rules, as they say, are meant to be broken.
Or, in this case, shattered.
Any player that has ever played with Kidd will attest to his being a great teammate and a leader on the floor. If there is one major challenge that he will face, it will be more about his personality than his basketball acumen.
To succeed in this league, a head coach needs to be fiery and passionate. Charisma, presence, command—it's all necessary. But those are qualities that can be developed. Kidd is a man of few words. He comes across as quiet and gentle. He seems introverted.
But what Kidd does have is something that is much more difficult to attain. He has the universal respect of the league's players for what he did, as a player.
An NBA champion and one of the greatest to ever do it, every player in the NBA has seen Kidd compete on the floor. They have seen Kidd leave it on the floor, and this past season, they literally saw him walk away only after it became apparent that there was nothing left for him to give.
Today's generation of NBA players know Jason Kidd. And the next generation of NBA coaches—Monty Williams, Jacque Vaughn, Aaron McKie and Tyronn Lue—are all players who can connect with and relate to their players in a way that George Karl, Mike Dunleavy, Larry Brown and Lionel Hollins may not be able to.
But what Kidd has going for him, perhaps above all, is the diverse perspective of a player who has played point guard for and succeeded under a vast array of NBA head coaches that include Cotton Fitzsimmons, Danny Ainge, Scott Skiles, Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank, Avery Johnson, Rick Carlisle and Mike Woodson.
And under each of them, Kidd enjoyed team success, having made the playoffs in all but his first two seasons as an NBA professional. That last time one of Kidd's NBA team's seasons ended after just 82 games was April 1996. Bob Dole was gearing up for a run at the White House and Michael Jordan was leading his team to a 72-10 season.
Kidd has been there and he has done that. For 19 years. That is his trump card and he will play it with his players the same way he played it with Billy King.
Kidd is a winner and that will not stop now.
From a marketing standpoint, the Kidd hire is a stroke of brilliance. The Knicks, at least for now, are the second most talked about team in the city. Ideally, the Nets would have wanted to hire a coach who would make a splash, one who was a proven winner and one who has won big, as a coach.
Two out of three ain't bad.
Yes, a stroke of brilliance. By hiring Kidd, King did exactly what Donnie Walsh nearly did for Knicks fans back in the Summer of 2008 when he came very close to hiring Mark Jackson as the team's head coach—he loudly proclaimed the Nets to be a franchise, of the fans, for the fans.
"Excited" would be an understatement.
Sure, there is no guarantee that this will work. There is no guarantee that Kidd will replicate the success of Mark Jackson. In fact, statistically, chances are, he is much more likely to end up like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas—two other Hall-of-Fame point guards who did mediocre jobs, at best, of coaching the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers, respectively.
"Chance are," at least.
One other things about chances, though... They are rare. Especially in this league.
Rod Thorn took a chance on trading Stephon Marbury for Kidd back in 2001. That worked out quite well.
This is an opportunity Kidd has been preparing for.
Yes, chances, especially in today's NBA, are quite rare. But anyone around the league will tell you, if you are going to roll the dice, there are few better to roll it on than a proven winner like Kidd.
"We're gonna grow together and that's what's gonna make this special," Kidd said.
Yes, there is a chance that this will be special. Only a chance. But with Kidd, and for the Nets, this is a chance well taken.