By Matt Straub
Spent much longer than usual trying to figure out the right way to start this. I tried sympathy for Nets fans. I started talking about the irony of Jason Kidd leaving their team twice, and I took a shot at starting with venting about the right way to leave a situation.
It turns out there’s no single emotion which can be used to describe the Jason Kidd saga. Shock, sadness, dismay and anger all come to mind. And I’m not even a Nets fan.
So let’s just start at the beginning, and in doing so let’s review all the reasons Jason Kidd needs to be ripped unmercifully for leaving the Brooklyn Nets to become the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, though he’ll likely have more titles added by next summer.
Kidd was a retired player for days when the Nets gave him a shot to be a head coach. Sure it had worked for guys like Mark Jackson, and as a point guard, Kidd knows the game well enough to coach the way you’d assume a catcher would be a good baseball manager, but he got the job with as much coaching experience as I have. In fact probably less since I’ve led the Celtics to several titles on my PlayStation. The Nets gave him a shot he didn’t deserve.
They were really returning a favor, since the Nets didn’t deserve Kidd in 2002, when he turned a 26-win team into the Eastern Conference power in his first season in New Jersey. The Nets didn’t win either of their Finals appearances, but the Nets’ transition from laughingstock to winning franchise began with Kidd.
Still, the favor looked like a disaster early on. Kidd couldn’t figure out how to reach his team and the first half of the year was best remembered for Sodagate, when he had a player run into him so he could drop a soda and use the time it took to dry the court as an extra time out. The Nets reportedly considered firing him then (more on that in a minute) but stuck by him, and he repaid them by getting the Nets to the series they wanted against Miami. The Heat won in five, but it was a closer series than that.
Apparently, Kidd thought he did an exceptionally good job. Exactly when is uncertain, but we know he recently went to the Nets owner and asked for final say over the team’s roster, which he has been dissatisfied with, despite the Nets spending obscene amounts of money and mortgaging the future by trading a haul of draft picks to Boston for Kevin Garnett, one of Kidd’s best friends, and Paul Pierce. The audacity of a first-year coach who didn’t have a great year for an organization which not only gave him a shot but spend gobs of money to help him win asking for more power is shocking. Kidd has long been one who expects to have everything done the way he wants, but this level of entitlement was stunning. Instead of being grateful, Kidd didn’t think he’d been given enough.
As has also frequently been Kidd’s way, he looked for a way out when he didn’t get his way. Fortunately, he had a friend in the Bucks’ new ownership group who gave him a lifeboat to Milwaukee. Between Nets GM Billy King wanting to fire Kidd around Christmas and Kidd trying to take King’s job, the two are going to have a hard time co-existing in the future. For that reason, I’ll give Kidd a small break in wanting to get out, though not for his reasoning which caused the divorce to be necessary.
Still, Kidd didn’t get what he wanted, so he took his ball and, in this case, left home. The team he had become associated with is now the franchise he abandoned because of a delusional need for power no sane man would think he deserved. In his wake, he left his friend Garnett without a coach and caused him plenty of uncertainty as he decides whether or not to return for a 20th year. Pierce can leave as a free agent, Garnett might retire now, and the Nets are in danger of going back to the awful state they were in before Kidd got there as a player 12 years ago. None of this means anything to Kidd, who seems totally disinterested by sending the franchise which retired his number into chaos. Some loyalty.
Perhaps he and the Bucks deserve each other. After all, Milwaukee’s owners interviewed Kidd without letting their current GM or coach know. Both of them found out through the media. I have no issue with the Bucks bringing in a big name coach who happens to be a friend of the owner. But there’s a way to go about these things, and having the class to fire the old coach before you hire a new one is something most would consider the right thing to do. In fact, they wouldn’t have to think about it at all, it would come instinctualy. Kidd coveting a job someone else already has is a big no-no among coaches, many of whom are reportedly livid with Kidd.
Kidd probably doesn’t care. He got what he wanted. Everyone else can be damned. Like always.