How Jason Kidd was revived as a Mavericks player and coach

Thirteen years after the Mavs won their 1st championship, Jason Kidd returned to the NBA Finals as their coach.

Boston – The NBA coaching industry sits at a perilous and confusing intersection that is best seen on a street corner.

This season alone, JB Pickerstaff lost his job with the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning 48 games and one playoff run. Frank Vogel, four years removed from a championship with the Lakers, lasted one (playoff) season with the Phoenix Suns. Adrian Griffin went 30-13 in his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks … and left at the end of January.

As Jeff Van Gundy, who once sat in the big chair with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, said: „If they don’t get you on your record, they’ll get you on the hook.”

Given the volatility of the industry, how does Jason Kidd coach the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals, four more wins before becoming champions?

This time last year, Kidd was preparing for the draft lottery. Four months ago, the public was grumbling about his rotations and game strategy.

What happened next was a quick, stunning turnaround: Kidd made bold changes to the team, earned the respect of his stars, developed and integrated young players. Into the NBA Finals.

Here he is, on the verge of his second ring in Dallas.

„J-Kid,” Mavs guard Luka Doncic said, „is awesome.”

He can follow the examples of Bill Russell (Celtics), Tom Heinsohn (Celtics), Casey Jones (Celtics), Pat Riley (Lakers) and Billy Cunningham (Sixers).

„It’s humbling,” Kidd said of the opportunity. „Surreal.”

While it’s no surprise that Kidd returned to coaching shortly after helping Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks win the 2011 championship, it’s a bit shocking that he struggled at times and had to take a step back in career before getting this opportunity.

Point guards make good coaches

At least that’s the belief in the NBA, and with good reason — they’re natural leaders by virtue of their position and generally smarter players on the floor.

Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Steve Kerr and Tyronn Lue won championships on the sidelines, and a scattering of other former point guards had good careers in coaching. No one had a stronger reputation as a Hall of Famer and triple-double master kid who was one step ahead of everyone else throughout his playing career.

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So it’s understandable that, with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, Kidd became the third person to start a coaching season after retiring from playing.

While Kidd had moderate success — he won one playoff series and one Game 7 as a rookie coach — there were strained relationships. He demoted assistant coach Lawrence Frank (now president of basketball operations for the LA Clippers) and sparked a power struggle within the organization. He was one in Brooklyn.

Kidd was bailed out of the Bucs in 2014, took third place Coach of the Year voting and a young Giannis Antetokounmpo, who looks to Kidd as a mentor. He lasted 3 1/2 seasons, not unusual for coaching standards, and won four playoff games. But when Kidd was eventually kicked out, teams with openings weren’t exactly thirsty.

He then spent two years as a lead assistant with the Lakers under Vogel. Kidd took the Mavs job in 2021 after the Lakers won the 2020 title, thus giving Vogel (temporary) protection. Again, his first campaign was a delight — the Mavs reached the 2022 West finals — before Dallas went 38 wins last season to avoid a play-in tournament and retain a first-round pick from the Knicks.

„It’s not easy being a coach in this league,” Kidd said. „But I don’t care what’s written or said about me … it’s about the team in that locker room and the response of that team.”

Timely turnaround

Jason Kidd could win the title as a player and coach with the same team, while Joe Mazzulla is one of the youngest finalists.

Here’s what Kidd did this season to change the outlook, make the Mavericks a contender, and eventually earn a contract extension:

Connect with Kyrie Irving. The relationship between Kidd and Danzig was solid from the start. The mercurial Donczyk — who often clashed with former Mavs coach Rick Carlisle — saw Kidd as a necessary mentor, as well as someone who played the point guard position.

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Once Irving arrived — because of Kidd — the coach served as a go-between for a pair of on-ball stars. All three have worked together to find a common ground. Now, the chemistry between the guards is solid.

But Kidd didn’t automatically bond with Irving just because he played point guard once. Steve Nash won a pair of MVPs and that didn’t help Irving as his coach in Brooklyn.

However Kidd won over Irving with his quirks. As Irving was at a career crossroads, he had to work on this relationship after leaving the Cavs and exploding in Boston and Brooklyn.

Give the youth a chance. Some coaches have thin patience with rookies, not allowing them to deal with mistakes, throwing them to the player development team or pushing them to the back end of the rotation.

Kit has nothing to do with Derek Lively II. Yes, Lively’s energy and rebounding skills helped it shine early. And his only real competition to play center, early on, was veteran Dwight Powell.

Kidd allowed Lively to grow into the job, earn minutes, move up in the rotation and eventually earn the trust of Doncic and Irving. In return, Lively was a difference maker for the Mavs and was their third most important player during the playoffs.

„I owe everything to coach,” Lively said. „He believed in me. Never doubted me. Always stuck by me. Still helping me.”

Another smart decision Kidd made was hiring his former Mavericks teammate Tyson Chandler to mentor Lively.

„When we got Lively, we felt like he was going to fill that vertical guy that Luca was looking for,” Kidd said. „You could see his future as the anchor of our defense. The future comes so fast. He was challenged. Sometimes young players run away from it. He ran for it.

Make a positive difference. The Mavericks were 34-28 in early March, losing three straight and in danger of falling into play-in tournament territory. Kit then shuffled the deck.

He inserted Derrick Jones Jr. and Daniel Gafford into the starting lineup and further reduced the minutes of Tim Hardaway Jr., previously an elite sixth man.

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It was a game-changer and a season-saver because the Mavs were suddenly faster and bigger. They went 15-2 and entered the postseason as the hottest team in the league. Not counting the final two games of the regular season (both meaningless losses), the Mavs’ record changes to 28-7.

Without question, Kidd was helped by the offseason trades that brought in Gafford and PJ Washington. But he’s also found ways to maximize their strengths (mainly defense and rebounding) by putting them in screen-and-rolls with Doncic to improve their scoring.

Just as Kidd made teammates better as a player, he makes players better as a coach.

What is the child ready to do next?

Everything is going well with the baby. He’s on the same page with the franchise and general manager Nico Harrison. Respect for him runs deep in the locker room. Respect extends beyond the locker room.

„Two of the last three years we’ve been to the Western Conference finals,” Kidd said. „Some people will say it’s great. Some people will say it’s a failure. You’re not going to make everyone happy. But I know how to win.

“I’ve done it from elementary school to the highest level. I have won gold medals, I have won championships. I have been successful as an assistant coach. Now I have the opportunity to do that as a head coach.

Yes, getting a chance to repeat what he did for Dallas against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2011, this time in a different role, is a driving force with Kidd.

„We weren’t favored to win (that) championship, and as a player we were able to pull it off,” he said. „Now guiding these young men to win championships is real and a lot of fun. It’s been a highlight of my basketball journey.

„It’s an incredible opportunity and I’m grateful to be in this seat. We’ve got four games to beat Boston. We just have to figure it out.”

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Shawn Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, his archive can be found here And follow him in X.

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