EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Steve Nash: ‘Special’ returning to old Suns stomping grounds with Nets

Feb 16, 2021, 8:15 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm
Head coach Steve Nash of the Brooklyn Nets directs his team during the second half against the Denv...
Head coach Steve Nash of the Brooklyn Nets directs his team during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Barclays Center on January 12, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Nets won 122-116. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

No one in a Phoenix Suns uniform has made as much of an impact in its home since 1992 as Steve Nash. And good luck topping it.

The two-time MVP returned to Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday for the first time as a coach, arriving in the Valley as the head honcho of the Brooklyn Nets.

The feeling was a little different for Nash since the other visits he had after his playing career was over.

“To come back here and to actually be in the game, playing against them, is very special,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not the most sentimental person, that’s for sure, but it’s really exciting just driving into the arena and seeing some familiar faces, people that mean a lot to me.

“It’s very special.”

Guys who have been in the league as long as Nash and Suns head coach Monty Williams have crossed paths enough to be quite familiar with each other. Williams played against a younger Nash on the Dallas Mavericks while coaching against him as well, starting with his first job as bench coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

In what must have been the case for the dozens of coaching staffs Nash took on over his 18-year career, he drove the Blazers nuts. Well, Williams didn’t put it that way, but it’s what you can assume he meant when discussing how then-Portland head coach Nate McMillan talked about Nash.

“It wasn’t like he was afraid of Steve, (but) he just talked about coaching against Nash with such revere, because he knew that Steve was one of those players who could figure out what you’re doing (while) playing the point guard position,” Williams said. “The more I studied him when I got into coaching, you could see it. That was a huge hurdle for us when I was in Portland. We could never get past those guys. And a lot of it was just because of Steve’s ability to manage a game and cut you up, especially in closing moments.”

Williams spoke highly of Nash and, as you can imagine, has heard his name a few times while in his second year leading the Suns.

“He’s obviously one of the best players to ever play the game, one of the brightest minds to ever lace ’em up,” Williams said. “You can see why they would choose someone like Steve because of his experience, his IQ, his ability to connect people. They often talk about him here in this town because of the man he is and the way that he led and connected his team and the community. He’s just one of those guys.

“I’m sure he’s going through the process of trying to figure out his rhythm but I don’t think it’ll take him long. It hasn’t taken him long because they’ve had success already. It takes a lot to connect that kind of talent that he has and he’s done that pretty much his whole career.”

Not many rookie coaches are given the challenge that the Nets have presented Nash. He’s had to learn how to manage two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and if that wasn’t enough, Brooklyn added James Harden to the equation in the middle of the season.

All things considered, Nash is doing a great job having the Nets at a 17-12 record as they continue to gel.

As for what Nash is seeing out of the Suns’ 17-9 start?

“They’re really a terrific team,” he said. “They have a lot of depth and length, athleticism. Obviously, two closers in Chris (Paul) and [Devin Booker]. They’re a group that is moving together in a really positive direction as well. Not just do they have the pieces, but they’re coming together, and I think Monty deserves a lot of credit.

“He’s a terrific coach and I think you can see his fingerprints all over the way this group is coming together.”

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