Jason Kidd adds to rare list of players who jumped immediately to head coaching gigs


With the Brooklyn Nets hiring Jason Kidd to be their head coach, the 19-year NBA veteran joins an exclusive club of former players who became head coaches without spending time as assistants.

Relating to players is one of the biggest resume-builders in becoming an NBA head coach these days, and the news Wednesday of the Brooklyn Nets' hiring former-player Jason Kidd is another sign that the old-school head coach is disappearing.

Kidd will immediately bring credibility and a voice of leadership to his former co-workers, and the hire was rare among NBA coaches: Though many are former players acting as NBA head coaches, few take the fast track to head jobs like Kidd did this week; most spend several seasons as an assistant coach before getting their own team to run. None have done so within only a few weeks after their announced retirement, and Kidd is the only one who didn't find himself in a broadcasting career in between his two basketball gigs.

Let's take a look at other coaches who were able to skip rungs on the coaching ladder thanks to their longevity and leadership as players.


David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics

The least-heralded player of this group, Rivers certainly has the most clout in his second basketball career by owning an NBA championship. The Celtics head coach played from 1983 to 1996 and worked a couple of years with TNT before jumping into the coaching world with the Orlando Magic in 1999. Rivers never had a losing season with the Magic, but was fired just 11 games into his final year with Orlando after a 1-10 start in 2004.

His unemployment didn't last long, as he was hired the next year by the Celtics. Boston went to the NBA Finals twice and won a championship in 2008 under Rivers.

According to NBA.com, his success as a player, turned broadcaster, turned head coach gave an idea to the employers of the next player-turned-coach on the list, Mark Jackson. Former Warriors owner Joe Lacob said Rivers' background was influential.

"I saw what Doc did, his background," Lacob told David Aldridge. "I saw you could come out of the broadcast booth if you had the NBA playing career, and be very successful. And I saw that the most important thing that Doc Rivers provided was leadership, and the guys were willing to follow him ... if you can't lead people, whether you're the CEO or the basketball coach, the Xs and Os and all the other stuff is important. But if you can't lead them, they're not going to follow you, anyway."

Like Kidd, the ability to speak and the ability to lead had a lot of weight in teams taking a risk on him despite his bench experience.


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors

Current Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson is the most recent example of a successful coaching hire that had little bench experience. In his second season as a coach, Jackson turned a team from a 34.8 winning percentage to a more-than-legitimate playoff contender.

Like Kidd, Jackson had a lengthy NBA career and will end up in the Hall of Fame. He's third on the all-time assists list and just behind Kidd. He played from 1987 to 2004. Jackson worked in broadcasting with the YES Network in New York and for ABC before the Warriors hired him in 2011.

Ironically, Jackson's named surfaced in 2008 during a coaching search by his former team, the New York Knicks, but the team instead hired another player-turned-coach who happens to be a point guard -- current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.


Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Mike D'Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers

D'Antoni may not have been a household name in the NBA, but he shares the same attributes of Kidd. As a successful point guard, D'Antoni had longevity. He played professionally in the United States and overseas from 1973 to 1990.

He was a talented leader who began his career with the Kansas City Kings, but he made a name for himself in Italy. He became Olimpia Milano's star point guard for 13 seasons, leading the club to two Euroleague titles.

Upon retiring in 1990, D'Antoni immediately became a head coach in the Italian league, where he'd remain for the next eight years. He spent the 1997-98 season as the Denver Nuggets' director of player personnel and also did work for TNT during that season. D'Antoni was a surprise hire by the Denver Nuggets in 1998, and though his first head-coaching gig in the NBA was short -- 50 games to be exact -- he would later prove his value with several successful seasons with the Phoenix Suns.


Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets

While McHale didn't jump immediately into the head-coaching fray a la Kidd, he fitss the same mold as a Hall of Fame authority roaming the sidelines. McHale -- similarly to Jackson, Rivers and D'Antoni -- did broadcasting work for the Minnesota Timberwolves all while assuming a front office position.

Eventually, McHale took an interim stab as head coach in 2005 before relinquishing the position after the season. But again in 2008-09, he took an interim position after another firing.

McHale's last two seasons with the Houston Rockets were his first as a permanent head coach, and the improvements the Rockets have made help to reflect the value in a Hall-of-Fame hire.


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks

The Nets are hoping that Kidd can make an immediate splash like former coach Johnson did with the Mavs. Following a 16-year NBA career that included a title with the San Antonio Spurs, Johnson jumped right into the coaching game as an assistant under Don Nelson. Johnson was elevated to head coach just five months later when Nelson resigned.

Dallas closed Johnson's first season with the team on a 16-2 run, helping him win the April 2005 NBA Coach of the Month. Johnson also won the Coach of the Month Award in November 2005, making him the first NBA coach to win the award in his first two months as head coach.

Over the next few seasons, Johnson enjoyed quite a bit of success in Dallas, becoming the fastest coach to win 150 games and taking the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006. Johnson was ultimately fired due to consecutive first-round playoff losses, and while he did not fare well with the Nets, he has shown the ability to be a successful coach.



Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers

After his retirement in 1992, Bird joined the Celtics' front office as a special assistant before becoming the head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997.

Bird said upon his hiring that he would coach no more than three years, and he held true to his word despite enjoying great success. In his first season in Indiana, Bird helped lead the Pacers to a then-franchise best 58-24 record and pushed Michael Jordan's Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Bird was named NBA Coach of the Year that season, becoming the only person ever to win that award as well as an MVP award.

In Bird's next and last two seasons, the Pacers won consecutive Central Division titles and made it to the NBA Finals before losing to the Lakers. Bird resigned after the loss, but he became president of basketball operations in 2003 and stayed in that position until 2012.



Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

Johnson's NBA coaching career was very brief and quite unique. Johnson became the Lakers' head coach in the middle of the 1993-94 season, signing a contract with no compensation due to the fact that he still had a guaranteed player contract of $14.6 million for the 1994-95 season.

Johnson won five of his first six games as coach, but after a five-game losing streak, he announced that he would resign at the end of the season. The Lakers finished the year on a 10-game losing streak, bringing Johnson's record to 5-11. Following the season, he bought a share of the team before returning as a player in 1996.

Danny Ainge, Phoenix Suns

Ainge has had an extremely strange career path the whole way through: an MLB player with the Toronto Blue Jays while playing basketball for BYU, he made his name as a scrappy, strong shooting guard with the Celtics, winning two championships and even earning an All-Star nod. He finished his career with three years with the Phoenix Suns, retiring after the 1994-1995 season at the age of 35 after averaging 7.7 points, his lowest total in over a decade.

After just a year of retirement, he became the franchise's head coach, and was actually pretty good. His teams -- coincidentally led by Jason Kidd -- were above .500 every season, making the playoffs three times. But just 20 games into his fourth season, he suddenly quit, citing a desire to be with his family, and giving fellow former player Scott Skiles his first coaching job just a few years after he had retired. Ainge left coaching with a .602 record, but would of course resurface in the front office another former team: the Celtics, where he's been ever since. He assembled the team that won the 2008 championship.


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Dunleavy, Lakers/Bucks/Blazers/Clippers

Weird scenario here with Dunleavy, who technically became a coach in the NBA the year after his final season in the NBA, but it's different: after a 10-year NBA career, Dunleavy retired in 1985 due to back pain at just 30 years old. He became an assistant with the Bucks in 1986, but when the team became short on players in the 1988-89 season, they activated him, and he appeared in two games. The next year, appeared in five games, but in 1990, the Lakers hired him to replace Pat Riley, and his player-coaching days were over. He spent most of the next 20 years as a head coach

-List compiled by Kevin Zimmerman, Rodger Sherman and Jason Patt.

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