Jason Kidd was one of the best point guards to ever play the game. His on-court brilliance made him a Hall of Famer. However, the now Dallas Mavericks head coach had a rough start to his head coaching career.
Kidd had a 183-190 record over four and a half seasons with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks and didn’t seem to have a grasp on getting his teams to achieve success. Now he’s one win away from the conference finals, proving that coaches can get better.
The assumption many people make is a Hall of Fame point guard, because he was a “coach on the floor,” can step right into the head coach’s seat and be successful. Playing the game and coaching the game are not the same. Having played at an elite level is not a prerequisite for being a good head coach.
Kidd’s lone season in Brooklyn will always be remembered for that time he had no timeouts remaining late in a game, and he told one of his players to bump into him so he could spill his cup of water and cause a stoppage. It was real amateur hour stuff.
During his brief stint in Milwaukee, he allowed Giannis to become a primary ball handler, so he gets credit for that. But the team’s defense, his supposed calling card, got progressively worse during his tenure. The offense was uninspired and unimaginative. Plus, there were the draconian motivation methods, and cancelling Christmas one year for the team.
When he was hired as an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers under Frank Vogel in 2019, he got the opportunity to work under another head coach during a title run. He was able to see all the other facets of the job that he needed to improve on to become a better coach.
Kidd was a poor shooter for most of his Hall of Fame career. But he worked to become creditable during the latter years. It took dedication and commitment on his part. It’s not too surprising that he could also work to become a better coach.
The Mavericks are one win away from the conference finals largely because the defense has improved tremendously under Kidd. In the two seasons prior to his arrival, they were 20th in aDRTG. They finished seventh this season.
Shutting Down CP3
During these Western Conference semifinals against the Phoenix Suns, the Mavericks have shut down Suns point guard Chris Paul after the first two games.
Paul scored 47 points with 11 assists in the first two games. He’s scored 37 points combined in the remainder of the series. Kidd gets credit for that and switching assignments for his top perimeter defenders in Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith.
Kidd also called out his superstar Luka Doncic and told him he needed more on the defensive end. As much power as players have in this league, publicly calling them out isn’t always the best strategy. But it worked for Kidd.
To be fair, having Doncic makes Kidd’s job as a coach easier. Especially on offense. He is a system unto himself and can bend the game to his will. Doncic is the best player in this series, and that’s a large part in it going the distance. Game 7 is on Sunday with a spot in the conference finals at stake.
Coaches, like players, are not finished products in their first iteration. They can improve and get better. Kidd has done that and deserves credit.