Steve Nash is not avoiding his Brooklyn Nets hiring controversy after acknowledging he did "skip the line" for his first head coaching role but the Hall of Famer highlighted his successful playing career.
The Nets – eliminated in the first round of the playoffs – raised eyebrows when they appointed two-time NBA MVP Nash to permanently replace Kenny Atkinson, despite his lack of coaching experience.
There has been criticism of Nash's appointment in Brooklyn and the 46-year-old – inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 – is not shying away from the debate as he embarks on his first senior gig.
"Well, I did skip the line, frankly," Nash said during his virtual introductory news conference on Wednesday.
"But at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven't necessarily learned some of the skills that I'll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.
Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: "It's a privilege to work with one of the greatest players to ever play the game." pic.twitter.com/DArYWwKiRx— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 9, 2020
"So to lead a team in such a unique position, to be the head of the team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people, skill sets, and bring people together, collaborating with a coach and a coaching staff for almost two decades, it's not like I was in a vacuum. I learned a tremendous amount during my career."
Nash is not the only former player to land a head coaching role without experience, following in the footsteps of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers and Isiah Thomas.
"I haven't grinded it out as an assistant coach, like many people's path, but there's a precedent for players who have strong careers, who are leaders, anchors," Nash said.
"I think to get this opportunity, as Steve Kerr and many other people have had great success, it's a unique situation, I think. But I definitely realize that I need support. I'm going to hopefully bring a lot of qualities and skills to the table that are unique and strong, but I'm going to need support and a collaborative staff that has a lot of experience and is willing to build this with me."
Nash's arrival in Brooklyn has been described by some as "white privilege" amid the Black Lives Matter movement but the eight-time All-Star added: "I have benefited from white privilege. Our society has a lot of ground to make up.
"I'm not saying this position was a factor, as far as white privilege ... I think, as white people, we have to understand we have a certain privilege and a benefit by the color of our skin in our communities. We have a long way to go to find equality and social and racial justice. I hope that I'm a great ally in that cause.
"I'm very sensitive to the cause and the goal. I'm not sure that this is an example that purely fits that conversation, but I own it, and I understand why it's talked about. We do need more diversity and more opportunities for African American coaches on staff in all capacities. The league was built through African American players and stars that have made this one of the greatest entertainment industries and businesses in sports in the world. It's really important that we continue to come together and fight at the league level.
"It's interesting, being such a supporter and ally of that need for equality, to be put in the middle of it, in a sense, because it's something that's near and dear to my heart. But I accept it. I want to be part of the conversation. And, frankly, I want to be a part of change moving forward."